If I could give you one gift it would be to see yourself through my eyes and then you would see how special you really are.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Our Secret Garden

The tall, gnarled trees bend their branches, reaching out and beckon softly. "Just step through the gate, go on, step through, it will take you to a enchanted garden." A garden where the last minute jam sandwiches, bottle of watered down juice, the last of the grapes and the last packet of cookies from the biscuit tin will change into a feast for kings. There is no wind just the faintest of breezes that whispers through the branches of trees, enticing families, dog walkers and lovers young and old in. The trees have watched generations of children picnic and play and grow up. The children disappear for a while but return with friends and picnics, they stroll with their first loves, sneaking a kiss in secluded sun spots, hidden from prying eyes. Then in years to come they return with their children.

The trees watch from their heights, guardians of this garden as time spins forward, days spill into weeks, the weeks into months, the months paint their seasons and the seasons merge into years blurring as the years continue, but from the day when summer time begins, the world slows in this magical place, it allows us to escape the humdrum of school and bed. The screaming and tantrums of youngsters are subdued, muted by the green flourishing woodlands. A dragonfly, a feather, the bleating of lambs calling to their mothers offers a distraction, enough to stop the rage. There are trees to climb, muddy slopes to traverse and slide down. There are treasures to find, a pine cone, an acorn. If you sit beneath a blossom laden tree as the breeze blows you can be dusted in pink and white confetti. There are bugs to study, butterflies to chase, mole hills to dig, ancient tree stumps to hunt for mini beasts or create dinosaur lands. The gnarled roots of the trees become fairy houses and doors to magical lands.

I can just lie here as I have done every year for the last 16 years, watching the clouds drift overhead, wondering where they are going and from whence they came, I can feel the sun on my face as it warm fingers caress encouraging me to drift away just for a few minutes. I wonder what the guardians think when they watch my children, do they know what the future holds for them, do they know their pasts or do they just enjoy these moments of now. The children are safe, here in our Secret Garden, the walls keep them from straying. They can explore and play, exciting adventures will find them sharing wonderful magical gifts. Gifts they will keep in their hearts and memories that will last them for a lifetime. A little magic I know they will want to share with their children I the future. In this little garden of enchantment I find peace and contentment, even if for just a few hours.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Shooting Stars

It was clear cold night as we headed home from gymnastics, when child 3 leapt up in her seat pointing in the sky. "a shooting star"

Child 4 started to explain that a shooting star was a rock high in the sky, travelling through space. I was torn between pride that my gorgeous 5year old son knew about what makes a shooting star and sorrow that there was no magic in anything that he said. No wishing upon a star, no wondering as to where it travelled to or from or what planets or spaceships it may have seen en route, just the scientific explanation. 

I think that Shooting stars should be filled with magic, something to encourage wishes and dreams. What wonderous things had that star seen on its journey and what hopes and dreams would it carry as it sped on its way.

I have never seen a shooting star, I am 46 years old and have never wished upon a shooting star. I couldn't even say what I would wish for.

To believe in magic is to be able to hope, to hold nuggets of happy memories close to our hearts is to know someone loves you and gives you something to hold onto when life throws a curve ball and to be able to dream means that you can aim high, believing that if you aim for the moon at worst you will land amongst the stars, so I am saddened that my youngest seems to be missing out. I want him to watch for shooting stars so he can hang his dreams on them, I want him to catch falling stars and put them in his pocket, save them for a rainy day. I want him to find his second star to the right follow it and head straight onto morning.

Big dreams, hope when there seems to be none and adventures to chase that is what I want for all my children.

So back to our car journey,  with a little suggestion from me we all wished upon that shooting star.


Sunday, 5 March 2017

Defiance

"When a law is unjust, it is only right to disobey" Ghandi

Defiance in our children is seen as rude, disagreeable, irritating and frustrating and seems to trigger a quick and often over-reactive response from an adult, I wonder why?

One of our jobs as a parent is to educate our children in social niceties and acceptable behaviour, so when they are overtly resistance this, for me, can sometimes trigger something primal in my response. Perhaps because sometime back in the Stone Age a child saying NO, refusing to do something when asked, dragging their feet in protest or intentionally ignoring us could have potentially led to serious injury or death.

But defiance when it is Ghandi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parkes or Malala to name a few is bravery, inspiration and just. How many fictional characters who have a defiant streak become our heroes, Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen, Alex Rider or even George in the Famous Five.  So how do we harness defiance for good? How do I teach my child to use his strength in a good way and how do I learn to respond to his  attitude in a way that encourages him to stand up for the right things.
 
I have no desire to quash the spark of defiance that runs through my son but I do need to help it flourish into something positive. He is defiant when he views a request as unfair, that may be because he just wants his own way and has not yet matured to be able to look at the bigger picture. Examples of this happen at school every day. He is in the middle of an exciting activity and is asked to do something else, not being compliant in nature his response of course is no and why shouldn't it be. He doesn't understand that learning his numbers or phonics is the basis of his whole education, he is perfectly content playing his dinosaur game.

As the grown ups we have to find a way of working him with, maybe the playing with dinosaurs happens after the phonics, not asking him to do something, just expecting him too interestingly has more success, immediate and appropriate consequences may lead to stomping and even a tantrum, but the message is loud and clear and next time there may not be an issue. But just as important it is understanding why, after all it may not be defiance that is playing out in front of us it could be preoccupation (playing with dinosaurs),fear , or anger. Communication is so important even if sometimes so difficult. Getting a 5 year old to explain how he feels is not easy, but by not assuming that he is in the wrong or that his behaviour is disagreeable is a way to teach trust and that in turn leads to him seeking an adult out to help him manage his feelings.

Obviously, I have failed at this on numerous occasions, hence why I write about it now, maybe writing and thinking about defiance will help me, help him and that is after all what it is all about.


Sunday, 26 February 2017

When is a reward chart not a reward chart?

I had our half term meeting about child 4 the week before the holidays. After the two weeks of agressive behaviour, life is settling down, now instead of aggression and violence usually directed to his peers we have defiance against the staff. The class teacher is managing him well, but the support staff struggle, generally because they try to talk him into doing things, rather than expecting him too. Something the class teacher and Sen Co will work on with them. In fact the teacher is pretty amazing in that she will try something and if it doesn't work she will go back to the drawing board, speak to other staff or us and try something different. If something works fantastic but the minute it stops having the desired effect she will rethink and come up with something new to try. Academically child 4 is doing well but I worry that if we do not resolve his behaviours, his academic ability will suffer in the future.

This week the school have tried a sort of sticker chart, (I know, I know....it sounds like a reward chart and I guess in a way it is one.)  Child 4's teacher has noticed that he loves stickers, if she says "I wonder who will get my sticker for sitting nicely?" He sits beautifully and then is overjoyed to receive a sticker for doing as asked. So, she has created a special sheet full of pictures depicting his day. Every time he completes a section of the day without hurting someone or being rude he gains a sticker. It can be just sitting nicely or moving to an activity when asked. In fact he can't fail to gain a sticker. There is no penance for not getting a sticker they just move on to the next part of the day. By the end of the day he has a sheet full of stickers, they just focus on the good stuff. So far it is working.

 On Thursday he came out of school saying that the teacher needed to speak to me, "uh oh now what" was my understandable response. Well, on Thursday he got through the whole day without hurting anyone! That is the first time, since he started school last September. A whole day and he was so proud of himself. He couldn't wait to tell his siblings, his Daddy and his Nanna and Grandad. I am not one for reward charts, in fact I don't think any adoptive parent is, anything that may set up our children to fail is not of any use, however a reward chart that is not a reward chart but a sticker chart that celebrates the little successes and leads to a major success is something that I have thoroughly enjoyed. I know that the sticker chart life span could well be short but if it means that child 4 can celebrate the joy of making it through a day without resorting to violence then it shows that he is finding his way to manage his anger and that can only be a good thing.



Thursday, 9 February 2017

Growing up is tough

Bullying is an insidious thing and it can have long reaching tentacles that invade not just the life of the person affected but also their family and friends. When you are a teenage boy loaded with testosterone and going through puberty life at home can be tricky at best and down right miserable at worst. Even when the bullying has been stopped there is a residual victim mentality left, especially if there is low level "p**s taking still going on. The children probably aren't even aware they are doing it, it just becomes habit.
For us though it can make our life feel like a minefield of emotions, one out of place comment and our teenager sees red, I mean a blinding red, one where he cannot control himself. He has to make everyone else as miserable as himself. So he hits his younger sister and intimidates his younger brother often reminding him that he is adopted. He will swear and be right up in our faces.
The knock on effect is huge. Both of the girls are scared of him when he gets angry, his brother moves directly into fight mode none of which help as it feeds the anger and his power kick. He will not respond to us his parents except to shout, swear or be defiant. Of course, once everything has calmed down he is sincerely apologetic but sorry is a word it doesn't repair the damage already done.
We have moved into quick, decisive but appropriate consequences and are hoping that this will help him control the rage.




One of the downsides of secondary school is that you are who you begin those pre-teen years as. The persona of year 7, is the one you have to carry throughout that part of your education. Your peers seem unable to allow you to grow, change and flourish, to become the person you are going to be. These are the years where education has such an important role to play, how you behave, how you are treated and how you are educated and not just in academia help to mould you. If you start this time wrong footed or different it is so hard to mature, to find your way. You sometimes fall into a victim mentality and that is so hard to break, you assume that people are out to get you even when they are not.
I have yet to work out how to deal with this. I listen, ask if my help is required to intervene or sometimes I email the school regardless.

We don't have long to go now and child 2 can study his sixth form years elsewhere. Where he can be who he is today and not who he was 2,3 or 5 years ago. He can be the funny, bright, articulate good looking boy that I spend my time with!

Sunday, 22 January 2017

A tough week

On Tuesday I was called into school as child 4 had been struggling for the past couple of days. On Tuesday alone he had hurt 10 children before morning break at 10.40am. By lunchtime the teacher had given up on the early years foundation scheme of free flow play and learn for the class and had structured the afternoon into small groups of children being directed to specific activities for 15 minutes before being moved to the next activity all to minutely manage child 4.
Child 4 had been invited to a birthday party the next afternoon, he was tired, scared and struggling with his emotions, maybe a party wasn't the best idea but still he wanted to go so I went with him. I over heard one little girl say to her friend "oh that's just child 4, he is always in trouble at school and a parent said as he was in full tantrum "oh dear Ben rioting again" Normally these comments roll off me but that day they didn't. All my fears were accumulating. Child 4 being known as the naughty child by his peers, parents seeing him as a trouble maker, teachers struggling to manage him. We had been doing so well.
We have shut ourselves away for the rest of the week, quietly talking about being kind and gentle. Ensuring that when he is angry or struggling with his emotions he knows who to speak to and where his safe space is. I spoke to the ELSA support in school who does Theraplay with child 4 about our weekend so that she could help him. His class teacher has changed their day around so that the structured stuff is in the afternoon when he is more tired so susceptible to behaving erratically.
Our mornings and evenings have been packed with tantrums, demands and loud voices have echoed through the house. Meltdowns because I won't allow meals of sweets, chocolates or biscuits, followed by desperate clingy cuddles with him almost climbing inside me. The nights have been disturbed with him ending up in our bed or me cuddled up with him in his.
All this I think was brought on by a complete meltdown by child 2 on Sunday. He had, had parents evening regarding his upcoming GCSE's think he is just realising that he actually has to do some work and it was his birthday, as he has struggled with friendships at school I think he was worried that no one would mention his birthday and 16 years old is a big step for a teenager. This led to a meltdown of epic proportions where he wanted everyone in the house to feel as bad as he did and didn't care what he did to ensure that happened. Of course my attention was all in child 2's direction, so I completely missed the effect that this event had on the other children, particularily child 4. Now, I am left repairing the damage. Finding appropriate consequences for child 2 and working out how I am going to speak to him about the effects of his behaviour on his siblings, helping him be responsible for his actions without starting another battle. He has lost all electronics for the week and has to clean the bathrooms as he swore, a lot. However, he has actually been revising so that's a positive.

This weekend I am spending time with the children, we are going to make bath bombs, filled with lavendar oil, bake some cookies and walk the dog.  Child 3 has a gym competition so she will need TLC and support as she gets very nervous before, although her last two practice sessions have been amazing.

A time for gentle and quiet structure I think is required.


Sunday, 8 January 2017

A road less travelled

Moving into a New Year doesn't hold the excitement it did when I was young. Gone are the days where a New Year brought exciting decisions, major events, resolutions. Now it is just one day morphing into another. I no longer make resolutions as I know I am unlikely to keep them. I watch the fireworks because the children want to and I enjoy the time with them. This time I wondered about where I intend to end up, eventually, after all life is a journey but it's a journey with no definitive destination. We move from one stop to the next. Teenage years to adult hood, individuals to partnerships, new jobs, careers, new homes, cities and countries, then in our case children.



I was lucky enough to be born into an ordinary family, parents that loved me and supported me. They started me on my life journey, in the beginning they drove, choosing the direction that my life was going to take. Then gradually they encouraged or allowed me to branch out on my own. I began to make my own decisions taking the fork in the road that appealed to me, knowing that they were there to share the driving seat if everything went wrong.
Now I am in the driving seat, a seat I share with Mr L. We have chosen a road much less travelled, this of course means that the road is not so easy or efficient. The road often twists and turns and we can't see more than a few metres in front, we hit pot holes, sometimes the road crumbles beneath the wheels, we make wrong turns and have to decide whether to turn back or keep on going. Sometimes we get hopelessly lost and have to call for help. But then we see a light, the road smooths out, we've climbed a mountain, traversed a cliff side, found our way out of the dark trees, reached the bottom of a death defying hill. We can stop, stretch our legs and enjoy the view. We can picnic in a beautiful valley, lazing in the warm sun. We can stroll around a meadow covered with wild flowers. We can be in a place of contentment. But time doesn't wait for anyone, minutes pass drifting into hours and we once again start our journey. Where we are aiming for I often don't know, life is funny like that we start our lives being totally dependant on our parents, what is our end destination? heaven? We move on from one stop to the next, one Dream realised after another. Everyone's dreams are different and a certainty will be that not all our dreams come true.
What is my next pit stop to be. Seeing child 1 and 2 through their exams, definitely a long hard climb. Helping child 3 achieve her NDP in gymnastics, tip toeing through the grass avoiding the egg shells. Supporting child 4 through his first year in school, which means returning now and then to the busy, well travelled roads praying that we can get to our next stop without any prangs or traffic jams caused by others that intentionally or inadvertently get in our way. The journey we have chosen certainly isn't boring but the hiccups along the way are eclipsed by the moments of joy we are often surprised with.