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, 17 September 2017

Fresh starts

Interestingly, September always feels like a new beginning to me, it must be because of the new school year. After what is often, these days a very long six week holiday I look forward to a return to the weekly routine of school days and after school clubs.

As its a new start I thought I would try and return to my blogging, life kinda got in the way in the Spring, what with all the exams, revision and stress that comes along. But now things are settling.

Child 1 excelled in her A levels and is looking for work to fund her gap year travelling trip next year before heading of to University to study History and Politics.

Child 2 as expected did not. I have learnt a lot about myself and our education system in dealing with child 2. Child 2 was always expected by his teachers to do well in his exams, throughout his school career he has done reasonably well but he hated secondary school, he never settled. There is so much research now into how being a victim of bullying affects school achievement, and this has definitely been our experience. I knew he was unlikely to do well as you will have read from previous blogs,  so I was prepared with seeing the reality. However, I was not prepared for what to do next. Hind sight being a wonderful thing, I wish I had investigated those options much earlier it would have made things so much easier.

Education is not like it was on my day anymore. Children cannot just retake exams anymore. All schools and colleges have to support children to retake Maths and English until they are 18 but that is all. Our local college allows retaking of Biology and a language but no other subjects. Instead the children do a level 2 Btech, if they achieve a good result they can then go on to study a level 3 Btech or A levels. My suggestion to child 2 is to chose a Btech he fancies, one that looks like fun. So he has chosen Public Service with sports. It's a bit like a grown up version of scouts and so far he is loving it. In fact he is a different child, happier, more content, showing greater independence. Fingers crossed this is a new beginning.

Child 3 has started secondary school and apart form the normal anxiety with an added bit of diva she is settling well. New friends, exciting bus rides and exciting lessons.

Of course we could potentially be in a honeymoon period with child 4, new class, new teacher, new TA and some new children. I think that it says a lot when after his first day he says " I had a good day and I didn't hurt anyone"

So here we are new beginnings, new starts, no doubt new issues to deal with, but at least we are starting positively.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

744 hours

Well I didn't exactly plan my children with examinations in mind. Child 3 has just completed KS2 SATs, child 2 started his GCES's last week and Early June sees the start of child 1's A levels. You can seriously feel the stress and tension as you walk in through the front door. The children deal with pressure in different ways, the girls are weepy and spiteful, child 2 is aggressive and angry. It only needs one to kick off and everyone follows suit, especially child 4 who, with his unsettled background seems to absorb his older siblings angst and go into full melt down. Being in school has meant older children, older language and new experiences. He is threatening to stab and kill and our experience has been that if he says something and has the opportunity he follows through on his threats. So if he says that he is going to throw the book in his hand at you, he will and his hand eye co ordination is good enough that you need to move, quick. We don't leave knives or scissors anywhere not even the sink, because, well just in case.

What we have noticed is that he mirrors the behaviour that he sees and hears, so, the best way to deal with his meltdowns is to be completely calm and quiet. You can imagine how successful that is when everyone in the house is shouting and screaming!

I am struggling with all the button pushing myself and I am an adult, so there is no surprise that everyone is pretty unsettled at the moment. I have reverted to a day by day coping mechanism, (it is only 31 more days to go) I am saying no to all requests of help except where there is no choice, so no additional hours at work, no extra volunteer stuff, except governor stuff as we are seeking a new Headteacher, yeah it never rains but pours. I can't remember the last time that I really checked out Twitter, had a quiet evening to myself or just didn't dread the coming evening. My conservatory is a mess, we can't eat in there as the table and surrounding floor is covered with three different types of revision paraphernalia, I daren't even touch it because if something got lost or moved the fireworks would be off.

This blog is being written whilst I sit at a gymnastic competition with child 3. I know that I have lost many of my coping mechanisms (although we got a night out last night with friends, a few hours escape to talk about holidays, food, gin cruises and just a bit of general gossip) then it's back to our "normal" feeding the children with food to aid brain power, emotional support to keep everything as calm as we can and give them the time they need, I am reading essays, marking science past papers, checking grammer and mathematic revision. Giving a hug when asked and often when not, listening to the ramblings of teenage thought processes, stepping in when an argument is brewing, taking child 4 out and away when his emotions start to overflow I need to find time to look after me but someone always needs something, I am one person, my brain can't cope with all the remembering, my emotions are riding high, it isn't going to take much to push me over the edge, I am exhausted nearly running on empty. Then I think I just need to get through the day, it's not long until bedtime, then it's another day and another day. 744 hours to go.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

When sorry isn't enough

When child 4 arrived it was obvious that he had not joined our family in the traditional manner. I remember walking home from school only a few days after he arrived, he was in his buggy and child 3 who was 8 at the time was chattering on about her day. Behind us was a mum and her similar aged daughter. I could hear their conversation. The little girl was telling her mum that child 3 had a new brother and the mum was laughing gently and indulgently explaining to her daughter that there was no way that I had been pregnant, had a baby and that baby was already a toddler without her knowing. I just stopped and laughed as well and explained that her daughter was right, we had just chosen a different way to add to our family. There were surprised gasps, hugs and congratulations and I felt happy.

In the beginning it was obvious to most that we had adopted and for the most part people were pleased, excited and happy for us. Over time that has changed. We have become a "normal" family unit. Two parents, four children, a dog, a couple of cats and some chickens. Adoption is not something we hide but we don't shout about either. The school staff know as he is in school and they need to be aware, as do those who clubs he attends other than that it really isn't anyone else's business.

Yesterday, I took child 4 to a class mates birthday party, I always stay, life is busy these days and I don't know very many of the parents in his class, many of them are new, their eldest child having just started school. Birthday party's are a great way to meet over a cup of tea and have a chat or just catch up with old friends, whilst our children play.

Child 4 was having a great time running around and then pass the parcel. Then it was time for the entertainer, a magician. All the children were sitting down in front of him vibrating with excitement. When the entertainer announced that he was videoing the show and wanted to check it was ok. Child 4 circumstances are that he cannot have his picture on social media, in the press or on TV. Child 4 was sitting waiting for the show, understanding everything that was said and I was surrounded by parents, many of whom don't  know that child 4 was adopted! I had to ask in front of everyone why it was being video'd. So I could make the decision that was best for my son. Of course the video was for the magicians website. He said that if I wasn't happy I could pull child 4 from his seat at the front and sit him at the back over to the left. In that split second I chose to leave it. Child 4 was watching this whole interaction, confusion marring his face, parents were either frowning with confusion or looking at me with sympathy. I just wanted to hide away and deal with the myriad of emotions that slammed into me. Fury for being placed in this position and what if I wasn't there, sorrow because this isn't how life should be for any child, disappointment in myself for possibly not handling the situation right, embarrassment for having to be that parent. So, I sat at the back, my hands wrapped around a lukewarm cup of tea thinking about how I could have handled the situation better and what was I going to do. Someone came over to check I was ok and of course I said I was fine, I couldn't
 talk yet, I didn't know what would come out of my mouth but, it wouldn't have been kind. In reality it wasn't anyone's fault, people just don't understand the nature of adoption, if they haven't experienced it how can they know. My job as an adoptive parent means that I have to educate those I come into contact with and this magician needed to understand how his ignorance and thoughtlessness has affected us and that for some adoptive parents it could have been worse. I hate these discussions, I don't want a confrontation, I don't want to share my sons story, I don't want to embarrass the person I speak to but sometimes we have to do the right thing. I was calm and kind when I explained our situation and the difficult and embarrassing position he put me in. Of course he was very apologetic, he hadn't thought and next time he will speak to the parents in the days leading up to the party so they can check with parents of the party guests. The parents were very apologetic they hadn't thought either.
Do you know what none of the apologies made me feel any better, it was done, saying sorry doesn't erase what happened. Maybe that's why I am still sad and cross, I will move on, I don't have time to linger over these bumps in the road. I don't think I could have handled it differently I just wish that we hadn't had to handle it at all.

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


"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.