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.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

The Feast of St Joseph.

Today is the Feast of St Joseph, for me a perfect patron for adoptive parents. In a time where to marry a young girl carrying a baby that was not yours was a brave if not fool hardy thing to do. That is exactly what he did and I believe that he went onto love Jesus as if he were his own, teaching him to become a carpenter no doubt as his father taught him. I am a woman of faith, I don't shout about, I am not really the evangelising type, I just try to live my faith -of course I keep my expectations low so that I don't fail on a daily basis.  I enjoy being part of our community and all the support it brings. But my faith doesn't define me, any more than me working part time, being a mother of 4 or being a wife.

However my faith must be part of why I wanted to adopt, for many adoption is the only way they can create a family but for some there is an altruistic reason. We can't necessarily explain why adoption is right for us and do we really need to?? On Sunday as part of the Mothers Day celebration Songs of Praise spoke to Home for Good a charity that aims to make adoption and fostering a significant part of the life and ministry of the Church in the UK. This charity is spreading the word through upto 15000 churches hoping that if just one family in each church adopted that would mean that all those in the system waiting for a "forever" family would have one. A fantastic aim. But the message that is often heard from people of faith is the saving of people. I do sometimes wonder that we are attempting to save these children and that is NOT a reason to adopt. What traumatised children need is security, boundaries and unconditional love not saving. I view God like a loving father, someone who unconditionally loves his children. Even on days that he is cross or disappointed love would still permeate everything that he stands for. But how does this work for children who have been taken into care, they have never received this unconditional love from a parent so how could they comprehend that, that is what God is about. It's possible that they see a wrathful or indifferent God so how can they rely on that to support them when they need help. This is really highlighted in the following paragraph from Donal Neary -  A Lenten Journey

Reflection : No Good News

Some young people knew only pain and meaninglessness. ‘God put me in this world to suffer’ one of them used to say to me regularly. That was the only reasonable explanation for his situation that he could come up with. How could I talk to him about God? Many of them didn’t want to believe in God. The message they got all the time from the society in which they lived, was that they were no good, useless, trouble, unwanted. After a while, a very short while, you come to believe it’s true what they say and think you are no good, useless, unwanted. So, if there is a God, then God too sees them as no good, useless, and unlovable. It’s bad enough to have to go through life being made to feel no good and unwanted, but to have to go through eternity being made to feel no good an unwanted was too much to bear. So the Good News for these young people was that there is no God.

When I read this I was shocked, my experience is so different than the children Donal Neary spoke of and understandably so. I have received unconditional love from my parents, how do we explain what unconditional love is to traumatised children, when they have never experienced it. Not only that but how can we expect them to trust us as adoptive parents when their own parents couldn't love them or take care of them. This is another reminder of how we must always think of the child's perspective and experience.

I really want child 4 to have the same positive experience with God as I have, I want him to be able to question his faith but always rely on it to help him when he needs it. I guess time and experience is what will help. We have a lifetime ahead of us and enough love and understanding within our family and our parish community to provide him with the continuity he needs. I guess I just have to trust in God.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Mothering Sunday

A day historically that those "in service" were allowed a day off to return to the church of their youth, this would also mean an opportunity to visit their families and they would often collect wild flowers on their way home to give to their mothers. Today if we are not careful it can be another day led by retailers after a quick financial hit, encouraging us to feel guilty if we do not purchase huge bouquets of flowers, boxes of chocolates or lunches out.

In our house Mother's Day means a lie in, homemade cards and home made gifts. We are off for Dim Sum for lunch and meeting my parents there.  We love this particular Chinese, it's always busy and noisy, full of families, fast noisy talking and lots and lots of fantastic food. The staff take young children ducking around the tables in their stride.

I love this day, it's an excuse to be a little lazy and still enjoy the time with my children, these days though it's always tinged with a little sorrow. Here I sit spending time with my gorgeous child 4, he has made me a card with a cupcake case flower on the front and a gift of a pot with straw flowers that sits on the top of the chest in the hallway. I am the one that receives the cuddle and kisses in the morning.  He is not old enough yet to ask questions of his past or understand that his history is different to that of his older siblings, so shows no behaviours that I need to be concerned about. I know that this may change in the future, that he maybe confused by this history and frustrated or angry when celebrating Mothers Day as I know other adopted children are, can you blame them? But for now our household is pretty much unaffected it's just that......

Not all that far from here, a young woman will be sitting in her kitchen, she will have seen the adverts in the shop windows all shouting about Mother's Day and how wonderful mothers are, how they are worth the flowers, the chocolates and the lunches out, but her baby was taken from her and she doesn't know where he is, she knows or at least hopes that he is safe and happy but she won't be receiving homemade cards or gifts. She will be alone thinking of the what could have been or should have been. It's unlikely that she will be able to accept her responsibility in the removal of her child, or that of her husband but she will wish I am sure that he is home with her today.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Forget the reasons why it may not work!

This has been a week of  issues that could relate to adoption. FASD, My Violent Child, even Call the Midwife. As well as Open Nests new video and Woman's Hour discussion about social media and adoption breakdowns. In the face of so much adversity is it surprising that so many of us living adoption, struggle with remaining calm, upbeat, informed and yet keeping our identity.

Mr L and I hadn't even heard of FAS/FASD* until we attended an adoption course, we knew nothing of neurology in infants and children and how parental behaviour could have such an enormous effect on how the brain itself actually develops. We didn't realise that emotional trauma of many sorts could affect how children mature emotionally. As an example I was very poorly after child 2 was born, 10 days post birth I was rushed into hospital where I had to be given a blood transfusion and massive doses of intravenous antibiotics to fight an unknown infection. The hospital couldn't find what had caused the infection or decide if I had an internal bleed. My only concern was for my 10 day old baby left at home. I was hospitalised for 10 days and then spent 2 weeks recuperating, with the children at my parents. Interestingly, child 2 struggles a little today with connecting with his peer group, how to deal with difficult situations. He has a tendency to over-react. I now wonder if that difficult start for him meant slight attachment issues??
Before our adoption training we had no knowledge about therapeutic parenting the only parenting we knew was that passed on to us by our parents and what I read about. Steven Biddulph and Dr Christopher Green are 2 favourites.

Listening and watching all the above this week has I think really highlighted how little we know about humanity. How desperate we are to understand what we should be doing to ensure the best for our children and yet in the next breath, society can be so judgemental of parenting and therefore have a massively negative impact. Of course most pregnant women would not drink at all if they knew about the risks of FAS/FASD, but the medical world doesn't  share that information openly and clearly. Violent children would not exist if we could consistently provide the parenting they required, and I am sure that parents struggling with their children's behaviour would step forward quicker to ask for help, if they knew that help would be forthcoming and non judgmental. If people would just drop their pre conceptions about parenting Open Nest would not have needed to create their video about how to support adoptive families.

How in reality can adoptive families remain positive, we have to fight constantly for what our children need. At home we have had to change our "natural" parenting techniques, at school we have to ask staff to think differently when educating our children, within family and friendship groups we have to explain why we do things the way we do, even though sometimes we are banging our heads against a brick wall and then when we are out, society judges us based on their experiences of parenting and their expectations of how children and families should behave.

So why do we get up everyday, usually with the birds and often after a disturbed nights sleep. Why do we put on our professional clothes, collect our books and files to visit the head teachers office to sell attachment training to the staff. Why do still risk days out, meals out and holidays despite knowing that there is a possibility that it will all go pear shaped.

For me the answer is LOVE!

*FAS/FASD - Foetal Alcohol Syndrome/ Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

A Sensory Box

How to calm a 3 year old - talking? Rationalising? Time out?

Yeah right, none of those are going to work, not with our little chappie. Once the red mist descends he doesn't hear the talking, even if he was able he couldn't rationalize, what 3 year old can and time out well how can you reject a child full of massive emotions when he has already been rejected so much already.

It's time to think outside of the box. 

As many adoptive parents I probably could hold a degree in how to parent an adopted child, well that is if I could always be calm, if I could consistently remember the Dan Hughes way and if it was easier. Those of us that can be found with our noses, continually stuck in a book about therapeutic parenting will know that our brains are split into three parts, the reptile, the limbic and the neo cortex. But for those of you not in the know here is a quick explanation. The reptilian brain is the oldest part that's the bit that teaches us about basic survival - fight, flight or freeze. The limbic is that bit that is full of emotion - happiness, sadness and anger. The neo cortex which is the most recently developed is the bit that helps us with logical thinking, empathy and speech. Many children and not just those taken into the care system, struggle because the reptilian part of their brains are more active and stronger than the other parts, a brilliant example of how this affects them was shared by Nicola Marshall in her podcasts Teachers Introduction to Attachment. 
"Okay you are crossing the road, when a car comes hurtling towards you - do you stop look at the car and think, what are my options? Shall I run back to the pavement shall I run across the road, should I lie down hoping the car will miss me or do you react?" 
Traumatised children react, they spend most of their time in the reptilian part of their brain so whenever something worries them the reptilian part of the brain takes over and they DON'T think they just do.

Here in lies the problem, whenever something makes child 4 uncomfortable, worries or scared he reacts he doesn't think, he just can't and so we have to teach him how to control his reptile so as to enable him to cope with life. How do we do that?
Well, we have to keep the reptile occupied and that's where sensory calming activities come in.
We have over the last few days been creating all sorts of sensory calm stuff - we already have a big green 5 minute egg timer sometimes if I need and I mean need to get something done I can give child 4 the egg timer and ask him to hold it with the caveat that once all the green grains of sand have passed through we will do something exciting, like swing on the swing or bounce on the trampoline. But I have learned that I need many types of egg timers to keep that little red crocodile busy. So With the help of Google and Pinterest we have created a jellyfish in a bottle of blue water, glow worms float in a pink sea, balloons stuffed full of playdough and rice. A bottle full of glitter glue, warm water and glitter is brilliant and I am planning on buying an exercise resistant band. The idea being that at dinner time I can tie a band around the legs of his chair and he can kick at it, without making lots of noise. What we have found is that if we can keep the reptilian bit of the brain occupied the other parts of the brain have the opportunity to do their jobs.

We are hoping that we will be able to teach child 4 how to regulate his red crocodile so that except when a car is hurtling towards him he will be able to stop, think and breathe before he reacts.