Wednesday, 24 July 2013

A Stinky Story......

The other evening my daughter did one of those things that you hear about at adoption preparation courses. To tell the tale properly though I need to start with another story....

Pip has been teething. Teething brings crying and explosive nappies. So explosive on two occasions that the clean up was one of those "where do I start?" moments. The first one ended up all over me and the second one is the origin of this particular story.

Katie and I were in the kitchen and Pip was jumping up and down gleefully in his bouncing chair (one of those ones that looks like a walker but isn't). We both sniffed the air and said "ooh Pip's done a poo". Normally Pip gets upset when his nappy is dirty so I was surprised at the current bouncing and squealing with delight that was coming from the bouncer. Then Katie said "Mummy, there's poo coming out of Pip's bum".


We then quickly realised that not only was the poo dripping out of Pip's bottom, it had squished underfoot on the mat attached to the bouncer and Pip was slipping and sliding with unbridled abandon.

Errrrrrrr! Where to start?

I calmly got a towel to hold Pip and took him upstairs to hose him down in the bath and clean him up before sorting out the chair. Katie was fascinated, particularly as she'd missed me covered in poo the previous day.

Fast forward 10 days. It was Katie's bedtime and she was supposed to be in bed (the supposed to be is a whole different blog post). Daddy and I were enjoying our dinner downstairs whilst watching Rock of Ages. I heard Katie moving around upstairs and went up to check on her. She was on the toilet and she greeted me with:

"Mummy, I accidentally did a wee and poo on the floor but I didn't want to bother you so I've cleared it up". I was slightly puzzled because generally Katie finds it too much of an effort to even flush the chain but I congratulated her and wiped the floor where she indicated with some antibacterial wipes and returned downstairs because she now likes to sort all her toileting out herself. 

I settled back to my dinner and film until I heard continuous thumping for upstairs. I went upstairs to investigate (I'm sure you know where this is going by now). On arrival in the bathroom I was greeted with an enormous amount of poo on the bathroom floor and Katie jumping up and down in it with a big smile on her face. 

There wasn't a big smile on mine.

One wasn't amused.

My response wasn't as calm as the one for Pip. "What on earth do you think you are doing?" I asked her. "That is disgusting behaviour". Im pretty sure I said that at least 5 times. I called for Daddy to being up a mop and bucket (not letting the steamer near that). I dumped Katie in the bath and made her clean herself up and I got the wipes out, again, and cleared the floor of all debris and then mopped it. Katie was made very clear that trouble was in the air and we would discuss it in the morning but there would be no parties the following day.

As I was saying this the penny dropped. Pip got attention for pooing everywhere. Was Katie looking for attention? Did she feel that the only was to achieve this was to recreate an event that gained Pip lots of attention?

What to do? Time to go against my instincts to punish the behaviour and think.

The following morning I told her that we had decided that there would be no consequence for this event but I asked her to promise that I would never happen again. She soberly promised. Then without fanfare, a little while later, I said that we would need to do a few things after dancing and could spend some time together. So after dancing (and a visit to the bank) we went to the library and signed up for a reading challenge; we bought a huge balloon; we had a cake and juice at our local Waitrose. After lunch we went to a party together and just hung out together. Daddy looked after Pip for the day. Katie was a dream child all day. We had fun and enjoyed each others company.

I have been much more mindful of how Katie is feeling this week. I've been trying harder to find pockets of time for her. We've had a much better week as a result. She seems calmer. It's not been easy to invest that additional energy and also be mindful of it not being about gifts (which Katie tries hard to get) but spending actual time together. Her behaviour has improved. We're not talking perfect here but significantly improved and much calmer. As a result, I'm calmer. I also want to spend more time with her because she is more fun. 

A week ago I wasn't enjoying spending time with my daughter very much because it was just one battle after another. I felt low and frustrated. This week is a different story. 

So this was a stinky story but I will just say there is a lot to say for Positive Poo.... and maybe some positive parenting.

Just as long as it doesn't happen again.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Year End

Today my beautiful daughter finished Reception Year at school. It hardly seems like a moment ago that we were preparing for her to start. She looked so grown up in her school uniform and unworn shoes that were scuffed to within an inch of their life within a very short space of time.

In the past year she has grown; her body, her mind, her limbs and feet and her gorgeous blonde hair that she hopes will turn her into Rapunzel at some point in the future (I'm not sure she's really grasping all that Rapunzel had to suffer in order to have hair that long).

She has learned to read basic books and her writing confidence is growing daily.  She has met the expectations academically for her Reception Year. There is a bit of a niggle over her processing of numbers but she will be given extra help in school next year to help bring her up to speed.  She is learning to risk getting things wrong and starting to enjoy writing me letters without asking for help with the spelling (I did have to ask her what "bich" meant in a letter she wrote me though). 

She has endured a very long adoption process and learned she had another brother. She has allowed that brother into her life and is starting to have real affection for him.  She has started to adjust to sharing Mummy and is settling down a bit although there is still a long way to go with some of the behaviour she is displaying.  I think we might have turned a corner this week after an incident that I will write about separately.

She has made lots of friends and has started to learn to navigate difficulties in her friendships and that loyalty can mean having to deal with some tough situations with those friends.  She has probably been to more parties than anyone else in her class (which is breaking my bank balance and seriously challenging my inspiration for presents!).  I think school is actually just an extension of Katie's social life.

She has had her first visit to A&E for a chipped bone in her foot on the night before our Adoption Panel. 

She has learned that dancing doesn't come easily for her but that perseverance can reap rewards.

She has gained her Badge 8 for gymnastics and may have Badge 7 by the time I write again. She has also gained her 50m swimming badge.

She has added a ridiculous amount of bruises to her body possibly just due to the size of her feet or her already diagnosed hypermobility but possibly due to an added issue of dyspraxia or dyslexia or even dyscalculus (time will tell on that one).

She has laughed, cried, screamed, thrown her body down in protest at a variety of perceived injustices; thrown things at us; kicked and spat at us and blown us away with the force of her personality and will. She really is the little girl with a curl.

She has wowed me with her beautiful smile; her quips, and some of her funny poses for photographs.

She has shown me parts of myself that I'm proud of and parts of myself that I would much rather trade in for some better ones.

She has been great company and sometimes I miss the time we have just us.  It's not quite so easy to organise now but we're getting there.

Last night she said to me that she didn't want to go into Year 1 and that she wanted everything to stay
the same as they are now.  There will be a lot of changes at school next year for her.  She is being split up from her best friend because they really don't bring out the best behaviour in each other. Nothing sinister or really horrendous but they are a right royal pain the you know where when they are together and they make some really silly choices.  I can understand her anxiety and I actually share it to an extent.  I have worried about the changes for her next year and how she will feel.  She's had more to contend with this year than a 5 year old should have to deal with really.  She will have some of her other friends with her though and I hope that the split will enable both girls to settle down and work in large group settings a little better.  I am going to trust in the school's choice.  They have been so supportive through our adoption and really seem to have her best interests at heart.  We chatted about how she is feeling and I told her that she said something really similar to me last year when she left pre-school. She doesn't remember that but was reassured that this is a feeling that she has surmounted before.  She knows that we will move forward together and that I will be there for her.

When you're going through a difficult time it is easy to forget all the other stuff.  It is about the sum of all the parts, not just one.  My daughter is complex and fascinating and strong and challenging and beautiful and caring and kind. She is tall and clumsy and popular; quite hyperactive and thought provoking and insightful. She is silly and funny and really annoying at times.  She is wonderful though and I just want to take this moment to applaud all her efforts this year and say ............

Well done Katie!!

You really are a superstar darling and we love you to the moon and stars and forever and back.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

A Name of Dual Heritage.....

Names have been the issue of the week in the UK this week.  The topic is being as widely debated at last years "50 Shades of Grey".  Anyone who uses a social media site such as Facebook or Twitter or regularly visits You Tube will have watched the "Katie Hopkins Interview" on ITV's this morning.  For those of you who haven't seen this hilarious, awful and mind boggling interview you can watch it here:

On the back of this interview it now seems that the issue of middle class adopters not liking the names of adopted children has reared its ugly head yet again with an article in The Guardian written by Fraser McAlpine.

McAlpine questions whether adoptive parents should be able to change the name of the child they adopt or whether this is denying the child's heritage.  At this point I'm struggling with the terminology I can politically correctly use. Am I allowed to say "their child" in relation to the adoptive parents or would that be considered inappropriate and detrimental to the adopted child?  Would it ignore their dual heritage?

It's the phrase "dual heritage" that actually interests me the most here.  Our children do have a dual heritage - not just one heritage i.e. the one they were born into.  Our children are born within one family structure and grow up in another.  They will carry with them the legacy of both throughout their lives.  Surely the home that they are adopted into is as equally important as the home that they were born into?  Both should be acknowledged and embraced. Somehow the child has to grow up being able to fit within that dual heritage and flourish.  That's potentially a tall order when it is (apparently) predominantly middle-class families who adopt and those children are probably attending schools within a more affluent area than they might have otherwise attended (although some might say that having more opportunities is actually a good thing).  Our children will have to run the gauntlet of all the middle class names and the parents rather like Katie Hopkins who may judge our child on the basis of their name. What are the implications on our child of those judgements? Are they more likely to be ostracised or bullied or will it have more to do with how the parents size me up in the playground? What are the long term implications on the child's life? Will that scar them as much as a change of name might?  I honestly don't know because we haven't experienced any of these issues and my children don't have names that would raise that question.  It's a question worth asking though before everyone jumps on the bandwagon.

This issue of names not a new topic.  The press reported widely on the concern that some adopters would not pursue an adoption because the child's name did not fit within their socioeconomic background when David Cameron announced his reforms to the adoption process.  The usual names touted for the benefit of reporting are names like Chardonnay, and Britney (apologies to anyone with those names - I'm just using them as an example). In fact there was an article in the Daily Mail written by Laura Clark regarding the fear that some teachers have of children with so called "chavvy" names and the link with poor behaviour.  Would you want your child to be singled out as a potential trouble maker before they've even set foot within the door of their school when they are only 4 or 5? 

As an adoptive parent I understand the need to honour the names my children have been given. We respect that their names were given to them by their birth parents and the importance related to that.  We honour life story work.  We do not seek to deny our children their birth heritage or background but it is a subject that needs to be approached carefully because of the nature of the content and the fact that our children are so very young.  Interestingly both our children have names that are important within our family which brought a "meant to be" feel about both children. I will admit we have tweaked those names ever so slightly.  They are still fundamentally the same first names but with a drop of a hyphen for one and the removal of an "ie" for the other.  We have also given them a middle name.  Katie and I have discussed this and I've said that her Birth Mother gave her her first name and we have given her her middle name so she has a gift from us both.  I'm not sure from McAlpine's article whether he is just focusing on forenames or is also including middle names.

I'm intriqued as to the origin of all the research on the issue of the damage to our children by the change of a name. I'm a trained counsellor and would like to think that I'm sensitive to issues that might cause my children distress relating to their adoption. I'm also aware that, quite often, it's the people who are upset by something that shout the loudest. The people who feel unaffected by an issue are not generally the ones being quoted in the media.  I would be interested to know how many adopted children, who have had their name changed by their adoptive parents, feel aggrieved by this or feel that their background is being dismissed as irrelevant or unimportant?  Is this an issue that is derived from the 50s and 60s when the adoption regulations were so very different? When life story work was not considered and children often grew up not even knowing they were adopted?  Is there enough data on the outcome of current adoption protocols for this issue to even be debated at this time?  Certainly I would question the need to demonise adoptive parents for having feelings about names.  I would also like everyone who has made a judgement or pigeon-holed someone because of their name to raise their hand. I think a little honesty might be required here.

I know lots of adopters.  We regularly spend time with our network of adoptive families.  All the children, without exception, have lovely, perfectly acceptable names. In fact we have often commented on the lovely names that our children have so I do wonder if this issue of names is being blown out of proportion. I've yet to meet an adopted child with any of the names used in any of the articles so I would say to any potential adopter that they shouldn't be put off by all the media coverage at the current time. 

My hope for my children is that they can live in this world and flourish and ultimately be happy.  I will help my children do that wherever I can.  A name is something that sets a child up for life.  Names can be inspiring. Names are something some people have to live up to.  Naming another person is a big responsibility.  Names are also reflective of a period of time within which you were born.  The current generation of baby naming parents are experimenting more with names and, in a quest for individuality or trying to be like a celebrity, I'm not sure they are necessarily thinking through the fact that their child has to live their entire life with that name (unless the young person decides to use Deed Poll to change their name once they are older).

Writing as an adopter I don't think we, not only as adopters but also as a society, can deny either of our children's heritages.  We need to acknowledge them both and stop making adopters feel like they cannot embrace their child and make them part of their family.  I'm getting quite fed up with the media picking on adopters.  I don't think they realise just how much we have to take on board as adopters.

I will end by asking the following question though....

Is there anything wrong with both of the child's heritages being reflected within their name?

This post is being linked up with #WASO at The Adoption Social
as part of a collective response

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

All Children Do That?

It's hard when you're an adoptive parent to know why your child behaves in a certain way. I'm pretty sure my friends with children through birth find it hard to understand what might seem my preoccupation with the origin of negative behaviour. They say things like "all children do that" or "that's just their age". I even say things like that on occasion because sometimes it's true. It's knowing when it's not that is the tough call for adoptive parents, well actually for all parents but our children come with that flag already hoisted at half mast with the question dangling.

At the moment, I think it's fair to say that Katie is challenging. Not all the time but generally very challenging. She is pushing me to limits (and beyond) that I didn't know I had. She is aggressive towards us; argumentative; belligerent; rude; totally full of herself; testing her physical strength and generally quite unpleasant. She spits and kicks and throws things when she is angry. It doesn't take much to make her angry and her tempers rage for in excess of 30 minutes, often up to an hour, sometimes longer.  Any perceived injustice or unfairness and she zooms from 0-100 on the tantrum-o-meter in five seconds. So the obvious question to ask is why?

We've been asking that question a lot and we've come to the conclusion (of sorts) that there isn't just one answer. We've canvassed opinion from friends and other adopters. We've chewed the cud until we've got belly ache. We've tried a variety of parenting techniques to help support; resolve; and even control the undesirable behaviour. At the moment were using a mix of a star chart; a bean bag for chill out time; and attempting to walk away and ignore the behaviour. These techniques help us feel like we are working towards resolving the issues but do they really resolve the issue or even answer the question. 

Why is Katie behaving in this way?

The obvious spotlight would be on our recent adoption of Pip and yes, I think there are issues related to that. Issues such as a huge life change and sharing mummy and daddy are sensible pointers but I'm wondering whether issues from her own adoption are being stirred around inside her. Seeing Pip move homes might have triggered feelings of anger from her own move to us. The thing is we were seeing a lot of this behaviour before Pip came home. So we need to also look towards other issues.

There is the issue of "Reception Year-itis". This seems to be a recognised phenomenon whereby previously very pleasant children start school; attend happily until around Easter and then turn into totally over-tired, full of themselves, little shits after the Easter holidays. They start to feel that their parents know nothing and their lives would be infinitely better if they lived with a friend's Mum who is prettier/taller/has different hair colour etc etc.  This apparently lasts until mid-way through Year 1 (yay!). I think there is a lot of this in there if I'm honest.

Katie is also struggling with a friendship in school with a girl who has been a friend for a fair length of time. They get on very well and are quite similar. They play really well together but she has some very interesting things to say to Katie, and Katie obviously believes everything she tells her because, as highlighted above, we are now redundant from being the fonts of all knowledge. Katie has been getting into trouble at school, just generally doing really silly things, with this girl. I've started to realise that there is more going on though. When talking with Katie about ways she could manage someone wanting her to do something naughty I suggested asking a teacher for help to say "no" but Katie said she didn't want to get her friend into trouble. She has also started saying things like "Pickle says that I shouldn't eat this pudding because I'll get fat" WTF? This is when I started listening more and realising just how much Pickle is saying to Katie. Thankfully, for both girls, they have been split up next year and will be in different classes. All I'm hearing at the moment is "Pickle says this and Pickle says that". Now Pickle is clearly chanelling other influences in her life but I'm realising that I need to diminish Pickles hold over my easily influenced (except clearly by her mother) daughter. I try and ask Katie whether she thinks Pickle is right and have, on occasion, said that Pickle actually doesn't know what she's talking about. 

So we have an Adoption; Reception Year-itis; and friendship issues all causing her emotions to run riot. All this in addition to the fact that all the children are totally exhausted this time of year. Also on top of this we have discovered that Katie has scored highly for markers for dyslexia after a test all the children receive in school (we're going to have a meeting to discuss this further). Katie is pretty much at the top of her class for reading and writing so this surprised Daddy and I considerably. She does struggle with numbers and processing information from one scenario to another so maybe there is more to this. It's hard to tell. She's only 5 and is quite an under confident little lady when it comes to her abilities. She wanted to stop dance classes because she can't do the spins and her school teacher has noted how she'll guess at answers rather than thinking things through and formulating an answer. This might just be a confidence issue which was exacerbated by the test situation. So yet another thing to add to the mix.

I'm not surprised she is melting down with all this going on but it does make it harder to work out how to tackle the behaviour that is accompanying it and how best to help her. It also doesn't make it any easier to live with. There have been days when, to coin an expression used recently by a friend, I've not wanted to share the same air as her. I have had moments when my own anger threatens to engulf me, very much a transference of the situation. If I find those feelings hard to manage with my so called years of experience, how difficult is it for her? I don't always behave in a manner that leaves me happy. Remorse and a general feeling of being deskilled are common feelings. I pick myself up though and get back on the horse and do any other metaphorical analogy I can think of, and try again and hope that we will crack it.

I'm hoping the summer holidays will wind some magical spell around our house and transform everyone to inhabitants of Happy Land. That would be lovely. In the meantime there is the star chart; the chill-out bean bag (for me maybe?) and the threat of no friends coming to play until her behaviour improves.

And chocolate.

And wine.

Those last two are definitely for me!

I can hear things kicking off again in the kitchen so it's once more into the breach dear friends..