Thursday, 19 January 2017

The Highs and Lows of Adoption...

When you write a blog for a long time it becomes part of the family; a part of who you are and how you express yourself. I've been writing this blog since the day before we met Katie for the first time. It has evolved and grown, originally intended as a method of updating eager friends and family about our introductions with Katie.  Since then it has documented our journey as adopters through the highs and lows; a second adoption; a search of a diagnosis for Katie; life, the universe and everything.

I use this blog as a way of expressing how I'm feeling and making sense of what is going on in our lives.  I share our lives and feelings now as a matter of course.  I hope that at times it helps other people who are thinking of becoming adopters or who are maybe struggling with adopted life. Mostly I work my own stuff out.  I write about everything, not to moan or complain but simply to share and try and make some sense of what is going on in our lives.  It helps me enormously to just sit and write and I often find a sense of clarity by the time I have completed the blog piece. At the very least I'm usually breathing a little more calmly by the time I've finished writing. Over the past few years life has been very chaotic in the Life with Katie family for a variety of reasons, some of which I share here. For me chaos is very difficult.  I like a more ordered life.  My own childhood left me with a profound need for order.  I can try and soar on the wind when I have to but mostly I prefer to know when the wind is going to blow.

Probably not the best personality type for having two crazy children and four cats and an often disorganised husband and a universe hell bent on throwing all it can at me.

I muddle through as best I can.  I am a habitual over-analyser so I drive myself to the point of exhaustion questioning my reactions and feelings.  Growing up in a house where chaos reigned and exaggerated emotions were shared daily left me nervous of big, out of control emotions.

Then we adopted Katie and Pip and our house and my life is now a plethora of big, out of control emotions.  Many of them belong to the children and many of them belong to me.

I get on with it.  I deal with it. I manage as best I can with it.  I eat too much chocolate on the days when it's really difficult and I drink more wine in the evenings than I have ever have in my adult life. I shout more than I would like and this is one of my biggest issues I am desperate to sort out. I know I'm not alone. I know it's not ideal but really, you try living in our house and never get so frustrated you could literally drive away and book yourself into a hotel for a week! Arguments can literally break out before I've opened my eyes from a vaguely restful sleep some mornings and I feel adrenaline course through my veins before the dream of a cup of tea has even formed.

One of the things I touched upon in my last post on the truth about modern adoption was the pressure on modern adopters to be aware of all the issues our children face as a result of being adopted and respond to them appropriately.  There are now various parenting models available to try out and adopters spend lots of time discussing these strategies and how to implement them. I notice in myself and in other adopters a fear of getting it wrong and making things worse. Because of the lack of support from agencies like CAMHS adopters are often left to it themselves to implement strategies without proper support.  Strategies like Non-Violent Resistance are becoming more publicised but such strategies need careful planning and lots of support to work properly so adopters who are going it alone often wind up feeling more frustrated and a failure when the strategies fail to work. Adoptive parenting is like normal parenting with a Brucie bonus.  Our children often do things louder and for longer and with more breakages and shouting than children working through their emotional development with fewer pressures. It is one thing to understand what their emotional challenges and development are but another to manage the expression of that in a perfect way.  I read longingly the writing of Bryan Post and nod long enthusiastically and promise myself I will be more in the moment and be able to reflect back to my child that they are feeling angry or be able to walk away and ignore items of furniture being thrown at me without feeling angry but I just haven't found a way to do that just yet.  I suspect I will have to dig down deep into my own childhood experiences yet again to slay the dragon that wants to protect me from all those big emotions and flying missiles.

Is it must me or is that easier said than done?

I remember reading Bryan Post talking about the blueprint that we are given as children about parenting.  Our parents parented us with the blueprint of a garden shed whilst being sold the ideal of living in a castle.  I think about this often because of that ongoing irritation with myself of not being able to rewrite my blueprint sufficiently to enable my children to get the blueprint they need for their future lives. How much therapy does one adoptive parent need for heaven's sake?

I've been feeling a shift just lately though.  A desire to say to hell with all these parenting books and
the fear of failure they instill.  To hell with being able to solve all their problems in a month.  It's unachievable. We have to be ready for the long haul flight, not the quick hop across the channel.  As adopters we spend our lives trying to help our children overcome their own fears yet we seem to be doing it in a desperate swim against the tide of our own fear. What's that all about?  Just as regular parents are bombarded with an onslaught of "this is how you do it" parenting books I fear adoption parenting is heading the same way.  That's not to say some knowledge doesn't help and isn't desperately needed and I'm grateful for all the pioneering authors out there but sadly I feel the benchmark they set often isn't achievable either at all or without the right support from the right services. Therein lies the rub as they say. Mental Health services in the UK are very under-supported by the government.  I almost laughed uncontrollably at the new Prime Minister's plans to add more money to community mental health support which amounted to effectively 97p per person! That won't even buy you a bar of chocolate let alone the ongoing support which we so desperately need.

I don't have any solutions to offer.  I'm on a long waiting list for an ADHD parenting course (who knows when that will arrive!) so what do I know? All I do know is that I am slowly letting go of reading endless adoption books that sell me an ideal and a benchmark that I feel doesn't exist.  It all feels so intense - do you  know what I mean? More recently I've been going back to basics - tight boundaries and a clear message about acceptable behaviour.  I'm trying to pick battles but there are often many to choose from and I need to get better at soaring on the wind and going with the flow and any other metaphor you care to inject. I'm not expecting that to be easy though.  Katie is currently full of angst and is rarely able to accept responsibility for any of her behaviour but just lately has started to actually apologise which is a big step forward.  We use natural consequences where we can and more specific consequences when a clearer boundary needs to be set (like teaching your 4 year old brother the "F" word). Reward charts don't really work here for long but I'll take any incentive that has some benefits, even the old fashioned parenting "go to" tool of bribery. I am trying not to fear my daughter's diagnosis of FASD so much and my anxieties about where that and her oppositional nature will lead her.  I'm going to try and stop correcting some of those issues and simply side step them a bit more instead of feeling this overwhelming need to help her overcome all these issues right here and right now.  I'll forgive myself and them a whole lot more and I'll continue to try boosting their confidence wherever I can and hoping that chipping away at their feelings of inadequacy with things they are good at will help round out their self esteem as much as I can. I am reassured as I watch friends with older adopted children who seem to be maturing out of some of the early intense and stressful behaviour and I'm hoping we might see some of that here too.  I'm hoping if I stop trying so hard, keep it simple and emotional maturity appropriate and worry less about the future it might help feel calmer in the here and now and maybe then I can be a bit more present and in the moment and maybe even respond accordingly. Hopefully I'd like to just feel a little less stressed about it all which really isn't a great feeling to live with and makes me a dour faced mummy and not one who wants to relax and enjoy them a little more.

One thing I do know though is that I will continue to write about it in this blog and probably continue to chase my tail for some considerable time to come.  You're very welcome to join with me and continue to share your thoughts on my ramblings!

Thank you for all of those who do contact me and share your stories and thoughts and suggestions. It is wonderful to link in with you all and helps me as much as I know this blog can help others at times too.  We are a wonderful community and supporting each other is something we do well. xx


4 comments:

  1. I think you are wonderful. If karma exists, and I believe it does, you will surely get your reward one day for all your love, care, worrying and advocating that you've done for your two children. They are very lucky to have got you as their Mummy. xxx

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  2. Wow! Every word of your post resonated with me! I want to stop trying so hard and stressing over every parenting decision I make too! And I want to banish shouty Mummy ( maybe not very realistic!)I'm just in the process of writing a post about'Curling Parenting'and I realise this is a criticism thrown at parents these days but with the Parenting Plus that we engage in as adopters I can see we may need to do a lot more side-stepping at times. Good point about the long-haul too - need to remind myself of that. Thanks again. Just trying to remind myself to enjoy being parents rather than over-analysing everything and being such a stress-head!

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  3. This was a really helpful read. We are considering adopting in the future (we have two young biological children) and this was really informative and thought provoking. I'll definitely be sticking around your blog!

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    1. HI Cathy. Thank you. I wish you well with your future plans. I think it's very important to educate yourself on how things might be. You will probably find your adoptive children different to parent than biological children so it's important not to compare. I often say that my children do the things that biological children do but they do it it for longer and harder than biological children :)

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