Telling It Like It Is!
Week 1 of the School Holidays...
I was talking to a friend the other day about Facebook (or Fakebook as I like to call it). There is much to like about social media, especially as an adoptive parent. It makes it easy to keep in touch with other adoptive parents as well as other friends. We have adoption support groups providing pretty much around the clock company and advice at any point during the adoption journey. I help run a spiritual self development group which brings like minded people together and helps me remember who I am and the person I want to be in time of high emotions. I run my holistic therapy business via Facebook and Instagram because it’s the easiest way to access potential customers. Negatives for adopters is the ease at which people can be found. Indeed I recently found someone (not adoption related) in under 10 seconds armed with just their name and location. I’m not going to focus on that side of it today though. I want to talk about the other thing that I have noticed about Facebook which is that it is the modern day equivalent of Keeping up with the Jones’. For a whole variety of reasons scrolling through your timeline can give rise to many different emotions. Feelings from envy, sadness, disgust, hilarity, happiness, to love can hit you unexpectedly.
Around this time of year our timelines are filled with pictures of happy, smiling people in various locations around the globe as they go on their summer holidays. Glorious sun-filled images of perfection. Now we all know on some level that a picture only shows a moment in time. We all know that either immediately proceeding or following that snapshot the reality of life might be very different than is shown but that reality is rarely mentioned. When scrolling through the 50 or so holidays images does it ever say that the children argued for the whole holiday or that they didn’t sleep or any other family issue that might have cause problems for the family on holiday? It was pointed out to me recently that in a year’s time when those photos pop back up in the memories section in Facebook that the poster will be happy to remember the happy, smiling photos and ignore any stress linked to them. Fair enough. I can’t argue with that. When I look at old snapshots I have also forgotten anything else that was happening at the same time in most instances. The brain is a wonderful thing st being selective and it does show that when it comes to photos they mostly happier memories survive. I am someone who often notes that it took all day to get that picture because the children were arguing and am generally a fairly open and honest parent. I find people respond to this and share their own parenting anxieties and challenges and I know it helps them feel less alone. One of my missions in life is to be open and help people by opening my door and being a bit more transparent
So when I was posting my first summer holiday photo on Monday I made the following comment:
“Day 1 of the school holidays. This picture looks like a scene of peace and cooperation. It is, probably for 5 minutes, but it was preceded by lots of arguing over who had the most flour and lots of shouting and door slamming.
My plan is to photograph these holidays as they really are.
The positive is they are cooperating currently. 😃”
What was interesting is another parent immediately replied to say she was experiencing the same and was hoping for some gin later in the day. I even noticed another parent posted later that it has been a stressful day for them too and I wondered what would happen if I posted an image of seeming perfection and captioned it with reality. I’ll be honest about something. The issue of whether I’m opening myself too much to school parents is my anxiety. Will that impact on my children? Can I spin it with humour to offset reality? Is that actually the anxiety of most parents or do they shake off the stressful situations more easily? I live in an area where many of the children seem to be high achieving, well behaved, role models of perfection. Parents rarely admit to anything less. Raising children with trauma related challenges and FASD in an area of such perfection often raises lots of insecurities in me almost on behalf of my children. I live my life generally walking to the beat of my own drum (my business is testament to that) and I have children who do so too albeit at times through no choice of their own, so why not live my life by example and see what happens? There has to be a degree of caution but what I’m going to do over the holidays is blog here and tell the story behind the images I am posting. As always my children’s identities will be protected so I’ll use images that are either blanked or taken from clever angles. The aim though is to give a real story of our summer holidays, the good, the bad and the ugly so to speak.
This week started with an INSET day. I’m glad the children didn’t have to go in because we limped through last week on emotional crutches. The weather in the UK hasn’t helped that emotional fragility. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fantastic to have such wonderful weather and I can’t even remember the last time we had such a long spell of hot weather. The trouble is here in the UK we aren’t geared up for any excess of weather. If it snows we can’t cope for more than a day and anything more than a week of hot weather and we are on our knees because air conditioning is a rarity (except in cars and supermarkets). Hot weather here means humditity; stickiness; makeup sliding off faces and baking hot rooms. As a result sleep becomes a real challenge. Katie and Pip are incredibly sleep deprived currently and sleep balance is something needed here to maintain any sense of emotional regularity. Add to that having to concentrate or even maintain their reactions for a large period of the day at school leads to explosive reactions at home. The first week of the summer holidays historically has been challenging. Challenging is “adopter-parent speak” for having to go into lockdown. We see few people and mostly just chill, watch iPads and go for walks in nature. Some adopters literally cannot leave the house as their children adjust to a new routine. We can get out but Katie and Pip like to know what is planned each day and there are generally arguments and obstructiveness along the way. Lots of damage limitation, simple food, cajoling and policing is required. I’m looking at the coming weeks with a mixture of relief and despair (and will fluctuate between those two emotional reactions like a see-saw throughout the day). I’ve been working very hard generally on reducing oppositional behaviour in the home and will talk more about this in future posts.
I started this post on Tuesday and it’s now Thursday and I’m writing retrospectively because we’ve been busy (and I’ll be honest that I’m rather hooked in watching Love Island in the evening currently) so writing will come in fits and starts. I bravely booked in a few things this week after the first two days being chill days. A day at the beach with a close friend and her children yesterday and Katie is at gym camp today to keep up her training and hopefully pass another advanced badge and also to give Pip a day of chilling with me. Pip has been very emotionally charged since starting school. He’s done very well during Reception Year and calmed down considerably as he started to feel safer but the truth is he is exhausted and explosive. He just wants to be close to me so enabling at least once a week where he can be his own man whilst Katie is training is our plan. We are currently sitting together on our iPads, him watching KidsTube and me writing, very chilled and companionable.
We’ve actually packed in more this week than I was originally intending but it’s been surprisingly good and I’m going with the flow and balancing activity with rest. On Tuesday afternoon I took the children for a long bike ride around The Common so Pip could build his confidence ready for a two hour bikeability session on Wednesday. Passing that will enable him to ride his bike to school in the new term. Both children rode really well and it was a relatively easy afternoon. I will admit the ease wasn’t achieved without input from me. Riding their bikes in nature helps them exercise, burn of excess energy and ground themselves and feel calmer. Tempers were a little more tetchy when we arrived home because the heat was getting to everyone so the paddling pool was ready to cool tempers down along with ice creams.
Bikeability went very well on Wednesday. It was baking hot and we were Sweaty Betty’s and had had enough of the heat when we got home but Pip did amazingly well overcoming his shyness in record time and enjoyed the session. He got a bit fed up and emotional for the last half an hour and needed some cajoling (including me joining in too) but we got there. He can now ride his bike to school so is delighted. We came home a bit over cooked from the sun but with smiles. We even managed to get to the library in the afternoon to sign up for the summer reading challenge. Katie has embraced this by borrowing 8 books and Pip 6 books. We then bought iced-creams on the way home to cool down a bit.
Yesterday (Wednesday) was an absolutely fabulous day and what a delight it is to share that. We drove to the beach with some friends. We are blessed to have friends where mum and I are very close and she has a boy and girl too. Her daughter is two school years younger than Katie and her son one school year younger. As we all know adopted children often relate more easily to younger children and I can definitely say it’s true in this case. All the children get along fantastically and us mum’s got a fair amount of chatting time in too. Interestingly my friend’s children aren’t adopted but they are similar in temperament to mine and there was barely a cross word all day. We swam in the sea, bought some body boards and had great fun with them. We then went back to their house which is near the beach and the children played and had tea together. It was a beautiful day. One of those days you wish didn’t have to end, and that’s not something I say often.
As I post this post what can I say about this experiment so far? Well the interesting thing this week so far has been it’s been the easiest start to the holidays we’ve had since Katie started school. I think it’s fair to say that Katie’s mood dominates the house generally although Pip has been in need of a lot of delicate handling over the last few months. I also think that having a flexible attitude from my perspective is helping. I don’t have unrealistic expectations of each day and can adapt and adjust as we go along. That is experience I’ve gained. I’m relaxed about iPad use because it helps calm things down. I’m also approaching my expectations of the children differently and understanding how Katie’s FASD effects her processing of instructions. I’d say we are on a knife-edge a lot of the time and I work hard at keeping an element of balance which for a lot of reasons currently I find a challenge but we have had a much better week this week than I was expecting and a significantly better week than last week which is a joy to be able to write.
Let’s see what comes next. How are the holidays going for you? Do you tell it like it is with your pictures too?