Last week we had our court celebration. We got our Adoption Order back in June but I guess this was the first date court could accommodate us for our celebration.
We had chosen the city we wanted it to take place in and had been told to meet outside of the court at 9:45am and for our party to go in together. It was a bit of a mad dash but somehow we managed to get there and all dressed up to make an occasion of it.
I drew the line at getting matching outfits for the boys as I’ve always been really against putting children in the same outfits (“they’re not the same person” I would moan) however since we’ve had Little Bear I’ve been having strange urges to do it. I think it’s because it shows a link between them for the whole world to see. Plus, they’d look super cute. Anyway, as a compromise between reneging on my old principles and my new desire to make them match, I had bought them the same tailored navy shorts and both blue and white shirts but with different patterns. And very handsome they looked too (as long as you didn’t notice the sun gleaming off Little Bear’s bald patch!).
We met our parents there and Ann our Social Worker. We all had to go through the scanning machine which the boys found entertaining. Stupidly I had thought we would go straight into the court room but unfortunately there was quite a long wait. I was starting to fear that if we didn’t go in soon, Little Bear would systematically destroy the waiting room.
Over the few days before the court event I had tried to explain to Little Bear that we were going to see the Judge. I had explained that he (or she?) was a very important person who would be telling us that Little Bear could stay with us forever and he would have our name (although in reality he only knows our surname). It was very hard to tell how much Little Bear had taken on board.
I had also been fearful for some time that if the Judge said something about Little Bear staying with us forever, he might pipe up “no I not. I go Karen and Bob’s house” (my made up name for Little Bear’s foster carers) as he used to be pretty fond of saying this.
On the morning of the event, Little Bear was actually very keen to get his smart clothes on and kept asking to go to see the Judge (even if it did sound like he was asking for George). His excitement was proving hard to contain so the wait was less than ideal. We were all very relieved when the time eventually came for us to be called in.
It turned out not to be a Judge (damn! I was excited about seeing the wig) but 3 magistrates. They were lovely though. The main guy said a few words about it being a happy occasion and congratulated us all. Little Bear pointed to each Magistrate and said “that’s my girlfriend, that’s my boyfriend, that’s my girlfriend” which made us giggle. Thankfully he said it quietly and strangers still find him hard to understand so I don’t think the Magistrates picked up on it. I hope not as a second later he muttered “that guy is such a weirdo”!
The Magistrate spoke a little more then Grizzly asked Little Bear if he wanted to say anything. “I want to live with them forever” he said and leaned his head against Grizzly. It was such a lovely tear-inducing moment and such a relief that he did seem to understand why we there and that he hadn’t chosen to say he’d rather be somewhere else.
The Magistrate gave Little Bear a teddy and a certificate to mark the day. They then invited the boys to sit in the big chair and for us to take photos. We didn’t feel rushed at all and the Head Magistrate even turned photographer for us. It was short but sweet and we came away feeling happy to be official.
We had puzzled over what to do afterwards, especially with it being too early for lunch but thankfully the sun was shining and we were just beside a lovely park. It was definitely the right choice as after being on their best behaviour in court the boys were ready to let off some steam. Ann came with us for a while. We wandered through the park and admired the squirrels before finding the café to get some hot drinks. The boys played in the play area and the grownups managed some grownup conversation (!). It was lovely to catch up with Ann but soon she had to head back to work.
There was a miniature railway in the park, complete with tiny station and platform so Grizzly and I and the boys had a few rides and my Dad couldn’t help joining in either.
When it was time for lunch, Little Bear had a meltdown leaving the park. There was a bit of biting and scratching but thankfully he calmed quickly and then wanted to be carried to the restaurant. We chose to go to Pizza Express for lunch as it’s family-friendly and easy. It was tempting to go somewhere posher to mark the occasion but it would probably have been a disaster and as long as the children were happy we knew we would be too.
Meal times with Little Bear can be really stressful but he did well this time. He was keen to go on the open-topped bus afterwards which helped with his motivation.
The bus was a good choice. We were enjoying the nice weather, getting some fresh air, seeing sights we hadn’t seen before in a city we thought we knew well and having a rest while we were at it. I’m always a bit sceptical about there being a guide in these situations but she was very interesting and not boring at all.
We stayed on the bus until Little Bear started standing up more than he was sitting down and I was becoming a bit anxious about what he might do next. I always feel it’s better to end these things whilst they are still going well.
I had seen that there was a Lego exhibition on in the Cathedral and as we got off the bus near there it seemed worth a try. The exhibition itself was brilliant – Master Builders (they really are called that) had created all sorts of vehicles from Lego, including a 7 metre long replica of the Titanic which was amazing. Big Bear loved it and filled my whole phone with photos. The grownups loved it too but I think Little Bear was getting tired by then and although he showed some interest in the models, he was around the whole thing in about a minute. His behaviour was beginning to escalate and we ended up having another ‘time in’. I had to pretend he wasn’t really being abusive in a Cathedral!
As usual, these things are often solved with food. We headed to the café where there was a large Lego pit and a Lego wall that the children could build on to. Both Bears absolutely loved it and played together for ages while the grownups somehow managed another drink and chat.
By now it was late afternoon and we had been out all day so we headed homeward. It had been a really lovely family day out and I’m so pleased that we found something inclusive to do. You never know how these things will go, best laid plans and all, so I was relieved that we had all enjoyed it and had managed to successfully create a great memory of Little Bear’s special day.
Unusually for us, this was not the end of it. Earlier in the year we had had a realisation that we are rubbish at celebrating big events and just keep on trucking with our busy lives. We had resolved that this time would be different and we had planned a big party. We also wanted to thank our support network for everything they had done for us over the past 12 to 18 months, whilst we were going through the adoption process. So on Thursday we had our court celebration, Friday was the anniversary of Little Bear moving in and Saturday was our party. Talk about a manic few days!
We were expecting almost 50 people to our party, which we were having at home and the plan was definitely for it to be outside. By Thursday my obsessive checking of the weather forecast indicated that there wasn’t going to be a last minute miracle, the forecast was for rain and I needed to accept this. That evening we began filling the garden with gazebos. On Friday we woke to this headline: “UK to be battered by 1500 mile wide storm”. Excellent. Perfect. Just exactly what we needed!
It was still raining on Saturday morning, the decking was treacherously slippy and the gazebos were leaking in several places. Undeterred and with no other real options, we proceeded with the preparations as best we could. The bouncy castle arrived and another gazebo was quickly erected so children could get on and off it without getting soaked.
The 15 children busied themselves on the bouncy castle and I can honestly say that they weren’t one bit of trouble all day. At lunch time most of them spontaneously trooped into the little front room (soon to be office), instigated a carpet picnic and watched a DVD in near silence! No one could quite believe it. I think all the bouncing must have worn them out.
Although we were very keen on the party idea, the thing that usually puts me off is catering for everybody. As is the way with everything since adopting, our mantra is “keep things easy” and we applied this to the party too. At 12o’clock pizzas were delivered. My Mum had made some lovely salads and I had done some bits and voila lunch was served. At 1:30 pudding arrived in the form of an ice cream van. A swarm of children ran zombie like straight through the house chanting “ice cream ice cream”. It was ace.
My friend had also made us a cake. I wanted the cake to be symbolic so she made it with 4 layers – one layer to represent each of us. The layers were made of our favourite cake and the outside of each was decorated with our favourite things. She also added 4 bears dotted around it to include how I refer to everyone here in my blog. We did gather everyone around at one point and made a cheesy speech as we genuinely did want to thank everybody for their unwavering support. Big Bear lead 3 cheers and Little Bear cut the cake.
Somehow, a weather miracle did seem to take place and the rain held off until later on. It was very windy though and at one point a gazebo did take flight. Thankfully nobody was in it at the time! Our guests were very helpful and as they stood around chatting, they kept a hand or two on the gazebos to stop it from happening again!
We had a brilliant time. I felt very relaxed which can be hard to achieve in these situations and I also felt I had had proper conversations with people. The last guests didn’t leave until 2 hours after the party was supposed to finish so I take that as a sign that people enjoyed themselves.
I feel that we have well and truly celebrated adopting Little Bear now. And so we should.