November at Adoption: The Bear Facts

It feels like literally 3 seconds since I was sitting here writing last month’s round up but here I am again and November is over. Here are our best bits:

Events:

  • Half term took place in the first week of November for us. In order to curb Big Bear’s growing I Pad addiction and to encourage him to spend time doing other things, we started the holiday by limiting I Pad time to 30 minutes per day. I was also strict about TV time. It was allowed but I didn’t want the I Pad just to be replaced by another screen. It was the best thing we could have possibly done and I truly believe it led to a much calmer and more wholesome holiday. In fact, the half hour limit is now a permanent feature at our house (mean Mum!).
  • I spent the first couple of days on my own with the Bears. Day 1 was fairly disastrous (I can see a pattern forming, the first day always seem to be a disaster) but day 2 was lovely. We went to the shops, had a wander around, bought new shoes (how had their feet possibly grown again??) and went to the Library where we got involved with a craft session that happened to be on. I have been trying to engage Little Bear with the Library for a while now. It has been a bit of an uphill battle but I was really pleased on the day in question because he took time (seconds, but still) to choose his own books for the first time and then concentrated really well for the craft. Both boys made a rocket which I’m still proudly displaying on my shelf.
  • I treated Little Bear to a comic and Big Bear to some Match Attax then we got a hot chocolate and some toast. I felt as though they actually wanted to do that and we weren’t just sitting down because I was tired and needed caffeine! We sat for a quite a while and Little Bear coloured in his comic and Big Bear looked at his cards and we seemed like a civilised family!!!
  • That afternoon we went to the cinema to see The Trolls which we all enjoyed. We happened to bump into some friends there and spontaneously went to the nearby soft play area with them to burn off some steam. It was a really lovely day.
  • Grizzly was off for the second half of the week and we went to a couple of parties. I also baked twice with the boys that week. Previously I have had double of everything so that they could have all their own stuff and there would be no arguing over whether it was fair or not. This time I chanced it with one set of equipment and ingredients and took turns to give them little tasks to do. I was really impressed with how they coped with it and what a calm experience it was.
  • We went away for the final weekend of half term as a surprise for my Mum’s 70th birthday. The boys put lots of effort into making her cards and cake and we had a really good family weekend. Little Bear was a little anxious on the journey because the plan was quite complicated (we were going somewhere else on route and though we were meeting my Mum it wasn’t at her house) and he needed lots of repetition but he settled really well once we there.

 

  • Big Bear played in his first football match. After saying that he wasn’t headed for the Premier League (Bad Mum!) I couldn’t believe how well he played! He showed a real grit and determination on the pitch that I don’t think I’ve seen in him before. It was brilliant to watch and then I nearly wept all over the mud as they made him man of the match! Little Bear coped fairly well with having to watch and was very proud of his brother. We have avoided taking him to watch again though as I think behaving yourself on the side of a cold pitch for an hour is quite a big ask and there are probably better ways we can spend the time.

 

  • When the last match was on, Little Bear and I went to pick up Aunty Giraffe for a visit. It was lovely to see her as always. Little Bear is very fond of her and the fact he hasn’t seen her for a few months in between visits doesn’t seem to matter.
  • We did family things over the weekend then on the Monday Aunty Giraffe and I escaped for a spot of shopping. Grizzly ended up being at home and was able to pick up the boys. Very selfishly, I was really excited to be out past school pick-up time and shopping turned into the cinema (to see a grown up film!!!) and dinner. Very decadent but ace.

 

  • Last weekend we attended our VAA’s Christmas Party. I bumped into quite a few familiar faces: a family whose prep group I had spoken at and who now have a tiny baby in their charge through concurrency; some adopters who had attended one of my Communication Workshops and now have 2 little girls; a couple from our prep groups and their little girl. It was lovely to see everyone, especially to meet the couple from our prep groups again, in the same building where we first met, now with our little people in tow. I also met a not so familiar face: one of my Twitter friends. It’s quite surreal to meet somebody you know so much about and so little about at the same time but also lovely. Finally, our Social Worker had tasked us with finding another couple who didn’t know anybody. We did find each other and I think we have quite a bit in common (I suspect our SW knew that) so we are going to have coffee soon. Phew! My adoption network seems to be growing quite rapidly!

 

School:

School has largely continued to go well for Little Bear. There have been some incidents but I’m going to count them as positives as I’m really pleased with how school have handled them. All the incidents have taken place at lunch times when there is less supervision and the supervision comes from mid-day assistants, not teaching staff. The incidents usually involve Little Bear playing a game that he shouldn’t be e.g. fighting and the game usually ends in him kicking/ hitting/ biting somebody. From what I can tell, all hell usually breaks out at that point, a dinner lady shouts at him that’s he naughty and drags him to a teacher. Little Bear is unable to explain what has happened or why and he gets punished, not the other child who is usually also involved.

That sounds pretty bad but I spoke with his teacher about it as soon as I spotted the pattern and she had separately spotted it too. She had already spoken to the Head and SENCO to say that she didn’t think the usual system of giving a red card and getting a good talking to from the Head was appropriate for Little Bear. She had concluded that the supervision wasn’t appropriate and that the mid-day assistants needed more support in managing his behaviour in a more constructive way. She asked for my permission to meet with them and explain Little Bear’s needs to them in more detail. She would give them strategies that work in the classroom e.g. thinking time and if they didn’t feel sure about what to do, they could bring Little Bear to her and she would manage the situation. She confirmed that his behaviour is good in the classroom and it is just a matter of handling him more constructively. I did suggest he needed to be watched more closely too because if the opportunity is there, he will get into mischief. I usually ensure the opportunity isn’t there.

His teacher also said “he is not a naughty boy, he just needs more help with boundaries and knowing what is acceptable. I will not have him branded as a naughty child”. That was what I was planning to say but clearly I was preaching to the converted. So yes, there have been a couple of bumps in the road but top marks to school for their sensitive and child-centred handling of it.

There is now a protocol in place for the mid-day staff and so far there haven’t been any further mishaps…

In terms of his educational targets, Little Bear continues to make progress. He is secure in his knowledge of Phase 2 phonics so is now learning Phase 3 and working on blending Phase 2 in school. The blending is proving difficult, as I suspected it would, due to Little Bear’s speech processing and auditory memory difficulties. However, he is mostly able to identify the first and last sounds in words so I don’t think he’s as far off blending as I did a few weeks ago.

Now that he has found out what numbers come after 10, he’s got a bit muddled with seven and eleven and the whole sequence has gone a little wonky again… I’m sure we’ll get there eventually!

Little Bear has discovered pens and has even requested paper a few times recently. He is making some good first attempts at mark making now.

I am super proud of how he is getting on as always.

Me, Myself & I:

I have mainly been making Christmas decorations (our first craft fayre is tomorrow), cups of tea for builders and doing Christmas shopping. I have run another Communication Workshop which went well but we are now on a mission to improve marketing and hopefully get more people next time.

Snapshots:

  • Little Bear asking me to put the radio on then the two of us holding hands and dancing around the kitchen
  • Little Bear showing great empathy with his friend who was crying and trying to find ways to cheer him up
  • Little Bear going back into his classroom each evening when I pick him up, trying to share his treat with his classmates. It’s all good when it’s a packet of sweets, not so much when it’s a giant cookie that several children take a bite out of!

Big Bear’s mini projects:

We have made quite a lot of decorations for our tree now, with some help from Little Bear and I for one can’t wait to get a tree now. Here is a little selection of some of the different things we have made:

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Project Home Improvements:

The builders are in! Well, in fact, they are out. They are building the outside parts of the little extension we are having at the moment and they are going to wait until the New Year to knock through. Thank goodness! So far, it’s fairly painless and they are nice guys so apart from making a few decisions about where windows need to go etc. and making hundreds of cups of tea, it hasn’t really caused me any stress. It means I can do my favourite bit which is picking paint colours etc. Hopefully by the end of January I might be able to show you.

 

 

November at Adoption: The Bear Facts

Time

I have been thinking a lot about time recently: how it goes so fast and so slow and seems to bend and distort depending how you think about it. I think some of the distortion is an adoption thing.

Little Bear is relatively new to my life. He has been with us a mere 14 months. Just a baby. But he isn’t. My youngest baby is rapidly growing up. He might have only been here 14 months but he is in fact over 4 and a half years old now. He is going to his friends’ 5th birthday parties. After appearing tiny when we first got him – his head fitted in my hand like a baby’s would and he easily fitted in 2 to 3 years clothes, he seems to be getting bigger every day. I desperately need to get Big Bear’s old 5 to 6 things down from the loft otherwise Little Bear will have nothing to wear. I feel as though I have only just put the 5 to 6 things up there but in reality Big Bear is wearing 9 to 10 now so I can’t have done.

How have my Bears got so big so quickly?

When Little Bear grows out of his clothes, I am giving them away to charity because I’m pretty sure I won’t have a use for them. However, I am not feeling that comfortable about waving goodbye to all the 3 and 4 year old stuff. It seems sad that my boys are not little enough for them anymore. Ditto the dressing up costumes. Little Bear does still squeeze himself into one occasionally but in reality they are half-mast and bursting at the seams. Soon they will need to find a new home too.

I am starting to see why people continue to have more children. It is sad to think that I won’t have pre-schoolers pootling around the place any more, with their chubby cheeks and vivid imaginations. Big Bear is getting all tall and stretched out. With his grown-up teeth and distinct lack of chubbiness I almost didn’t recognise him the other day, in head to toe football gear ready to go to evening training. A friend had her first baby this week, a boy, and I couldn’t believe that over 7 years had gone past since that was me. That time has passed incredibly quickly, especially the last 3 years of it. I feel as though someone has been holding down the fast-forward button.

I wonder if children grow up quicker now. Big Bear might only be 7 but he is very knowledgeable about the world. He has opinions on Donald Trump and Brexit. I wonder whether he seems older than he is because of it and if it makes time feel as though it has gone quicker than it should.

I have been relying on Little Bear to be the little one. The one I can still carry about and pick up and rub chubby cheeks with. However, he doesn’t seem to have got the memo and is rapidly growing up anyway. I think some of it comes back to the fact that we missed the first 3 and half years of his life. Everything has gone quicker. I only had him at home for a year before he started school. His developmental delay gave us a bit of a false feeling of him being littler than he really is but it has also meant that now he is in the right environment, he has flown through developmental stages far quicker than a child usually would. Nobody normally goes from wearing nappies, sitting in a high chair and barely being able to speak to starting school and working on phonics in less than a year. It makes time feel skewed and a little confusing.

I am so happy that Little Bear is progressing as he is, of course I am. But a little part of me does wish that both of them would stay little a bit longer.

This was the point, when Big Bear had started school that I started feeling I was ready to adopt. Part of me thinks it’s happening again, that my nest has emptied and I’m getting urges to fill it. However, despite Little Bear rapidly growing and progressing, he has only been here 14 months and he is nowhere near ready for another sibling. He still needs A LOT of time and energy and I don’t think it would be fair for anybody to try and make him share that time.

Big Bear is pretty settled with having a sibling now but that has taken time too. Yesterday he allowed Grizzly to bring his Hot Wheels track downstairs so that all three Bears could play with it together. That has taken 14 months. There are still lots of toys in his bedroom that he won’t share and his door remains locked. I think another sibling would undo a lot of the good progress he has made so family expansion is certainly not on the agenda for the foreseeable future.

Time is definitely needed for an adoption to “bed-in” and feel normal for all involved.

As time ticks by and we are moving through our second year of having Little Bear, it is nice to look back and know how things were for him at this point last year, rather than wondering how they might have been. In November 2015, Little Bear was here with us. Things were hard and I was not looking forward to Christmas. I had literally no festive spirit. I spent time wondering how things had been for him the previous year and the years before that. What had his experiences of Christmas been before? Had he ever been to see Santa? What presents did he get? How did he cope with the whole experience? Did he wake up really early? How would he cope now he was with us? Were we in for a rhetorical battering?

This November I can look back and think what a shame it was that I didn’t have any Christmas spirit last year. Our turning point came just before Christmas 2015 and in the event we had a really lovely time over the festive period. Little Bear coped well and his behaviour settled down. He started sleeping and we all felt much better. When I look back this year, I know that he was safe last Christmas. I know that he had a lovely time. I know that he was excited and experienced the wonder of it all. I know that he was loved and spent the festive time surrounded by family and fun. I know how he coped with different aspects of it and I will be able to approach this Christmas with prior experience. I won’t feel so much as though I’m making it up as I go along and as though I don’t quite know what to anticipate around each corner. Time has helped us in that way too. It will be nicer still when Little Bear has had more time with us than with others but we are a way off that yet.

Although I would like to press the pause button on the Bear’s childhoods, I would be lying if I said there weren’t moments/ days/ weeks when I’ve wished time away. In the early weeks I definitely spent a lot of time counting down until bed time. I would choose tasks/ activities that passed time with the least effort. I was shattered. I was missing out on 2 to 3 hours of sleep in the middle of each night and Little Bear was very challenging during the day. We needed to re-iterate rules and consequences over and over and over to show that we really meant it and the rules weren’t going to change and we were still going to be there no matter what. It was repetitive, challenging and sometimes gruelling work. It sometimes felt like an endurance event and the best way to face it was keeping things as easy as possible. Each day passed was another under the belt and (hopefully) one closer to some semblance of order.

Now that I have sufficient energy reserves to do so, I try to make the most of every snippet of time. I try to say yes to playing and ignore my phone. I try to take all the opportunities to develop Little Bear’s language, even if I don’t really feel like repeating a phrase for the 4th time or answering the 87th question of a car journey. I try to leave my jobs for later and give the boys my time. At the weekends, it is almost all family time. I’m all too aware that one day I will wake up and they will be 18 and their childhoods will be over. And if whoever it is doesn’t take their finger off the fast-forward button soon, that day will be here far sooner than I want it to be.

Time

Why Support Adoption?

Seeing as though I am very much pro-adoption I am finding this mini-blog surprisingly difficult to write. I suppose I feel a bit uncomfortable with the persuasive element of trying to encourage others that a life choice I have made is something that they too should consider. I am not a fan of telling others what to do and I’m not somebody who thinks that everybody should adopt; it is certainly not for everybody. However, I do think that there are more people who could consider adopting.

I am well aware that adoption is extremely difficult for some families but I can really only talk about our experiences and why adoption has been such a positive thing for our family.

Our story shows that adoption need not only be seen as the last chance saloon for people who cannot extend their family any other way. Adoption is a possibility for anybody wishing to have children.

My husband, Grizzly, and I decided to conceive our first child then went on to decide to adopt our second.

The most common argument I hear against choosing adoption as the route to extending your family is people’s strong preference towards raising children who share their DNA. In our experience adoption transcends genetics.

I love my boys equally. Little Bear feels just as much mine as Big Bear. The Bears love each other and have a strong brotherly bond. They do not share any DNA and it doesn’t matter. Similar genetics are not required to create a loving, happy and stable family.

Whilst I acknowledge that adoption can be hard, challenging and full-on, I am very grateful that we chose to grow our family in the way that we did. Adoption has been life-enhancing for all 4 of us and our wider social circle.

The satisfaction I have gained from achieving a solid bond with Little Bear and supporting him to develop and thrive has been indescribable. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

I think if there was one thing I could say to people who might be considering adoption but are a little unsure, it would be that after the initial settling in period (which realistically can take a good while), having an adopted child feels really normal. It just feels like having a child.

Parenthood is parenthood at the end of the day: it doesn’t matter how we get there.

We absolutely should support adoption because there are children in our communities who need us to. Everybody deserves the chance to have a family. Adoption can change their lives and yours. We chose to adopt. Could you?

For more information, see:

http://www.adoptionmatters.org/

http://www.first4adoption.org.uk/

http://www.adoptionuk.org/

http://corambaaf.org.uk/

Why Support Adoption?