This week is National Adoption Week. Last year, my first year of blogging, I was all keen and wrote a blog post for each day of National Adoption Week. I’m not doing that again because it nearly killed me, and also because my feelings on the subject have grown more complicated. Last year I was happy to use any small influence I might have as a blogger to raise awareness and potentially encourage others to consider adoption.
I say ‘potentially’ and ‘consider’ on purpose because although I was less knowledgeable then I still wasn’t naïve enough to think that everyone should be happily hopping out to round up some children.
The theme last year was ‘support’ and I did take the opportunity to point out some support needs adopted children and their families may have – specifically around blending birth and adopted children and speech and language therapy ( Speech and Language Therapy Support for Adopted Children, Ways to support your child through adopting a sibling)
In the year since then I have continued to read voraciously around the topic of adoption. I read lots of blogs. If there is a new article or TV programme I am keen to have a gander. I read the Adoption UK magazine and order books that pique my interest. I have met many adopters through my workshops and always love to hear their stories. The more I learn and the more I reflect the more complex the adoption landscape seems.
Are we considering adoptee’s voices enough (or at all)? What exactly is the birth parents role in all this? Do they get any support? How should I feel about them? Are there alternatives that could be better? Do we really need alternatives? How would they work? Should we consider more direct contact with birth families? How would we keep it safe for our children? Why is post adoption support so variable? How come I am able to access excellent support but Twitter friends are left to fend for themselves? Why don’t schools get it? How could more people get the speech and language training and support they need?
I could fill this post with questions. I don’t know the answers by the way, but it makes National Adoption Week more complicated. I can’t really just say “do it! Adopt! It’s brilliant!” It is brilliant (for us) but while I have all these questions floating round it would seem a bit disingenuous to encourage others to be doing it.
Which leads me on to wondering what role I should be playing in promoting adoption anyway as an adoption blogger?
For some, National Adoption Week gets a bad rap: it is accused of using perfect-world pictures and stories to ‘trap’ would-be adopters; to lure them in, naïve and unawares, into an imperfect, tumultuous and unsupported world. I am aware of the responsibility incumbent upon me, as a blogger, to be balanced. I do think it is important to be honest and to get real stories into the public domain, so potential adopters know about the realities and risks. I certainly try to be frank when I’m writing.
Then there is the other side of the coin: if we are too honest and too vocal about the difficulties, are we going to cause some serious publicity damage? Are we going to terrify the pants off prospective adopters to the point where no one wants to adopt anymore? And what then?
I feel a real affinity with prospective adopters as it is not so long since I was one. I have never had as many sleepless nights as when we were engaged in the Matching process. It is a worrying enough time without hearing all the scary stories too.
As a blogger I certainly don’t want to frighten anybody. While I feel my responsibility to inform, share and wear my heart on my blogging sleeve, I hope I do it in an accessible way that allows others to see that whatever the challenges are, I love my son, I am 100% happy with our decision to adopt him and that he completes our family.
The thing is that for us adopters there are many big things to fill our thought-spaces: developmental trauma and how it is manifesting in our homes; any additional needs our children may have and how they are being met; whether our children’s educational establishments truly understand them and can meet their needs appropriately; any sibling issues or family dynamics that might be going on; any contact arrangements we might have with our child’s birth family, to name but a few. It is no surprise that adoption bloggers spend most of their time writing about the Big Things. Perhaps, when I think about balance, we can be guilty of omitting the Little Things.
Any respect you did have for me is about to evaporate as I turn to One Direction to illustrate my point. They sing about the Little Things and I could easily steal their words for Little Bear:
Your hand fits in mine like it’s made just for me
But bear this in mind it was meant to be
And I’m joining up the dots with the freckles on your cheeks
And it all makes sense to me.
You never love yourself half as much as I love you
You’ll never treat yourself right darling but I want you to
If I let you know, I’m here for you
Maybe you’ll love yourself like I love you oh
I’ve just let these little things slip out of my mouth
Because it’s you, oh it’s you, it’s you they add up to
And I’m in love with you (and all these little things).
The song (as most songs are) is really about a bloke singing to a girl about how he loves her with all her perceived imperfections but the words really resonate with me. There is nothing lovelier than Little Bear’s warm hand in mine; than his drainpipe laugh (that is no longer restrained by self-imposed limitations); than his huge brown eyes wide with mesmerisation. And there are all the Little Things Little Bear does that fill me with such pride and happiness. It is the Little Things that show me his progress.
Little Bear has always favoured the colour black and would only draw or paint with black. He has recently started using “mix-y colours” and making things look “bootiful”. It’s a Little Thing but it’s a lovely thing.
Little Bear, despite having Developmental Language Disorder, has started having spelling tests at school. He has achieved full marks 3 weeks in a row. It’s a Little Thing but it feels HUGE.
I have tried to up the therapeutic part of my parenting recently. I have been wondering more. When I get my wondering right Little Bear often bursts into tears. I know this sounds like a bad thing but it’s good because previously he would have hidden his real feelings behind anger. Now he lets it hang out. We couldn’t have verbalised his feelings before but now we can. Little Bear might say “I still feel upset mummy” and let me comfort him a bit. It’s Little Things but these sorts of Little Things can really help with the Big Things.
Big Bear was feeling unwell recently so he lay on the floor on the landing. Little Bear went to him and sat beside him, gently stroking his hair. It is a Little Thing but it shows me what a lovely little human he is.
Last night Little Bear said, “You know Van Gogh Mum? He painted Starry Night and The Potato Eaters”. It sounds like a Little Thing but this is a boy who used to struggle to talk about the here and now. He didn’t know his own name or a word for TV but now he can tell me about a famous artist and name 2 of his paintings. It’s phenomenal.
A few days ago Little Bear told me about Venus Fly Traps. He couldn’t quite remember the name but he gave such a good description and gesture that I knew exactly what he meant. It’s a Little Thing.
Everyday there are Little Things.
If I’m thinking about whether others should adopt I can’t lie about the Big Things. There are Big Things in adoption and you need to know about them and be as ready as you can be. You need an Agency that will be there for the long haul and that will truly support you with the Big Things as and when you need them to. The variation in post-adoption support is, frankly, criminal. Do your homework about any adoption agency, choose carefully, they are not all the same.
I would say that if you feel you can handle the Big Things (bearing in mind living it is not the same as imagining it) then know you will get the Little Things too.
The Little Things are amazing. For me, the Little Things make everything worth it.
I guess there have been times when the Big Things have taken over but a Little Thing will always have popped up from nowhere and made me smile.
Adoption is complicated. There are no straight answers with good reason. There are many viewpoints and voices to consider. Personally, I will always be grateful to adoption because it has brought me my second son and all his Little Things.
There is an unparalleled joy in having a heart full of Little Things, even if your head is full of Big Ones.
PS. I’m very sorry, One Direction, if you happen to read this and notice that I’ve wantonly quoted bits of your song to suit myself.
PPS. I do wonder how Little Bear is going to feel if he reads my blog when he is bigger and sees that I talk all about him and his life. I hope that he won’t see it as a misappropriation of his story. I hope he sees that he has a Mum who loves him very much indeed and spends an awful lot of time thinking about the best ways to help him.
PPPS. I fully appreciate the need to hear adoptees voices and I can’t wait to be able to include Little Bear’s once he is able to contribute.