Friday, 28 October 2016

When the ice-cream licks you back...

I don't fancy Pain Au Chocolate as a breakfast treat, but the boys love them so from time to time I do make them. Yesterday Goofs (6) noticed my dislike for the first time in 6 months and he turned to me with his kindest smile and used his best mummy imitation voice 'Just try it, you might like it!' :) I was speechless and all I could think of was 'well played, son!'. So obediently - and also to show a good example - I ate my pastry and I even managed to muster up a smile. His pleased expression was probably a perfect copy of my pleased expression when I can get him to try something. Again, I have only myself to blame if blame needs to be assigned to somebody at all. His logic is sound!

I shared this snippet on Twitter and soon fellow adopters shared similar funny stories. One person added 'we don't even say that!', which got me thinking. We often talk about the invisible backpack our adopted/fostered children come with, but until now I somehow didn't consider the different parenting styles these little ones had to get familiar with in each placement. I always focused on the loss and trauma, the neglect and abuse or the rootlessness and always having to start everything from scratch. I didn't think much about the positives each placement (with the new carers, extended family, school, Social Workers or friends) adds to their overwhelmingly sad stories. And just like each and every one of us have different parenting styles I often wonder how incredibly confused these children are having been experienced various house rules, boundaries, sense of humour, levels of expected independence or responsibilities...

I love it when our boys, as a way of introducing themselves, say 'we can't sit next to each other because we mess around too much'. Or when they sat in our car for the very first time during introductions and as soon as they heard the satnav's female voice say 'turn right' they stopped fighting and almost simultaneously told me 'everybody must stay quiet now so the driver can hear the directions'. We couldn't contain our giggles and say our quiet thanks to whoever insisted on this rule.

We were open to talk to the boys about previous placements, Foster Carers, even birth family if they brought it up so it was natural to hear about some of the rules they had to get used to. We only met their last FC and the more time we spent with her the more we realised how much of her tone, sayings and mannerisms are reflected in the boys' words and behaviour. We know quite a lot about their previous FCs because they enjoy sharing stories. It amazes me so much how resilient they are and consciously or subconsciously, but they choose to remember the good bits! They even remember their house rules as positives!

The age old question of nature vs nurture comes to mind and I can't help noticing that our boys pick up more and more of 'us and our ways' each day. They are quick to point out if we do/expect something differently than their previous imprints, but eventually they agree to do it our way, which I usually take as a good sign of them wanting to attach and be integrated to our family. We always try to listen to their previous experiences first and if reasonable, we make adjustments to our expectations and house rules; partly because we are humble enough to admit if somebody knows better (not to mention FCs usually have more experience than us, beginner parents) and partly because we do not want to confuse them any further. If it's not fundamentally necessary to change it, we accept the boys' imprinted nurture as their new default nature and work around it...

All hail Fusion Parenting!

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Letters - easier than words

This morning was all about letters. We started the day at 5.23 am with a knock on my door saying Snoops wet the bed. After doing the usual things I put him back to bed saying 'it's still early so you should sleep and even if you don't go back to sleep for the love of everything please DO NOT wake your brother'. Of course in 5 minutes I heard both boys were up and being more noisy than usual. When I asked him why he woke his brother Snoops told me it was because 'I don't love you'. This led to a long discussion between him and I and it culminated in him looking angry with me and running into his bedroom slamming the door shut. While I was talking to the little one he passed the first letter to me. 'My heart is broken'.

When I went downstairs to prepare breakfast he marched down the stairs with another letter that said 'I hate you mummy!' (funny though, he only calls me 'Mummy' when he is cross with me, in any other times I am merely 'Mom')

I don't remember now which one of you, lovely adoptive dads wrote on his blog a while back about a similar note, but I remember well his actions so I did the same. I commented on how brave he is to say that to me and expressed my delight that he feels so secure and safe here that he can discuss his feelings with me. I put his note on the fridge door and secured it with some of his favourite magnets. Obviously he was very puzzled and just continued mumbling about how much he hates me. I told him 'that's fine, but I still love you.' 'No, I know you hate me!' Before I could respond Goofs chipped in 'if Mummy really hated you she would kick you out of the house for good'. Well, thanks kiddo, that's technically true, but not a helpful comment at the moment...

Snoops was so terrified of the possibility that his suspicions (I hate him) were correct that he was covering his eyes and could not even look up, let alone look at me. I went through the whole therapeutic damage control of  'of course I don't hate you, I love you very much, you are safe here, you are not going anywhere, you are having some big emotions at the moment, it's ok to feel cross or upset, it doesn't mean you don't love the other person'...etc - the usual stuff I am sure you all know and use on a daily basis.

He kept on saying 'what you say is not true, I know you hate me and I hate you back'. I told him that makes me sad that he feels that way, but that's ok. He then dropped his spoon and ran upstairs. I didn't go after him as I suspected another letter is coming soon.

This latest note said 'I love you so much, but that is not true, I just say it to make you happy.'  Again, taking another deep breath and 'oh, that is a lovely note! I really appreciate your honesty and you are such a kind boy who wants to make me happy, that's very thoughtful of you, I love you and I love this note so thank you so much'. I put this letter next to the other one on the fridge.

Goofs felt left out of the morning drama so he told his brother 'now which one is it, really? You can't hate and love Mummy at the same time. Look at me, I love Mummy so I kiss her <demonstrated> and she loves me back <looking expectantly at me>. After I kissed his cheeky little face he continued 'Mummy, he needs to choose one, right? The other letter should go to the bin!' If I wasn't in the middle of this I would smile at his comments; he clearly wants to fix the problem and doesn't get it that it's not his task, but mine...

Putting on my best therapeutic voice I asked him to go brush his teeth and turned to his brother. We went through the same routine as above and I tried my very best to look at him with love and a smile on my face. He stole a few glances at me and you could almost see the cogs going overdrive in his head. He wanted to believe what was said, but he knew better! Grown ups always lie, they always hurt little ones, nobody likes me, everybody leaves me and there is no way out of this. Ever. EVER!

I kept on talking about the too many big feelings that will make his stomach sick and the 'I wonder if you are feeling...' guessing conversation to show I know how he feels and let him know there is a way out. We eventually got to the point where I could look him in the eye and say 'maybe deep down you love me and you are upset and you feel ashamed and now you worry even more and a good solution would be if you said you are sorry for saying hurtful things to me, I would say it's ok, I would tell you I am not angry, I love you and I forgive you, we would hug and suddenly your big feelings in your stomach would go away...' 

Boy thinking hard if it's worth the risk...
Hours (seconds really) pass by silently...
Boy looks at me over his shoulder...
'Mummy, I am sorry...'

We hug for long minutes, when he sees it in my eyes that I truly am not angry/sad/upset/cross the floodgate opens and he jumps back into my arms sobbing like never before. You could literally hear this heavy burden roll off of his heart and absolution taking over! Then suddenly he ran away again, which was good timing as I was about to burst out crying myself. These are the moments I am reminded again and again why we chose to adopt children. With love and determination it IS possible to change their stories!!!

A minute later he returned with this note: 'I love you Mummy very much and I hope you will have a lovely day (lots of hearts), I love you so much!' And I know this time he meant it with all his heart!

And it's not even 8 am yet!

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Smile-worthy snippets

After the past few heavy topics I think a lighthearted post is due so here are some fun moments from the last 4 months. Some of those I have shared already on Twitter with the #GlowMo. A few weeks ago we were discussing a good tag with fellow adopters (to share not just the hardships and questions but those occasional good bits as well) to help us re-focus and somebody came up with this hashtag and it kinda stuck...

Hubby and I are both geeks and have lots of sci-fi stuff in our house. As soon as the boys moved in they each grabbed a Star Wars plush toy (R2D2 & BB8) from the huge toy box as their new favourite sleep buddy. Even though they have never seen Star Wars they can whistle the theme songs and Goofs' favourite character is 'Dark Vader' (sic). Snoops can give you a lecture on the story (well, mostly made up version), but it's highly entertaining, when you can keep a straight face.

Both boys are very polite! Even when they are angry! It's really hard to remain unmoved when they shout at me in anger: 'Mummy, could you please shut up?'

When Snoops came out of his RE class his first question was 'Are we Muslims?' 'No, we are not.' I replied. He let out a breath he was holding and the weight of the world rolled off his shoulder. 'Oh, thank God, I could NOT pray 5 times a day!'

Snoops wanted to watch a film with me sitting next to him. 5 min into the movie he says 'Mummy, while I watch this movie can you make my snacks? You are such a great COOKER.'

We were playing with foam noodles. Hubby used it to knight Goofs, who of course copies everything and wanted to do the same to me. He didn't quite catch every word correctly though... He told me to 'knee down, because hereby I unite you to Sir Mummy. You may rised up.'

Snoops saw a car driving too fast in front of school. He raised his hand and shouted after him 'you will be under arrested and next time I go to London I will report you to the Queen directly.'

We took the boys to a geeky convention where many people were wearing home made costumes (cosplay). Snoops went up to a guy who wore a St Johns First Aid uniform and dead seriously he asked him 'excuse me sir, I don't recognise your costume. Which film are you from?'

Snoops farts constantly regardless of what food/drinks he takes. He thinks it's funny and his 6y old brother laughs too so it's hard for me to keep telling him it's not OK. After one particularly loud and long fart he looked at me and said 'Mummy, from now on just call me Sir Snoops Pump-a-lot.'

Snoops praying before breakfast: 'Thank you God for making daddy's brain pancake-y today' (what he meant to say was he was happy my husband thought about making pancakes for breakfast.)

Snoops has some funny prayer comments too. Last night he finished praying by saying 'aaaaand I hope you God can have a good and relaxing day tomorrow.'

Snoops was preparing food during a session with his play therapist and when she wanted to eat her imaginary pancake he slapped on her hand shouting 'stop! We haven't prayed yet for the food!'

Snoops is quite good at playing alone and coming up with self-entertaining songs. Once I overheard him singing to himself 'I love my beautiful mummy'. When I went in he denied it of course...

I took up therapeutic art classes once a week. I have never painted in my entire life, not even in school so I really didn't have any expectations. Naturally I was the most surprised when I managed to create a dormant tree that I actually liked. I brought the painting home to show it to the boys. Before I could say anything Snoops said 'wow, that is very nice. Where did you buy it?' Me: 'Do you like it?' 'Yes, I love it.' 'Well, I am glad, because guess what, I painted it!' At this point his toy fell out of his hand and he gave me the most incredible stare, wide eyes, open mouth, the whole thing. After he recovered he said 'wow, I actually really like it. I mean it, mummy, I am VERY impressed with you!'

All the time we do something that's a FIRST for them, Goofs always declares to the whole word 'this is officially the best day of my life!' When we had BBQ in the garden, when we took them on a double decker bus, when I made them chocolate-in-banana dessert over the fire, when we went to the Lego shop...etc.

Goofs realising that I don't fit his idea of a female carer and when he bumped his head or got knocked down by a big wave I was THERE for him to keep him safe and him saying 'I am ok because my Mummy will keep me safe'

We were at the playground and when Snoops and other boys were 'working on the hyper drive of the spacecraft' I was the only mother who knew what a hyper drive was, how does it work, how to fix it and I was the only adult who actually climbed under the playground equipment to fix it. My son was running around shouting 'my mummy fixed the hyper drive' while other boys looked sadly towards their parents who saw nothing of it because they were too busy starring at their phones. I felt smug!

Snoops coming to me one evening saying very sincerely 'Mummy you are so beautiful I can't look at your face without smiling!'

Snoops approaching me with a cheeky smile and great expectations in his eyes: 'Mummy, did you not know I have lots of space on my face for kisses?' Needless to say I tested out those places and we both loved it!

Snoops is VERY good with building/creating things may it be Lego, play dough or actual bricks. While we were waiting for his brother he built a proper square foundation with piping and wiring of a tiny house. Even the head teacher was impressed!

Snoops is very observant. We were playing pretend-cooking in the playground when he 'discovered' that his oven is broken. He ran away to 'buy' a new one. When he came back he 'installed' the new oven, but when I wanted to put the food in he stopped me saying 'you silly billy, we can't use it yet. I can't plug it in before I find a rubber mat to cover the cable for safety. Don't you know, mummy, safety is good for you and death-ness is bad!'

Miraculously one morning they managed to stay quiet till 7 am. When I walked to their room both boys were drawing in their drawing pads and Snoops said to Goofs: 'Let's draw our favourite black hole again, but this time make it colourful, ok?'

This week I was walking home from school with Goofs. He saw a girl from his school walking in the opposite direction. I was walking ahead of him and the next thing I hear is a loud bang. I turned around and saw Goofs was about to cry. 'Did you bump into that lamp post?' Tears start rolling down his face. 'Did you not see the lamp post?' 'I was looking at that...girl umm, wall.' Wall, huh? He was totally checking out that girl, following her with his head while continued walking ahead... It was VERY hard not to show him how amused I was! And he is only 6! Starting early, are we?

Snoops is very smart who needs constant challenges. Last night I let him play with my Chinese Chequers. After I explained the rules he started playing and managed to clear all but 3 balls on the board! I was very impressed! :)

And my all time favourite:
In school and also in the park several people commented on 'how much the boys look like me!' :) This one never gets old!!!