The child’s guide to refusing to eat ‘f*cking fruit and vegetables’

Words  by Little Imp, aged 11.5

Maybe you are like me and got adopted by a mean mum that makes you eat fruit and vegetables. Don’t worry. There are lots of ways you can avoid putting any fruit or vegetables in your mouth, and have a lot of fun at the same time. Some of these are really easy, and some are expert level.

Dogs

First, get a dog. This is really hard, because if you’ve got a mean mum that makes you eat vegetables, she probably won’t let you get a dog. I have a mean mum that makes me eat vegetables AND doesn’t like dogs. Dogs are better than cats. Don’t get a cat. They don’t eat vegetables. They just lick the butter off. Stupid cats.

Get a brother

If you’ve got a brother or a sister, you can just shove all your vegetables on their plates and tell mum you ate them already. You need to be prepared to argue, because your brother is going to tell mum you are lying, so it’s a lot of hassle. Figure out whether your mum is more likely to get a dog or a brother and keep asking. One of them might work. Otherwise, you need to try more tricks.

If you’ve got a baby brother, sneak the peas in to their nappy. It will make them laugh.

Windows

Throw your vegetables out the window. There’s a window in our house that opens on to the roof below. It’s covered in carrots. My bedroom window is restricted, so it only opens a little bit but I can throw blueberries, peas, grapes, sweetcorn and green beans fit through the gap as well. Bonus points if they land in the neighbours garden!! You just gotta figure out how to get the vegetables from your plate to the window first. Having a jumper with really big pockets helps.

Throw

Round things are good for throwing. I like throwing blueberries the best, but cucumber, leeks peas and grapes all work as well. If I throw them across the dining room, they land behind the cupboard and then no-one can see them. When we moved, mum found all my blueberries behind the cupboard, so now she keeps looking behind the cupboard so that bit doesn’t always work now. It’s best to have a mum that doesn’t clean very often, because then they don’t find it. Don’t throw mashed things. It doesn’t work and just makes a mess.

Foxes

Let a fox in the house to eat it all. Or a squirrel. Don’t tell mum a fox ate it or she’ll just make more.

In the supermarket

Best option is to stop vegetables even getting in the house. Take them out the trolley. You can replace it with chocolate, but she might get suspicious. Offer to help scan, and make sure no vegetables go in the bag. Throw them behind the checkout machine. Offer to push the trolley back to the trolley park. Hide the vegetables in the trolley and leave them there.

Be clumsy

Drop them on the floor. You didn’t mean to, it’s an accident. Drop your plate. Spill your drink on your plate. Cover your plate in too much vinegar or sauce so you can’t eat it. Empty the salt and pepper on to your plate then it has to get chucked away. Then BAKED BEANS ON TOAST!!! Congratulations, you just won the best prize!

At school

This one is easy, because there aren’t many teachers to watch you. Throw anything round across the hall. Things that aren’t good for throwing, just shove it under your friends chair. Make sure you stand on it, then they won’t make you pick it up and eat it. Squish the bananas so they can’t be eaten. The teachers don’t like you swapping food, but if you are lucky, you might have someone on your table that hates crisps and likes apples. Definitely make friends with them.

Friends

Go and eat at your friends house. They have nice mums that are too polite to make you eat yucky vegetables. Or you can tell them you already ate your vegetables at dinner time, so they think you are nice and give you ice-cream instead.

Sofa

Hide it under the sofa and sit on it. Then it gets squashed. Flat things like cucumber slices can be hidden under the rug.

Fridge

Some things you can put back in the fridge. Not if they are chopped though. Make sure you hide it in the back if it is chopped so they don’t find it.

Bin

Offer to take your plate out, and quickly put it in the washing up bowl, push it down the drain or just scrape it straight in to the food bin. It’s best to distract mum by making her go upstairs to get something you forgot and then do it quickly when she’s out the room. Make sure you ask her for something you really need, or something she likes – tissues, glasses, or a book usually works.

Plant pots and drawers

I think Horrid Henry taught me this one. But unless it’s a really big plant pot, it doesn’t really work. They like yucky flavoured juices though. Putting it in a drawer just gets me in to more trouble, but if you are desperate (like it’s mushrooms or raw carrot sticks), it’s an option.

Spit it out

If you have to put it in your mouth, just spit it out again. Or keep it in your cheek and spit it out later in the toilet.

Let it go cold

Just leave the table and go to the toilet. By the time you come back it will be cold and you can’t eat cold food because it’s yuck. This only works if you don’t have a mean mum that makes you eat it anyway, or a helpful mum that has a microwave.

Chips

Chips don’t count as a vegetable. It’s ok to eat chips. But not the pretend ones made of out of vegetables. It has to be proper potato or they don’t count. Sweet potato might be ok as long as it is not the purple stuff.

That’s all the ideas I know about, but if there are any more, please tell me because some of these have stopped working and yesterday we had a melon cake and it was disgusting.

 

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The giraffe at the window and other stories. Moving house.

Up until I was 4-and-a-half years old, I lived on the top floor of a council flat, overlooking the main road in a city that seemed to be filled with the sound of sirens constantly whizzing past my window in a swirl of blue lights. I can still remember climbing 12 flights of stairs to the top floor. Laughing as my Dad threatened to ‘thrown me out the window’ whilst swinging me high into the air. The dreams of the giraffe that walked past my window, poking his head through to peer in at me, as I swam in a yellow sea. It was familiar. Safe.
It was my sister’s second birthday when we moved into a three bedroomed house a few miles down the road. I don’t remember the moving vans, or the chaos of packing. I don’t remember seeing the house for the first time. I do remember sitting on my grandmother’s lap, eating chicken and chips, from the local take-out, in an orange plastic bowl. And then lying on a rough blue carpet in our new bedroom floor with my sister, feeling scared. The shadows of the tree leaping across the wall were new, and the house was a cantankerous old man, creaking and groaning at us as we huddled in our sleeping bags and attempted to close our ears to the alien sounds that threatened to invade our dreams. I whispered to my sister as she cried. ‘It’s only the trees. They are saying hello’. Gradually, the sounds became part of the melody of the house that sung us to sleep each night. I was lucky enough only ever to move once as a child. I had stability. I had security. I lived in the same house until I was 19, when the house stopped feeling safe and I left.
I’m preparing to move house again, this time with my ten year old and I’m working hard to make sure on his first night, he feels safe. Some of his history is lost, as we weren’t there with him to record and re-tell his stories – but we estimate that he moved 5 times before he joined our family at 18 months. At six years, this house is the longest he’s been anywhere, and I know that as much as he’s looking forward to all the positive things that will come with the new house, he’s already fearing the things he will lose when we move away from the old house. Another loss to add to the growing pile. I know how stressful it is for me as an adult moving house – I can’t imagine how much worse it is for him, especially as he has little control.
I’ve done what I can to prepare Little Imp, but I’m not convinced it’s enough. We’re lucky in that the new house is familiar to us as it’s a house that has been in the family for a long time. So we’ve been visiting it for years to visit family, and have spent the past year visiting the now empty house, making plans, choosing paint colours, turning it into ‘our house’.  I’ve involved him in the planning, allowed him almost total control over how his new room has been decorated, and he’s splashed some bright blue paint on the walls himself. We’ve spent time in the new neighbourhood, exploring the local woodlands, joining in local customs and celebrations, meeting the neighbours, hanging out in the local library where he’s already known by name by the staff that work there. And we’ve started to say goodbye to the old house. Taking photographs to record the stories we created in this house. Carefully packing a few boxes. Making plans for ‘one last play date’ with the neighbours. One last Christmas. But I can see Little Imp’s anxiety spiral as the move looms ever closer. Six weeks to go.
Would love to hear from other adoptive parents who have dealt with a house move. How did you prepare your kids?

National Adoption Week 2015 – A child’s view

It’s National Adoption Week this week. Which means that adoption agencies are tweeting glossy pictures of happy families and doing their best to assure you that yes, you too could adopt a child in need of a new family. Like many adopters, I’m choosing not to spend the week promoting adoption as a happy ending to a sad story. I did want to find out what my own adopted child thought about adoption and National Adoption Week. This was written with his permission. As part of a conversation about adoption and National Adoption Week, he told me how he felt. The words are his, the typing is mine.


‘What is it like to be adopted?’

“No-one should have to be adopted. I’m very angry that I’m adopted. I love you because you are my Adopter-Mum, but you’re not meant to be my Mum. This isn’t my real life. The story has gone wrong but my other life is just a story that didn’t happen because someone changed the ending. It only happens in my head. I think I would be happier if I wasn’t adopted. I really like Doctor Who because I want to go back in the TARDIS to find my other Mum. I’d help her so that she could learn how to be a real mum and keep me safe. She wasn’t very good at that, but I don’t know why. There’s a song I listen to. It goes ‘Stop me if you think that you heard this one before’. I think it’s about my Dad. ‘I love you only slightly less than I used to’. I don’t know who he is. If you didn’t adopt me, I’d still be with my real family in another country. I would be happy.”

‘Is adoption a good thing?’

“Adoption is a good thing if you don’t have a family any more. Everyone should have a family to live with.  I want you to adopt more children so that I don’t have to be the only adopted one, and so I have someone else to play with.

‘Does that mean you think it’s good that you are adopted?’

No, I think it sucks to be adopted, because everything is hard and people keep asking stupid questions. My friend at school says life sucks anyway, but I think it’s even more sucky if you are adopted. Sometimes people say I’m lucky because I have lots of mums. I don’t mean to be rude, but I think they are stupid.

“Being adopted isn’t lucky. It’s SUCKY”

It’s fucky sucky haha. Sorry. You don’t want me to say that. Am I allowed to say it here though? It’s true. It’s really fucky ducky sucky! How many times can I say it?”

‘That’s probably enough! Some people think you’re ‘lucky’ to be adopted. Is that what people say to you? But you don’t think you are lucky?’

“People who say it’s lucky to be adopted don’t know anything about adoption. You would make everyone go to the library to read a stupid book about it wouldn’t you? BORING!”

‘You’re right, I would! But what would YOU say to another child who was going to be adopted?’

“If you have to be adopted, you have to try and find a mum who won’t feed you vegetables, and who lets you do everything you want. That’s hard though. Only the mean mums want to adopt. You’re mean! Adopter mums make you eat all the smelly vegetables. Sometimes you are nice and take me places  but there’s not much that is good. Only little bits. I love you because you’re my Mum. It’s just hard because you’re not supposed to be my Mum. I think it will always be hard. If I could choose a Mum, I’d chose one that let me eat chocolate for dinner, didn’t send me to school, would buy me an iPad with bullet-proof glass in it and a mobile phone that actually had You Tube on it, and they would have lots of money so they didn’t have to go to work and would let me have a crocodile so it would eat all the people that tried to kill me. I can keep going all night about all the things I want in my Mum, shall I keep going? There’s lots I want! I’ll make a list, and you can read it and tell me which one’s you could actually do!”


We stopped there because he decided he’d had enough of talking about adoption. (Other than a long list of demands about what his ‘adopter-mum’ would do if she really loved him’) I won’t comment on it, because it’s his words and I think he expresses his anger and sadness about being an adopted child well enough without me having to interpret it. I’m lucky in that he is quite happy to tell me what he thinks and I can only hope that he keeps on talking about it, keeps on exposing his confusion and fears. I imagine fears shrivel in the light. Or like the Wicked Witch of the West melting in a pool of water.

He’s an amazing kid. I’m the lucky ducky one.

What’s in a name?

What does your name mean to you? How does it define who you are?
I was always interested in the story of where my own name came from. And what might have been if it was something different. I could have been an Isabel Katrina, but my Dad lost that battle. I always thought that ‘Kat’ or ‘Izzy’ would have been so much cooler than ‘J’ ever was.
I was named after my grandfather. He had died in an accident the year before I was born. As a kid, I decided I disliked the legacy of it. I was named after a boring old man, whom I’d never met. It was a BOYS name, but the longer, girls’ version was equally awful, and no-one seemed to remember how to spell it. And why did people keep saying ‘Not tonight Josephine’ to me? What made it worse is that my mum admitted that I was never meant to have the full name – she was talked in to it by the clerk when she went to register me. “She told me it was a boys name, and she couldn’t register a girl under that name, so I had to pick another one quickly.” A young mum who didn’t know she could call me whatever she pleased. No-one ever calls me by my full name. I am known by the same name as my grandfather. It was only as I got older that I started to take pride in the history of my name. And it lent itself to a few variations that resulted in some interesting nicknames: Jacey. Yo-Yo. Pheena, Jinnie and thanks to Dallas, throughout most of primary school, I was JR. One day, I’ll correct history and get round to changing it by Deed Poll.
My sister, on the other hand, had a glamorous name with an unusual spelling, inspired by an actress that was popular in a TV show at the time. I admit to an evil giggle when that actress later came out as as gay! (It’s OK. I’m gay myself. I’m allowed to giggle, right?)
I first saw a picture of my son in Children Who Wait. Eleven months old, he had a wide smile and a cheeky tuft of hair. When we spoke to the Social Worker later that week, she revealed his first name: ‘M’. A short, solid name, if a little dated, but it was unremarkable. We tested it out. Said it out loud. Tried it with our surnames. It fitted. It sounded perfect. Then she revealed his middle names. They were beyond unusual. A reflection of the culture and lifestyle of the birth parents. The words were unfamiliar to me, and it took an explanation from the Social Worker before it became clear – both names were inspired by a slang term for a recreational drug. I winced. The middle names were a little harder to swallow.
He was 17 months when he finally moved into our home. During that time we started to learn about his multi-ethnic heritage (I’m being deliberately vague, but: African. South American with a smidgeon of Welsh thrown in for good measure). His names were discussed – his birth mother had recently changed her own name, which led to confusion, with one set of SW’s using one name and another set using her previous names. Birth father had also recently changed his family name, to reflect the name of his own father, rather than his mother’s husband. Which led to some confusion over what ‘M’s’ current surname was – the one on the birth certificate no longer matched with the surname either of his birth parents used. And we discovered that our adopted child shared his first name with his biological father. Names were an intricate weave of complex family history.
We were clear from the start that it would be unethical to change it. The name had been given to him by his biological parents, and we didn’t feel we had a right to change it. He was also old enough now to know and respond to his name. We recognised that it was important to keep it and to change it would contribute to erasing his identity. His name was part of who he was. But the middle names bothered us. They marked him out as different, unusual and they were downright…. odd. I was uncomfortable with the fact that he was named after a drug that had likely contributed to his neglect and subsequent arrival in care at four days old. In addition, on a practical level, I couldn’t pronounce them.
So we compromised and sought to change his middle names, seeking advice from social workers. They agreed with our decision. His name would reflect his dual-heritage with something from his birth parents, and something from his adoptive parents. I hadn’t anticipated being able to choose a name for our child, so there was a sense of excitement and responsibility at being able to discuss names, consider meanings and think about how they fit with his first name and our family name.
I still have the spreadsheet that sets out a list of possible names, with their meanings, inspiration, and potential nicknames. We considered names that were in keeping with his heritage. Names that drew us in with their meanings, signifying hope, personality and joy. Brodie was rejected because I had a hamster with that name as a child, and looking at the list now, I’m not sure whether Shangobunni was ever really a serious contender, but it’s there on the list with Idris, Jumoke, Kayin, Tore and and Cai. I was drawn to names beginning with J and T. Narrowing it down to four names and 12 different combinations, we finally settled two middle names, inspired by politics, art, nature, poetry, Wales and Africa.
It was a long name, to be sure, but we felt he could carry it off. We briefly considered the insanity of so many letters and syllables when, as a toddler he adopted his full and proper name when introducing himself, causing much confusion for random members of the public, or the policemen he introduced himself to. Learning to write, he suddenly decided writing out him full name was far too much effort and went back to using his short first name. We loved his name. We built up family stories around it, created playful sounds with it, added a ‘y’ to the end to soften it, so we could sing out his name across the playground. I joked that it was never a name I would have chosen as it highlights my broad regional accent in a way I’m uncomfortable with, but the name suited him. He was ‘M the Lion’ or  ‘Moo Mops’ and we incorporated his name into rhymes and songs that celebrated his place in our family.
Over the past 7 years, we’ve done ‘life story’ work both with social workers and therapists. He knows as much as is appropriate about his birth parents, and he knew he shared a name with his birth father. He receives a letter and photo each year from his birth father, and each year, the arrival of the letter prompted another discussion about his name. He never suggested that this bothered him, but he expressed surprise each time he was reminded.
This year, when the letter arrived, he asked if we could reply with a Christmas card. It prompted a query from him. ‘What do I call him? Who do I write the card to?’ We considered the possibilities and he was firm in his decision ‘I know he’s my Dad, but I don’t know who he is, and he’s not my parent. I’m not calling him Dad. It’s too weird’. So we used his name. He looked at the card.
“To ‘M’. Merry Christmas from ‘M”’
“It’s like I’m writing to myself. I don’t like it.” It was clear from his behaviour afterwards he was upset. It was the first time he’d really considered where his name had come from. He was beginning to understand it had some importance. He scribbled over the card, blacking out his name and decided not to send it, and I assured him that it was OK.
Three weeks of absolute hellish behaviour began. It coincided with some other stressful events, and the lack of a routine as we fell in to school holidays, but blinded by the swearing, spitting, hitting, name-calling, wetting and sheer exhaustion of it all on top of the usual Christmas chaos, I failed to make the connection between the discussion and his behaviour. Until last week.
A school task to write an acrostic poem based on your name and what it means to you.
He refused to use his given name, and became vocally upset when this was gently challenged by the teacher. Was this another control game, designed to cause chaos in the classroom? The name he used wasn’t important, it was the exercise that counted, so he was allowed to use another name. He chose one of his middle names, ‘T’. When another teacher called him ‘M’, the tears started. ‘Please don’t use that name. I don’t like it. Call me ‘T’. The teachers were thoroughly confused. Not only had they never heard this name before, but they didn’t understand why he should suddenly be bothered by his  ‘M’ name. A concerned teacher came to the door when I went to collect him from school that night and attempted to explain ‘He won’t answer to ‘M’.
My son isn’t known for exploring his inner world. A simple ‘What did you do at school today’ results in one of four answers: ‘I don’t know.’ ‘I can’t remember’. ‘I’ve forgotten’ or ‘I drew a picture of a lion.’ He’s been drawing a picture of a lion every day since nursery. If you believe it.
This time was different. We had over an hour on the bus home. I started off with the usual ‘Who did you sit next to at lunch?’ and various questions designed to weedle out some information about how his day had been without outright asking ‘How was your day?’. And then I became curious about his English class. ‘I heard you were using a different name for your poem today? Can you tell me about that?’  He looked at me, trying to establish whether he was in trouble. I let him know it was OK. I was just curious. And out it all came, words tumbling, tears flowing as he explained that he couldn’t use the name ‘M’ any more. “It’s a dirty name. It’s like a smear across the wall, it shouldn’t be there, it has to be wiped away.” He went on to explain that “‘M’ is a child that nobody loves. He had no family, nobody wanted him. ‘T’ is different. He’s got a family that loves him. He’s not going anywhere. He’s staying right here.”
He said it so clearly. So articulately. A little boy that often can’t tell me if he was too hot, or too cold, and usually only describes his day in a monosyllabic ‘fine’. I found myself working with Dan Hughes ‘Playfulness, Love, Acceptance, Curiosity, Empathy model of response.  All those hours of listening to the CDs suddenly paid off! We spoke about the name he’d chosen – how much did he know about it? What did he think the name meant? We talked about the inspiration for the name. I attempted to explore the positive meanings of his given ‘M’ name. It was the name of a God in mythology. It appeared in the Bible. It lent itself to the name of his favourite pop star. It was a link to his birth father. He looked at me like he had an idiot for a mum. He may well do. It didn’t matter what the name meant to anyone else. It was what the name represented to him. He didn’t want to be defined by a parent he’d never met. I asked whether he had considered his other middle name ‘B’. ‘B’ was instantly dismissed. What I thought would be popular, was considered boring. ‘T’ was unusual. It was gender-neutral. It’s a unique name for a unique child. I’ve never met another ‘T’, and certainly never considered that it might become the name that be would used.
The last week, I’ve been led by ‘T’, going at a pace that suits him, and allows him control. He made it clear that ‘T’ is now the name he is using, both at school and at home. For reasons we don’t understand, we had to put it in to writing before the school would accept it, but they’ve agreed to support it. ‘T’ has asked me to let friends and family know before he meets them so they get it right. We’ve had some interesting reactions from a dismissive “Whatever – I won’t remember” to curiosity. ‘T’ has made it clear he doesn’t want to explain his decision, and I’ve backed him up. He doesn’t owe anyone an explanation. Inspired by Billie Piper, (It’s a Dr Who thing) he’s simply replying ‘Because I want to’, and much to my delight, rather than becoming a source of control, he’s gently reminding people they’ve got it wrong with a Family Fortunes style buzzer. “Try again”, he says “‘M’ won’t answer. You need to talk to ‘T’ now”. Walking in to a therapy office, he took great delight at signing his name ‘T’ for the first time and confidently scrawls it across the paper. It’s his name. He owns it.
The change in his behaviour has been almost instant. T seems happy with his decision, and I’m really proud of him for identifying what was making him so unhappy. We’ve arranged for him to talk to someone independently about his decision, and we’re looking at potentially doing some more formal ‘life story work’ through the local adoption support agency. I’m also looking again at contact arrangements, to make sure we’ve got it right. Contact is tricky to manage, to get the balance right. It’s even harder when that letter arrives just before Christmas. I do think we need to be careful. It’s important for ‘T’ to accept his past – he can’t erase that by changing his name. He needs to be as OK with it as any of us could possibly be. But by using ‘T’ informally, and not changing it by Deed Poll, he still has a way back to ‘M’ without judgement from us, should he chose to. For now, it seems like he’s decided to challenge his fate and create his own future. I’m looking forward to discovering what kind of a person ‘T’ is going to be, and creating stories, songs and memories around his chosen name. He’s right about one thing though – he’s got a family that loves him. He’s staying right here. Whatever he chooses to call himself.
Oh. There’s one thing I know – the daughter-I-never had will be grateful, as the only name I wanted to use for her was… Zenobia! 🙂

An adoption soundtrack – I got 99 problems, but the kid ain’t one.

Bob Marley – Three little birds

The Little Imp’s birth mother wrote to us just before he came to live with us. She contested the adoption, for various reasons, and the letter was filled with anger, sadness and accusations. She’s never written since, despite our contact arrangement. During her pregnancy, she sang this song to her bump. In her letter, she asked us to play it to him often. We sing it every night before he goes to sleep and have done from the day he moved in. I can’t imagine putting Little Imp to bed without it, and the day he decides he’s too old to be sung to sleep will be a sad one. It will be a hard tradition to let go.

Take That – Shine

During ‘Introductions’, we were spending the day with Foster Carers. Little Imp was happily stood in front of the TV, dancing to a Saturday morning music show when we arrived and showed no interest in coming out with us. ‘Shine’ started, and in an attempt to remove the distraction, the Foster Carer paused the TV. Mark Owen’s face froze on the screen, mouth open mid ‘Shine’. Little Imp copied. For around two years whenever we took a photo, this was the face he pulled for the camera. There are no pictures of him smiling, or just getting on with whatever he was doing. As soon as he saw a camera, his mouth opened wide. The more we protested, the wider it got. He still loves this song, but thankfully, he’s learned to close his mouth!

 

Mika – Love Today

When I first met the Little Imp, he was 17 months, developmentally functioning at 8 months and still considered ‘non-verbal’. At 18 months, his one word was ‘ta’. He played a game where he passed an object to us, said ‘ta’ and waited for us to pass it back. Take him to a ball pool, he’d play ‘ta’. Get the Duplo bricks out, and he’d play ‘ta’. We taught him to sign and he picked it up quickly, but his level of play skills remain poor. He did love music though. Sitting in the back of the car, Mika came on the radio, and we noticed him paying attention. Later at Grammy’s house, music TV was playing in the background as we arrived. Mika had already started. Little Imp was immediately transfixed. “Love, love me”, sang Mika. Little Imp was watching, copying the dance. As Mika pointed to his chest and chanted “love, love, me”, the Little Imp echoed the movements. And then a sound came out ‘Lub, lub bee’. How could I resist? One of my happiest memories is dancing around the living room with him that day. ‘Lubbee’ turned in to ‘Lubboo’. And a new tradition was born. I never say ‘love you’ at night when tucking him up in to bed. It’s always ‘lubboo’. His first words. Thank you, Mika.

Queen – Lap of the Gods

Anyone who spends a little time with me will know of my soft spot for Brian May, and complete adoration for Freddie Mercury’s magical song-writing during the early 1970’s. So it’s fair to say that this has always been a firm favourite of mine. But since adopting, and learning about attachment disorder, the lyrics seem to take on a new meaning

I live my life for you. Think all my thoughts for you and only you. Anything you ask, I’d do for you […] but in the end, I leave it to the Gods. Leave it in the lap of the Gods. What more can I do?

I do as much as I can. But I’m also aware that there are limits, and eventually, I’m just going to have to hope that I’ve given the Little Imp enough for him to relaunch himself. I need to believe he can make it. This is the Imp’s favourite song to sing along to in the car, and I’d love to share a video, but his impression of Roger Taylor’s falsetto could possibly be compared to cats dragging their claws down a chalkboard whilst someone yanks their tail. Enjoy the real thing instead – Queen, Live at the Rainbow ’74. Just brilliant.

Lily Allen – Somewhere only we know

OK, so this is the bit I can’t write without shedding a tear, so excuse my wobbles here. Christmas 2013, allowing the Little Imp to stay up late to watch X-Factor and the John Lewis ‘Bear and the Hare’ advert came on during the commercial break. There was no warning. Only copious amounts of tears, long after the advert had finished. Eventually he explained “I’m worried that one day, I’ll go to sleep and when I wake up you’ll be gone.” More howling. Explaining the advert didn’t work. Explaining that the bear didn’t miss Christmas didn’t work. Empathising with his fear, gave him some space to explore it did. It’s the first time I remember him being able to verbalise a feeling. It was nearly two hours later when he finally felt calm enough to go to bed. He asked for a copy of the song. I know he’s feeling vulnerable when he plays it. It’s warning sign that he needs a hug, hot chocolate and a reminder that no matter what, I’ll always be here.

Jay-Z – 99 Problems*

Summer 2014 and the Little Imp is throwing a strop because ‘there’s too much cheese on my pizza!’ I reacted in the only way possible: Dancing round house to a slightly out-of-tune, modified version of Jay-Z. ‘If you’re having food problems, I feel bad for you son, I got 99 problems, but pizza ain’t one. Hit it!’. Little Imp saw the funny side. Scowls gradually turn to smiles. Mummy is being stupid. Sometimes it works. See also: The Rolling Stones. You can’t always get what you want. It just sometimes finds itself playing in the background when a tantrum erupts and I need five minutes to take a deep breath and consider how I’m going to deal with this one…

I got 99 problems, but the kid ain’t one.

 

* I’d just like to point out, I’m a pretty sensible Mum and as far as I know, the Little Imp has never, ever heard the original version of this song. 🙂

Adoption – this much I know

(with apologies to the Guardian Observer magazine!)

I’ve always wanted to adopt

I wasn’t a little girl that grew up dreaming of white weddings and babies. Adoption was something I thought about from the age of 19, but it didn’t become something I thought I could actually do until I was around 25. I didn’t want to ‘have a baby’. I did want to be a parent. I still see a wide difference in those two terms. One appears to be about ownership, the other is about relationship. Adoption was always a first choice. It felt like the only ethical way I could be a parent and still stick to my beliefs.

Letter box contact still makes me uncomfortable

We have a ‘letter box’ contact arrangement with five of my sons birth family members, which means we’re committed to writing once a year and sending a birthday card and photo to a sibling. Only the birth father returns any contact. None of the birth family have ever lived with Little Imp, and the birth father considers adoption an arrangement where I bring up his child, and he gets him back, aged 18, fully grown and ready to take his old man to the pub for a few beers. I’ve not yet figured out a way to write a letter I’m comfortable with sending, and it’s an agonising process to write every year, but I do it out of guilt and a need to tell Little Imp ‘I did my part’. I discovered the hard way that when printing photo’s on a Tesco self-serve machine, they print your surname on the back. I was lucky that the adoption administrator spotted it and sent it back to me. The less clue’s the birth family have about who we are, the safer I feel.

Some things are best said with a sticky note

“It doesn’t matter what you’ve said (out loud, or in your head), or what you’ve done. It you need me, you can come and find me.”

My son isn’t yet old enough (or wise enough) to own his own phone. So in the absence of text messages, I leave little sticky notes for him. When I’ve found something broken, I deliver it back with a sticky note. If he’s gone to bed in a huff, he’ll wake up to a sticky note left on his head-board. A sticky note pushed under the door when he’s shut himself in his room is a peace offering that closes the gap and allows him to make peace without thinking that he gave in first. Every now and then, when I’m not expecting it, I find a little sticky note under my pillow – a scrawled ‘x’ and a wonky heart shape. It’s the closest he comes to saying ‘sorry’.

Picture of a Tom & Jerry comic book with a sticky note attached that reads  'Some things can be fixed a little bit. Better a broken book than a broken heart. If you are feeling bad, please come and find me. I can help xx'
This book was a present a few days previously. Found with cover ripped off, pages torn and spine broken.

You have no idea what you can deal with until you are facing it

I clearly remember filling out a weird little form as part of the adoption process – a tick box exercise that asked me to consider what kind of child I could handle. I found it an odd form to complete. Could I handle a child with a sight impairment? That might mean anything from short-sightedness, corrected by glasses through to completely blind. Could I handle a child with learning difficulties? Hearing impairment? Physical disabilities or a life-threatening illness? I ticked the ‘yes’ box for all apart from a child with HIV or life-limiting illness, or a child that physically hurt animals. I was naive to think that it would be easy to make such a choice. Just like with birth children, they come with no guarantee’s, and you get what you’re given. Fast-forward to Bonfire Night, 2010 and the only way Little Imp could tell me that he couldn’t cope with going to a firework display was to put his foot straight into the face of our timid little cat, damaging his jaw and removing a tooth. Children like this quickly learn to find your buttons and to push them and keep pushing them. Your limits become like elastic bands – stretched until they ping.

Not enough people understand about Attachment Disorder

Sat on the stairs, arms and legs surrounding Little Imp, attempting to avoid being head-butted, kicked, or scratched as he screeches to let the neighbours know that he’s got an evil mum that’s trying to hurt him. I think I asked him to wash his hands after he’d been to the toilet and according to the Little Imp, you can wash and dry your hands without ever getting the soap or the sink wet. I’m just stupid and do it the hard way. The neighbours appear at the letterbox, and I let them know we’re fine. I imagine telling them cheerfully ‘It’s OK, he has attachment disorder’ and getting a reassuring ‘ahhhh’, to let me know they understood, but I doubt that’s going to happen. Instead, they’ll just avoid us for the next five years and conclude that I’m a bad mum, with an out-of-control child. Hey-ho.

Parenting an adopted child turns everything you thought you knew about parenting on its head

Has your child just lied to you? Apologise to them, because they weren’t able to trust you with being able to handle the truth. Is there a big hand-print in that freshly baked cheesecake and a line of tell-tale footprints across the kitchen floor? Don’t ask your child why half the cheesecake has vanished. That isn’t chocolate around their mouths you know, and they didn’t even know there was chocolate cheescake in the fridge anyway. Instead, let then know you need a hand clearing up the kitchen floor, and offer them a slice of the remaining cheesecake as a reward. No, don’t admire their homework, you might discover it ripped up behind the sofa, just to prove they are rubbish after all. Generally just be prepared to spend a lot of your time and money on attending adoption conferences on the impact of trauma on behaviour, buying the books from behaviour specialists that the local library don’t have in stock and watching Dan Hughes on DVD over and over again.

I’ve lost most of my friends

The support network that existed 8 years ago has long since vanished. Friends with birth children quietly hold back until suddenly, they are not there any more. Distant family stop inviting you to events because yours is the child that causes chaos. But you do stumble across a whole new network, and a different set of friends, who share your dark adoption humour, tolerate your mini-meltdowns and actually mean it when they say ‘It’s ok. Mine do that as well’. Just so you know: If you say ‘Oh all children do that’, adopters may be smiling politely, but inside, we’re fantasising about your slow and painful torture by a swarm of mysterious alien flying insects and vowing never, ever to share information about our children with you again.