Monday, 27 August 2012

Weeks 23 & 24 - sibling contact, camping and a behaviour rethink!

I love the fact now that if I don't update my blog on a Sunday night, I get messages from friends asking me if I'm okay! Sorry I missed last week, it's just been a bit of a manic couple of weeks! I never expected the blog to attract a fan base either, but I'm very flattered!

So, last week first. It was the second week of my annual leave and we returned from Centre Parcs on Monday afternoon. The boys really loved their break but it was nice to all be back at home. I had the rest of the week off and that gave G the chance to do a couple of days of work, which I think was a pleasant change of scene for him! It was also nice for me to get some time with the boys to myself, I am very conscious of how little time I actually feel I spend with them during a normal week, work takes me away for such a large proportion of the day and I do really miss the boys during that time.

That being said, on Tuesday morning I left the boys with G for a couple of hours whilst I went off to collect a social worker and then to drive over to meet the foster carers of the boy's older half siblings. They have two older half sisters, aged 7 & 8, with whom they lived until about 18 months ago. The girls are both now fostered separately from one another and we've not yet met them, so we planned a chance to meet with their carers in order to discuss how we would manage a contact session, which we had promised Joe we would arrange.

The carers were lovely, but it was a stark reminder of how badly children who have the background of abuse and neglect that so many kids in the care system have, can and do behave. I asked Karen, the carer of the elder half sister how she was getting on, to which she showed me her arms, covered in cuts and bruises, and proceeded to tell me how she had 'earned' each one ("This one was when I took the remote control away, this one was when I told her she couldn't have any more sweets etc"). Cheryl, the carer of the other sister reported that she was doing very well, although I needed to be aware that she would probably try to be very flirty with me, she has a tendency to exhibit inappropriate behaviour around men. Sadly, both girls are not going to be with these carers permanently, but they are no longer being considered for adoption either, so they have at least one more move, if social services are able to find them a long term (until their 18th birthday) foster placement, but many more moves if they can't manage that. I worry about the girls and the effect all of that is going to have on them, and how hard it will be when they see that the boys have a new and stable life. I also worry what the boys will think when they are old enough to understand the implications of their sisters life. I just hope they don't resent us for not taking them on too, but that really was never an option, their combined foster placement was broken up for the boys own safety.

Anyway, we did plan a contact session for the following week, and the boys, Joe in particular, were really delighted when I told them the news.

On Wednesday G went out to do some work for a day, and I spent a testing day with the boys. Charlie's behaviour that had really seemed to be settling, seems to have gone back a step. Not dramatically, but he does seem to push all the time and pays little attention when being reprimanded. We had a lunchtime visit from a friend who lives in Singapore and the boys loved having lunch with her, and then I popped over to another friend I know from our adoption prep group, and one of the other guys from adoption prep group also happened to be there with his little girl, and it was amusing to see him looking as worn down as I was on that particular day!

Thursday was a frustrating day too. G was working again in the morning and I decided I would take the boys in to town, and then G was going to come and meet us for a coffee. In the afternoon I had planned a visit to a nearby kids farm and play centre, to meet a friend, Jane, and her new daughter (again, prep group friends!).

Both boys were playing in Joe's bedroom and had seemingly had a short burst on about 10 different games! I went in to say that they needed to tidy up their things ready for us to go in to town. I went downstairs and did about 20 minutes of chores, before going to see how they were getting on. No progress. I told them again, that we heading in to town for a nice treat and would be leaving in 10 minutes, but only if they cleared up some of their mess. I left them for 5 minutes before going back to find, once again, no progress had been made. I gave them a final warning, and explained, quite calmly, that if they didn't tidy up at least some of their mess in the next 5 minutes, we wouldn't be going out, and we wouldn't be meeting up with Papa for a drink and a cake. So 5 minutes later when I went back and not one thing had been picked up, I decided I needed to follow through with my threat and I told them we wouldn't be going out. I had mini meltdowns from both of them, and I was fairly frustrated myself as I had things I needed to get. However I warned them that they needed to start listening to instructions, otherwise we wouldn't be going to the farm either.

Joe, who is always genuinely remorseful if he gets in to trouble, was good as gold for the rest of the day, but Charlie continued with his pushing, so he was told he wasn't going and would stay at home with Papa. Proper meltdown but point made!

Joe and I had a lovely time at the farm, and it was lovely to be there with Jane and her daughter. The kids played really well and Jane and I got to have a good catch up. It's so funny that this time last year we had all just finished our prep group training together, and now our children are playing together!

Friday saw the car packed up, ready for camping with two other couples (good friends and neighbours) and their children.

This was a fantastic camping trip, so nice after our last disaster, the weather was glorious, the camp site perfect and the company wonderful. Again the kids all played so nicely which meant we got to spend some adult time too. The kids got to run around, build shelters, play on the rope swings and generally be care free. It was wonderful!

We came home Sunday, all knackered and a little bit grouchy but knowing that the boys had another wonderful holiday experience.

So this last week, I was sadly back to work. I felt really sick on Monday at the thought of having to leave them, the time off as a family had done us all good and I wasn't ready to leave them at all. Still, they were booked in to an activity group for the week, so G was due to get some space too! We booked the activity club a few months back, when we feared the six week holiday would be really hard work, but actually the holiday is going faster than we imagined and we were actually both regretting the decision when it came to it. However quite a few children from Joe's class were booked in so we thought it would be a good time to re familiarise him with the group before the start of the new term . Charlie wasn't so keen, he was very clingy to G on Monday, but this got better as the week went on and actually they both loved it and were very keen to go back each day.

On Wednesday they didn't go to activity club, we had lunch scheduled with their older half sisters, a day they were very excited about but G and I felt really nervous about. We just weren't sure what to expect. I can't imagine the boys being anything other than our children, but knowing that they have two sisters that we don't know, is a bit strange. So we were pleased to be meeting them, but at the same time, things seem so settled with the boys it was nerve wracking to be potentially rocking the boat, even though we know how important it is that we remain very open and supportive about their past.

As it turned out, we didn't need to worry, contact when well. The kids were all pleased to see one another and had fun over lunch, and the girls were absolutely fine with G and I. We had been warned that they may try to be quite dismissive of us, or negative about the boys adoption, but actually they were really friendly and seemed pleased to have met us to. We took the girls a photo of the four of us each, for them to have in their rooms so they can picture Joe and Charlie as a family with us. We also agreed that we would get them all together again before Christmas. We kept the session to an hour, and when it was time to go, the children were fine. Joe was a bit clingy to me at first, but he was soon talking about what they were having for dinner, and later on when we tried to get them to express any negative feelings they may be having, they really didn't seem to be that interested. So we've survived our first sibling contact! The plan is to have two a year, for as long as all the children want it.

I emailed our social worker this week to ask for some advice on how we should deal with Charlie, it's not that he's really naughty and he certainly isn't demonstrating any of the challenging behaviour that we know a lot of adopted kids express, but nevertheless the minor misdemeanours and the lack of effect of our discipline over the last couple of weeks has really felt draining. Our social worker made us think. She reminded us that although he is four, in emotional development terms, he's probably more like a late two or early three year old. He was so limited as to what he could do before he lived with us, that he's now on this journey of discovery and so he just wants to be in to everything, push buttons, touch hot things, ask why 1000 times a day and do all the things a toddler would do. And as our social worker rightly said, if you have a two year old touching dangerous things, you don't tell them off and expect them not to do it again, you make it safe, you move it out the way. She suggested that perhaps we needed to readjust our expectations of Charlie a little. She also told us to stop giving ourselves a hard time, as we're doing a good job! This really helped, and it has changed the way we've dealt with him a bit, and so far, things have seemed a little better.

This weekend has been a bank holiday weekend and it's been fabulous. We had three fabulous parties to go to, a first, a thirtieth and a fiftieth. The boys loved every one of them! What's really great is seeing how comfortable they are now with large groups. They now know most of our friends and all of our family and they are less unsure about who is who. They are getting these big friend/family group experiences for the first time in their lives and they are just feeling really settled with them. It's great seeing them getting lots of fuss and attention, making friends, playing games and being proper little boys at social gatherings! It's also been an ego boost for us as several people have taken time to tell us how proud we should be of the boys, and how lovely they think they are. We both feel our egos inflate every time someone tells us that!

1 comment:

  1. I have that guilt over not adopting my sons sisters as well but we do our best to keep a close relationship.