Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The summer months

It's been a largely positive few months since I last posted. The boys had a good final month of school, Joe made some great progress with reading - still behind most of his peers but we learnt that in the school year he's progressed from reading at age 5 level, to age 6y10m - only two months behind his actual age. The school also implemented a 'circle of friends' for him, which was a chance for the other children to help him to understand how they sometimes feel when he acts over zealously, which he has a tendency to do. Charlie too made some progress at school, with the teachers noticing a few weeks where he was a bit calmer and more focussed in the classroom. He still has 121 support however, so we still have a long way to go.

The last few weeks of term were gloriously hot, and we made the most of trips out to the beach and the park after school.

I write this blog almost at the end of the school six week holiday. It's been a mixed set of emotions this last few weeks. In many ways, I am so pleased that I really feel we've given the boys an outstanding holiday. We started off with a weekend camping with friends and cousins, which was superb. I love the innocence of camping for the boys - no computers, no DS's just lots of out door fun. We camped with two other families from Charlie's class who are also adopted families, as well as my sister and her family.

We also had friends to stay over, G took the boys on day trips and we spent a fantastic week in Spain. Before the kids arrived, it's fair to say that G and I mapped our year around our holiday plans, with both of us working and no kids, we were fortunate to have some special holidays in far away places. Indeed, when we were debating whether or not to adopt, one of the things on our 'cons' list was the loss of our holidays! When we knew we wanted kids, we resolved that having them didn't mean that we had to go to soulless large results with noisy kids clubs, and that we could teach the boys about the culture of other countries. Oh how I now laugh at our naivety! The reality of two very active young boys found us at an all inclusive, Kids Club centred holiday resort in Spain! And it was perfect, the boys were so well entertained and loved having lots of other children to play with, we were soon forgetting our boutique holiday pasts, and embracing the evening entertainment and pool side activities! Charlie in particular revelled in the independence he discovered in an all inclusive resort.

The week after Spain and the boys went off to a holiday club each day for a week. Charlie got a yellow card warning on day one, but he did manage to survive the week with some additional focus and support.

We then spent a weekend in my home town, introducing the boys to some of my oldest friends, before heading off to Wales for a few days of fun. It's from Wales that I am writing this blog, we head home tomorrow and have a final camping trip this weekend before they go back to school next week.

The boys are going back to school having had a lot of fun, and gaining crazily good sun tans and blonde hair along the way!

So why a mixed bag? Well despite feeling like we've had lots of family fun, G and I are also on our knees. We both feel like our youngest, Charlie, has become even harder to manage in the last couple of months. Don't get me wrong, I know others have it much harder than we do (I watched a mother be punched and kicked by her autistic son when we were in Spain, and it moved me to tears!) but for us right now, it seems like really hard work.

Charlie has alway been hard to get to focus, but 18 months in I think we both thought things would be getting easier. But it seems as we give him more and more confidence (and he has that in spades!) he also gets harder and harder to control. We try everything that all the books suggest, rewards and recognition, warnings, time out, consequences etc, but nothing at all bothers him. He is so caught up in a very non-stop active world, it's as if he cannot hear anything that we say. He knows all the rules, because he's very quick to tell other children off, but he is completely incapable of understanding or following our instructions. I can literally be stood in front of him, at eye level, saying 'Charlie, Stop' five or six times, and he just carries on. It's very hard to know how to handle a child for whom consequences have no effect whatsoever. Joe is no angel either and they sometimes work each other up to a frenzy, and it seems impossible to break it.

We've both become really shouty, and we often feel like the only parents that are constantly shouting out their kid's names wherever we go. It makes days out really hard work. Today we were walking through the high street and in the end had to resort to only one of us going in to a shop to look around at any one time, because Charlie could not follow the most simple instruction to not touch. Now I know all kids want to touch, but when you are saying it for the fourth or fifth time in less than 30 seconds, having already taken him out of the shop once to talk to him about it, and still he can' resist picking things up just two or three seconds after you've said not too, it becomes incredibly frustrating.

That example probably sounds really petty, but when that's the 15th time you've had that sort of scenario in a 30 minute period, it's mentally and physically exhausting.

There's no malice in Charlie, quite the opposite, he's endearing, caring and cute, but at the moment, it doesn't feel like trips out are much fun for G and I, I think we feel sometimes that we are on an endurance test. It is really hard, when you plan things that you really think will be a fun family activity, and you end up feeling exhausted with the level of control that you have to sometimes enforce.

We're hopeful it's a phase that will pass. But we have had a referral to the Child Development Centre and he's currently being assessed for ADHD. I dismissed ADHD before I had children as an excuse for not disciplining children, but now I can eat some humble pie as I understand a bit more about how hard being a parent can sometimes be.

Fortunately however, we also get some great moments with the kids, which make everything else worthwhile (like today for example, when we took them crabbing and caught over 100 crabs - the boys were so excited I thought they would explode!) and of course, would we change anything? Not at all - we love the boys unconditionally. Indeed I'm already feeling guilty for writing this blog quite negatively, it's probably not helped by my tiredness and the fact I've just had a big melt down with Charlie at bedtime, which has left me feeling somewhat exasperated!  On balance, we've had a wonderful summer, and I know the boys have loved many of the experiences that they've had - and we without fail, each and every day, we get kisses, cuddles, giggles and special moments. We just need to have a few less moments of tension too!

In other news, we wrote our obligatory annual letter to birth mother in May. Part of our adoption order requires us to write to her once a year with an update on the boys, and she is supposed to write to us too. The letters go via social services, so there's no actual sharing of contact details. We heard today that she's never been in to read our letter and she has chosen not to write to us. No huge surprise but at least we've done our bit!

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