Friday, March 29, 2013


I've learned something since becoming a parent - I'm no good at playing.  This revelation has also explained another conundrum that has bothered me for years: why it is that some women just can't seem to sit still and are forever looking round for something to be doing.

This week's #WASO theme is 'play', and it's something that consumes a lot of our time at home.  But here's the thing - I'm terrible at just sitting and playing.  Within seconds of sitting down to play with the boys, my head is suddenly filled with a hundred and one little niggling things that I really need to do right now!! 

Is this what is going on with many of the middle-aged women I know?  Are they still responding to a long-established need to be doing something . . . anything . . . else?  Or perhaps they are trying to silence the siren call of the many, many little jobs that seem to need doing at any given moment, even if those jobs have long since been completed?

I know I've developed the twitches already.  Only the other day, a friend came round for coffee and I couldn't stop myself fluttering around the house, moving laundry about, tidying toys, twitching cushions and throws.  It took a huge effort of will to make myself actually sit down and talk to her, even though I was incredibly glad that she'd come, and looking forward to our chat.

When OB says "Sit down Mummy!  Carpet Mummy!", as he does at least 20 times a day, I immediately begin thinking of the washing up.  And believe me, I'm not a tidy, houseproud woman!  But the truth is that just as the boys have had to be taught how to play, so have I. 

I know, I know how important play is in these children's social, emotional and intellectual development.  I really do know.  So I sit down on the carpet and try to join in with the endless rearrangement of toy food onto various plates, fake-drinking a million cups of "Mummy toffee" (is it possible that I drink too much coffee?!), and nom nomming my way through the plastic pizza.  Yum.

Meanwhile I'm fighting the sound of the laundry screaming at me from the kitchen.  Sometimes I even have to resist the urge to tidy up the toys while the boys are playing with them!  And yet, once the boys are napping, or have gone to bed for the night, do you think I spend my free time cleaning and tidying?  Not much!

It's even worse when I've put some thought into it and actually prepared some fun activities that we can do together.  Toddlers never seem to want to do it the way you planned it!  We're usually about 10 seconds in when I start feeling frustrated because they aren't doing it right.  What a nerd I must have been as a child!

There's been a poem going around on the internet about how the cleaning and tidying can take care of itself while our little ones are little because they won't be so desperate for our company for long!  Well, I've tried it and believe me, the cleaning and tidying doesn't take care of itself, but the other part is true.  I know a day will come when I would give anything to sit down on the floor with OB and chomp my way through another slice of plastic toast.  Perhaps then I'll have to console myself with tidying away people's coffee cups a bare nanosecond after they've taken their last sip.

In the meantime, I make yet another resolution to go with the flow - to find the fun in megabricks, plastic food and rebuilding the train track 50 times, and to embrace the results when their imagination, curiosity and creativity makes mincemeat of the fun I had planned!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Big Boy Bed!

I always said I wouldn't get NB a big boy bed until he was at least four and his head and feet were squashed against either end of his cot!  His insatiable curiosity for looking in, opening and messing with everything in sight made me fear immediate carnage would ensue as soon as he wasn't caged into his sleeping area.

But last night I relented.  Mindful that NB is waiting for a forever family, and knowing that this family will not want to invest in a cot for a three-year-old, I decided to spare NB the double whammy of moving in to a strange house with a strange family, and acclimatising to a brand new bed experience all on the same day.

It has gone pretty much as I expected it would.  I let NB help me build the bed and put the bedclothes on it, and engaged him in the excitement of the whole event, and then last night I put him down with exhortations to 'stay in bed' and 'no touching [a massive list of things]'.

When I went up to check on him as I went to bed, he was, no joke, lying on a massive pile of books which he had scattered all over the bed.  The quilt was on the floor and instead, he was covered with sheets and pillow cases he had pulled out of the wardrobe.  We tidied up and I put him back to bed with slightly more strongly-worded warnings about staying in bed and not messing with everything.

This morning I was woken by a loud crashing noise and rushed into his room to find absolute carnage!  The books were everywhere again, as were the sheets and pillow cases.  In addition, he had managed to open the massive storage cupboard and dragged out and opened several large boxes of things.  There was stuff, literally, everywhere, including pieces from various games scattered around the floor.

We tidied up.  I tried to use my calm voice, but there's a distinct possibility that I failed!

Afternoon nap time came, and we tried again.  NB went down in his bed no problem (after the explicit warnings!) and then I went to put OB down, which took a maximum of three minutes.  Then I went straight back to NB's room to find him out of bed and dragging a load of clothes out of his chest of drawers.

This time I gave up, and put him in his cot!

All was quiet for about an hour, when the crashing noises began again.  I went up to his room to find that he had climbed out of his newly-repositioned cot (using the new bed as a midway stepping point) and once more had strewn the floor with items from every cupboard.

"Don't you want to sleep in a big boy bed like [your friend]?" I asked, exasperated.

"No!"  he replied.

Ideally I would simply remove everything from his room, leaving only the bed, but that just isn't possible.  NB has the second bedroom in the house, which unfortunately also has to bear the brunt of some of the storage as OB's room is too small, and my room is already full!

It looks like we're all embarking on a steep learning curve!  But we cracked the ubiquitous juice bottle, the toilet training and the fixation with eating non-food items, so I'm sure we'll find a way through this one as well!

Friday, March 22, 2013

A View from the Other Side

I'm right in the middle of buying a new house at the moment, and also mentally preparing to transition NB to a new family, whoever that might be!  Over the past few weeks it has struck me how depressingly similar these processes are.

Once I'd made the momentous decision (determined by social services really!) to move, I started out by drawing up a list of criteria I'd be looking for in our new home - things we absolutely need, things we'd really love.  That part was easy.  But when the search really began, I knew we'd be looking for something more intangible, a feeling that this house was 'the one'.  Not so easy to quantify 'the one' in terms of lists!

At the first stage of searching, all you get is a photograph, and a few scant details.  Some are rejected out of hand - they don't look right, or they are missing a feature on the list, or perhaps they have something extra that you don't want.  Some are placed on a list of possibles - more information needed.  Perhaps a viewing or two, and a chat with various estate agents.

And on the other side of all of this is the vendor, anxious to move the process along, jumping when the phone rings, tidying frantically at the prospect of a viewing, and disappointed time and time again when those viewings fizzle out to nothing, often without a word.

More and more, with NB, I feel like the anxious vendor.  He's been 'on the market' for some time now, and I know that the various social workers have been busy behind the scenes, searching for matches, taking his profile to special adoption days, and generally trying to get his face out there.  It seems harsh to have to quantify the complexity of his little personality in just a few words, to write what is almost advertising copy about a human being. Every so often someone will see his profile, ask for more information, but so far, all of these raised hopes have come to nothing, and I feel gutted for NB as each wonderful-looking prospect slips away without a word.

Once a tentative request for information becomes a definite proposal, then the behind-the-scenes workers will really get going.  I was at the solicitor's today, signing forms and looking over the reams of paperwork that he has accumulated while conveyancing my house purchase.  Each side of the deal communicates with the other via various intermediaries, somehow managing to be always at the edges of the process, even though they are really at its very heart.

Does it seem like a heartless comparison?  Maybe, but from this side of the equation, it seems to fit quite well.  As one social worker said to me the other day, "There are so many great children out there."  NB must take his place among many others on the list and hope that a cute photograph and a few scant details about him will be sufficient to cause a searching prospective parent to think that he might, just, be 'the one'.

I don't yet have a completion date for my house purchase.  I don't have a completion date for NB's transition.  All I have for both of these processes as yet are hopes and dreams which may be fulfilled, or just as easily might come to nothing when hit with reality.  Somewhere out there are NB's new parents.  They might not know it yet, but we are waiting patiently for them to see his face peeping out from a sea of faces and know in their hearts that they have found their son.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Mother's Day Update!

If you read this post about my Mother's Day fail, you might be pleased to know that a kind friend searched for my flowers, found them, and put them in a safe place for me.  So now I can treasure my first Mother's Day gift from OB and hopefully get chance to embarrass him in front of his friends for years to come!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

My Ongoing Battle with Car Park Rage

Before I had children, I used to wonder why Parent and Child car parking spaces were situated so close to the supermarket entrance.  I never doubted the need for the extra space, but the proximity to the shop door seemed to be less important.

A friend of mine who, at the time, had a toddler boy and baby twins explained to me that when you're trying to get your brood and all of your shopping to the car, it helps not to have to walk them miles across the car park.  A fair point, but it doesn't really explain why, at my local Tesco, the Parent and Child spaces are actually closer to the entrance than the disabled spaces!

Now I am eligible to use those spaces, I'm even more convinced that right in front of the main door isn't the right place for them, for the simple reason that if they were farther away, they might not always be full of cars whose owners don't have children, but simply want to park as near to the entrance as possible.  Every time I circle the car park looking for a space where I will be able to open both back doors sufficiently wide to actually remove my children from the car, I dream of a nice row of spaces, somewhere out of the way, where only the kid-carrying drivers would be bothered to park.

Today I took the boys to the local Asda for Sunday lunch.  Swish, I know!  Well, it's not exactly fine dining, but the pick 'n' mix 8-item lunch box for £3 can't really be beaten, and we usually have food left over so it's a favourite for us when I can't face cooking (which is often!).

There are only about ten Parent and Child spaces at Asda and, oddly, they are situated down a little cul-de-sac which means you have to turn into the area before realising, inevitably, that there aren't any spaces left, and then having to reverse out, annoying several other motorists in the process.  So off we drove to park somewhere else (miles away from the entrance, by the way) and then perform a forceps extraction of the boys from the back seats.

The cafe windows overlook these elusive Parent and Child spaces, so I had plenty of opportunity as we ate to see the sorts of drivers who were lucky enough to be able to park there.  Of course, there were plenty of perfectly legitimate people parking up, with children of all ages in their cars.  Fine.  But then there were those who don't have children, but do have huge cars and seem to think that these wider spaces will be just perfect for them to park their monster-wheel 4x4s in without risking damage to their doors.  At one point, a van driver managed to sneak into a space just ahead of a lady with two children in the back.  Nice work, mate.

I saw quite a few lone drivers parking up, just to nip in, get a few bits and then straight back out again.  Obviously the proximity to the door is a factor here.  And then there was the disabled lady who ignored the several empty disabled spaces closer to the main entrance, and instead struggled an extra few yards with her shopping to a Parent and Child space.  Maybe clearer signposting is an issue here?

One lady, alone in the car, actually sat for some time at the entrance to the Parent and Child area waiting for a space to become free.  Is the need to park a few feet closer to Asda's front door so overwhelming that you'd rather sit and wait in your car for five minutes for a space that you're not actually entitled to than park up somewhere else straight away and spend perhaps 30 seconds longer walking to the store?

But I reserve my most fierce, blood-pressure raising hard stares for a final category of car park misusers: the couples with children who go ahead and park in the Parent and Child space, only for one of the adults to stay in the car with the children, while the other goes off to do the shopping!  These people actually have children, for goodness sake.  They surely must know how awkward it is to manage in a normal-sized space, and yet they are quite happy to all sit there in the car for 20 minutes, not actually using the generous space allocation, and watch other harassed parents driving round and round the car park.

Personally, I find Asda car park to be particularly badly-designed.  The main road into the car park goes right past the entrance to the store, so everybody has to cross that road once they have parked.  This makes it slow to get in and out, and also dangerous when you've got loose children with you!  But I must put in a special mention here for another dreadful local car park - one of our local health centres is equipped with two clearly-marked Parent and Child spaces, except that they are both exactly the same size as all the other spaces!  Fail!  Actually, that car park is so busy, and so over-supplied with disabled spaces and staff-only spaces that you're lucky if you can park in there at all.

So, lovely supermarket owners, we thank you for generously providing us with wonderful, wider spaces for our cars.  When we are actually lucky enough to get our cars into one of them, it really does make everything about going shopping seem that bit less of a hassle.  Now could I just ask you all to consider moving those spaces a tiny bit further away from the door so that all the non-parents out there wouldn't be so keen to share them with us!

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Contact Conundrum

It's Friday, so it must be Weekly Adoption Shout Out time!  And this week we have a theme: contact.  A bit of a thorny subject for me, if I'm honest.

You see, as far as OB goes, I have worn multiple hats, and with these different hats on, my feelings about contact with his birth family veer wildly from one extreme to the other.

OB first came to me when he was only 4 months old.  For the first period of his placement with me, I was purely a foster carer.  I not only took him to contacts with his birth mother, but also supervised some of those contacts and even arranged extra contacts at special times, such as buying his first shoes.  As the plan for him was rehabilitation with birth family, we worked together to make that become a reality.  I supported Mum, helped her draw up lists of routines and meal plans, and collaborated with her over Christmas and birthday times.

When the rehabilitation broke down after just a few weeks, and OB came back into my care, things gradually began to change.  Birth relatives came and went, and I organised and supervised contacts with a few different people.  In the end, when it became clear that there was nobody in OB's family who was able to take him, then I approached the social worker about adopting him myself.

From the moment I broached that subject, I gradually began to lose my foster carer's hat, and take on my mummy's hat.  Contacts with birth family were reduced and then brought to a close with final contacts arranged.  OB only saw his birth mother twice after he came back into my care.  I felt as though I was part of a process of closure, cutting off those birth family links one by one.  As I write, OB has not seen or had any kind of contact with anybody in his birth family for over 8 months.

The past year has been a strange limbo land where I know that I will be OB's mummy, and he even calls me by that name, but none of it is actually real until some judge says it is.  That day will come soon, and OB will formally leave his birth family behind and become my family.  And yet on that same day, we will enter into a bizarre reconnection with that same family, through the letterbox contact agreement.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that I signed the agreement.  So, just as OB is about to become my son, I have, once again, to begin to consider a family that has lost theirs.  Such mixed feelings.

Honestly, if it was up to my emotions alone, I'd never mention or refer to OB's 'other family' again.  Every fibre of my being wants to gather him to me, hold him tight, and pretend that the way it is now is the way it's always been.  But all the wishing in the world won't make that true.  And it's not about my emotions; it's about what OB needs now and will need as he grows older.  After all, a big part of being a Mum is about being able to put your own wishes and feelings aside for your child's benefit, playing with them even though you are tired, cooking healthy meals even though you'd rather have burgers, and telling them gently about their birth family even though you'd rather never think about them again.

I know that we all want to know where we've come from.  I know that all children go through a phase of being fascinated about their early childhoods.  I know that OB will probably be no different to any other child, and he will be told the truth about it.  Unlike many other adopters, I not only met his birth mother, but got to know her quite well.  I will be able to tell him truthfully that he was loved - we all need to know that we have been loved.

All that, I am fine with.  But letterbox contact is another thing entirely.  I feel extremely conflicted about it, and I really resent the fact that, just at this moment, just as OB and I become a family, I'm required to consider the needs of his birth family.

For instance, when we will write the letters?  Apparently a lot of people do that in September.  That seems fine with me.  But then, if the birth family delay picking it up, and then delay in replying, the reply might come too close to Christmas.  Wouldn't it be better to do it in July?  It has to be a neutral time of year, not near birthday or Christmas.  Nothing identifying written in the letter. And so on, and so on.

And the whole time we're having this conversation, I'm raging inwardly at the intrusion of it all.

Well, I suppose I'd better get used to it!  If I think signing the contact agreement is painful, then what am I going to do when it comes to letter-writing time?!

Yet, as unpleasant as I might be finding it, my main objections to the letterbox contact are on OB's behalf.  He is too young to have any say in what this contact will consist of, or whether it will even happen.  I will write to his birth family on his behalf, telling them things about him, and it will be some years before he is able to have any say in what they are told, and what is left out.

I have family members that I am estranged from and, believe me, I'd be pretty annoyed if I found out that somebody was writing to them on my behalf and telling them all about me!  I know that the collective wisdom states that this contact is a Good Thing, and I will dutifully do as I'm told, because that's what I do, but at the same time I can't help feeling that a process that doesn't involve the child, that the child hasn't even consented to, doesn't really make me feel as though we are putting the child at the heart of things.

Anyway, ours will be in September.  My brain still works on an academic calendar after all these years, so I thought it would make it easier to remember.  What a fool I was!  There's no chance of me forgetting - I'm already stressing about what I'll write and it's only March!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Our Day in Court

Well, not strictly speaking as we won't actually be there, but after months of adoption prep, training, form-filling and waiting, waiting, waiting, we finally have a date for our final adoption hearing: 9th April.

On that day, I will officially have a son, and OB will officially have a Mummy.

Can.  Not.  Wait!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Love and Money

Since I've been involved in fostering and adoption, I've found that I'm never short of conversation with strangers.  As soon as I mention what I'm doing, most people either start asking me lots of questions, fascinated by the whole thing, or start telling me about their friend/aunty/second-cousin-twice-removed who is also a foster carer or adopter.

I like this.  I'm not great at chit chat so having a ready topic of conversation always at hand relieves me of the need to create conversation around whatever's in the charts (I don't know), what I'm doing this weekend (the same as every other weekend - nothing!) or what's happening in the latest soap, reality show or other TV fad (struggling to care at the best of times).

On the other hand, it does mean that I get to listen to a lot of, often ill-informed, opinions about fostering and adoption, mostly fed by some of the dreadful reporting we see in the news media.  Most of the time I hem and haw and try to avoid getting into a heated political debate - not that I mind such conversations, but there really is a time and a place!

A couple of weeks ago I heard a great one.  I had been bought a voucher for a local beautician's as a gift.  Never having really been into such a place before, it was with some trepidation that I turned up for my hot parrafin wax hand treatment and manicure.  Just at the point at which my hands were immobilised and there was no possibility of escape, the beautician informed me that she thought it was awful that foster carers get paid so much money and she thought it was much better in [unspecified foreign country] where apparently everyone only gets the bare minimum of expenses and is really doing it for the love of the children, and not as a job.

Wow.  I suppose it would be great if all childminders, teachers and youth workers opted not to draw a salary as well would it?  Since apparently, putting food on the table and a roof over your head and really caring for the children are completely incompatible!

Of course I didn't say that as I felt rather at the mercy of the woman with a vat of hot wax and several sharp and pointy implements with which she was preparing to attack my cuticles.

I won't deny that, as a Level 3 carer fostering two children, we live comfortably on the expenses we receive.  And that's a relief as I'm not allowed to have any other job, not even part time, so we completely rely on what the LA provide for us.

And that's as it should be.  These children need me all of the time, not just when I'm home from work in the evening.  Their lives are disrupted enough without the added stress of spending time in daycare and being passed around from one sitter to another.  And why shouldn't they have everything that other children have?  They've been denied enough already, so why should they have to scrimp on clothes, treats and activities?

We don't live an extravagant life by any means, but both my boys have their feet measured at Clarks every three months, and shoes bought for them if they have grown half a size.  Sometimes we get lucky and hit the sales, but if we don't, then I'm spending upwards of £60 on two pairs of shoes.  I know that cheaper shoes are available elsewhere, but I want my boys to have properly-fitting shoes that are going to support their growing feet properly.  I won't take any chances, especially not with NB who needs supportive boots and orthotic inserts.

Once a week, we go to a gymnastics class for toddlers.  Last week I had to renew our membership and it was over £80 for the next three months.  Soon, NB will start swimming class and my first payment will be nearly £50.  We do these activities because NB needs to strengthen his muscles and improve his balance and co-ordination in order to cope with a medical condition.

And that's not to mention the clothes, food, mortgage and other costs of maintaining a home and looking after a family.  My gas and electricity bill is nearly 3 times what it used to be before I had children in my home.  I didn't need the heating on so much when I was out at work all day, but now the boiler (not to mention the washing machine and tumble dryer!) gets a real work out most days.

Of course, most of this is only what all families have to deal with, but it does all need to be paid for.  If fostering didn't enable me to bring home the bacon, then I wouldn't be able to do it - simple as.  And a lot of other people would be in the same boat as I am - cue endless news stories about looked-after children languishing in inappropriate care settings because there aren't enough foster carers.

As for foster caring not being viewed as a job, well, I'm sorry, but it is a job.  I fill in paperwork, attend meetings, receive training and have goals to achieve.  I take my professional development extremely seriously, and seek to employ best practice in a range of challenging and varied situations.  Anyone thinking that foster caring is basically babysitting needs to get a reality check.

And it's a job with very few of the traditional benefits.  I'm not actually employed by the LA, so there are no pension provisions, and not even any NI contributions - I have to sort that myself, like any other self-employed person.

Oh, and did I mention the working hours?  It would be interesting to deduct all the childcare-related expenses from the payments I receive and then divide the remainder by the number of hours I work each week (168, if you were wondering), and see what I'm actually making!

Please don't think I'm complaining.  As I said earlier, we get along fine with the money we have.  I can go to the supermarket and not worry about buying plenty of fresh meat, fruit and vegetables, I can get the boys new clothes and shoes and pay for their activities without worrying, and I don't need to go into a financial panic if something breaks down in the house and needs repairing.

This means that I can focus all of my attention on the boys, who, by the way, I love very much indeed!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Mother's Day Fail!

Ok, so, to be fair I'm not really used to Mother's Day having anything to do with me, and that's the excuse I'll be using to explain why I managed to forget the beautiful, hand-crafted flower that OB made for me at church this morning 'all by himself'!

Yep, he handed it to me, all proud of himself, and I did the appropriate oohing and aahing, and immediately thought that as this was the first Mother's Day gift he's even given to me, I'll be proud to keep and treasure it forever.

But then, other stuff got in the way.  Straight after church I was taking the choir out for a performance that involved quite a lot of organising.  The boys were going with Aunty Roof and Uncle Fank for the afternoon, so there was a whole car-seat-swapping handover thing to sort out.  And somewhere in the midst of all that I put my beautiful straw and paper flowers down and forgot all about them :(

NB made me stuff too.  He gave me a certificate, complete with Dali-esque colouring and glittery stickers, as well as a cookie, which we split three ways - it's hard to keep something all for yourself with two toddlers in your life!  The certificate made it home fine, but not the flower!

Ah well, I'm still holding out hope that somebody will find it this evening and keep it safely for me but, if not, at least I can comfort myself with the thought that there will be many more Mother's Days to come for me and OB! 

Maybe I'll do better next year!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Getting Ready for a Roller Coaster Ride

I've been reading a lot of adoption blogs recently and, I have to admit, I've been loving reading about people's experiences both in preparation for adoption, during introductions and afterwards.  With my foster carer's hat on, I appreciate the insight it gives me into what's coming next for my little ones, and with my adopter's hat on, it's great to get a glimpse at the upcoming attractions for myself!

So this week, for the first time, I'm linking up with the Weekly Adoption Shout Out (WASO), hosted by The Boy's Behaviour and The Puffin Diaries.  If you're reading this because you're interested in adoption, please do go and visit these blogs, and take a look at some of the other WASO participants - some great, honest stories in there.

A number of themes have emerged as I've been reading, but the one that resonates most with me right now is how adoption (and fostering, for that matter) opens your life to be managed and planned by others.  The adoption process involves a whole plethora of people, some of whom you will never meet, and many of whom will get to have a say in some aspect of the way you plan to run your life, even if it's just in dictating the timing of what will happen when.

Even though I'm adopting as a foster carer, and OB has been living here with me for nearly two years now, we still have to face up to some big changes in the next few months, many of which are quite out of our control! 

Right at the beginning of the adoption process, it was made clear to me that we would have to move house as members of his birth family know where we live.  After a long search, with a few dead ends, we have finally found our ideal home at our ideal price, and various people are already requesting large cheques.  The move should take place sometime in the next three months amidst a whirlwind of packing and DIY (hopefully with the help of a lot of other people!).  But I don't know exactly when.

Sometime during that same three months, OB's final court date and celebratory hearing will take place and we will have a big party, and a special dedication service at church.  But I don't know exactly when.

As NB now has a family that is very interested in him, it seems that there's a good chance that the next three months will be a busy time of getting ready for transition and then actually moving him on - something I haven't done before.  The potential adopter is some distance away, so this will mean a week of them spending lots of time at my place, followed by a week of all three of us going to a distant part of the country so NB can spend time at his new home.  But I don't know exactly when.

And, I'm having a major birthday.  At least I do know exactly when that is!

We are certainly looking at a roller coaster ride, and I'm already struggling with the difficulty of making plans for it all.  I worry about how stressful I will find all of this and how we will physically fit everything in, but more than that, I worry about the stress that all of these changes will bring to the boys, and how difficult it is to prepare them properly when I don't even know the order in which it will all be happening.

These two little boys, who have already been through several traumatic and severe transitions (which will have felt like abandonments to them), are now going to have to face separation from each other and relocation to a completely new home.  NB will have to adjust to a completely new world as he meets and settles with his new family.  And each of these events will happen hard on the heels of the last one.

I thank God for my support network.  As I have to stand firm as a safe and secure constant in the lives of these boys through all the forthcoming turmoil, I know that my wonderful friends and family will help me to plant my feet firmly on the rock, and hold me there with their loving and capable hands.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

In the minds of the children

Today I had an interesting conversation with NB's Playgroup leader about the (increasingly likely) possibility of him leaving us soon to move on to a new family.

"What shall I tell the other children when he goes?" she asked.  "I'd really like your advice on that."

Eeep! I have absolutely none!

What do you say to a group of toddlers and pre-schoolers that can possibly make any sense within their view of the way the world is?  I could only share with her what some of my friends have said to their young children - that NB's Mummy isn't able to look after him and that we're going to find him a new family that will be able to take care of him always.

In truth, I don't really know how far this explanation has seeped into their understanding.  I well remember the toddler daughter of another friend conflating the ideas of dying and flying in a plane, and becoming convinced that Grandma had died when in fact she had merely gone to Crete!  So often they seem to know what we are talking about, and yet what we have said  is just rattling round their brain in an endless game of Chinese Whispers until what they actually understand bears little relation to what we said!

And Playgroup Leader had another good point.  That explanation might be all very well for two children living in a very secure family environment, but many of the children at NB's Playgroup live lives that are already uncertain and unsettled.  There are absent fathers and unwell mothers, children temporarily living with grandparents, and signs of poverty all around.  What harm might it do to plant the idea in a vulnerable young child's mind that it is possible for you to just leave your family and be put with a new one?

The end of our conversation didn't bring a particularly satisfactory conclusion.  Playgroup Leader was tending to lean towards simply telling the children that NB had moved away (which wouldn't be untrue), on the basis that many of the children would be off to big school by the time I turn up at the door with OB in September and so wouldn't be confused by my sudden reappearance.

It was the best we could come up with, but I'm not sure it's the only answer there is.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Our Airplane Party!

This week, NB turned 3 and we had a little airplane-themed birthday party, complete with cake, paper planes and Red Arrows accessories!

NB loves planes.  He got a little one for Christmas and carried it round everywhere (even to bed!) until it literally fell apart.  Actually it fell apart a few times, but I managed some super glue repairs to keep it going just a little bit longer.

So it was a given that planes would feature heavily in his birthday celebrations.

Of course there was a plane cake.  I'll admit I wasn't as happy with the look of this as I could have been.  I ordered some very blue icing for it but of course it came the day after the party, so I ended up having to improvise by painting white icing with blue food colouring.  The grey blobs on it are actually holographic edible glitter which looked a lot better in real life that they do here!  Underneath it was chocolate, and it was yummy, though I say so myself.

As NB is now the ripe old age of 3, I thought some games might be appropriate.  We had pass the parcel of course - can't miss out the old faves!  And then we pinned the propellor on the plane.

We didn't have balloons at this party (couldn't face blowing them up!) but instead we had paper planes which we turned into a game later.  I hung my awesome £3 Ikea collapsible laundry basket sideways on the wall (such a multi-talented object!) and we all had fun throwing our paper planes into it from a distance - with a suitable chocolatey reward of course :)

Our tea table, with cake, Red Arrows pyramid and little runway complete with biscuit planes.  Yeah, they look at bit like fish, but they are honestly planes!

Everyone took home a piece of birthday cake, a DIY glider and bubbles, as well as the usual sweets and treats :)

NB seemed to have a great time.  At his age, birthdays and Christmases are really starting to mean something, so it was gorgeous to see his excitement as his little friends arrived to celebrate with him.  He really took his time over his presents, opening and examining each one with great care.  The winner on the day was a little BA plane, complete with aircraft sounds, which he took with him when he went to bed!

The next day, though, a new favourite arrived in the mail - a Postman Pat van, complete with little action figure and parcels!  He didn't put it down all day, even taking it up to the bath, and of course, it went to bed with him!