Sunday, June 23, 2013

Introductions

There's something very strange about actually experiencing something that you've been anticipating for so long.  It's almost as though the imaginary version of the event that you've been playing in your head has to fight it out with reality even as you're living through the moment.

Yesterday we finally had the first day of introductions for NB and his new Mummy.  Or perhaps I should just start calling her 'Mummy' now as OB has developed an unnerving habit of shouting "New Mummy! New Mummy!" at her everywhere we go! 

I think I had imagined this 90 minute meeting from every possible angle during our preparation time, and by 10am, I was full of butterflies over all the various permutations I'd concocted.  Of course I worried about how NB would react and whether the preparation we'd done would stand him in good stead.  But I also ran through a whole gamut of nailbiting fidgets over everything from whether OB would be too interfering right down to whether I had the right sort of teabags (yes, as a non-tea drinker, I did spend 10 minutes standing in front of the teabag section in Tesco yesterday morning trying to choose between them! I got Twinings in the end).

Thankfully, it was an extremely successful start to our 10 days of introductions.  NB was appropriately shy at first, but he knew who she was, and then warmed gradually over the first half hour, until he entered his 'giddy phase'!  Once that was mercifully over and all the running, jumping and shouting had calmed down, he got to playing with the toy rabbit that Mummy had brought (and which had featured prominently in the prep materials).

Then Mummy did a wonderful thing: she got out her camera.  NB loves gadgets of all kinds.  He sat happily to have his photograph taken and then was, of course, anxious to see the results . . . and all the other photos on there!  NB likes to get a GOOD look at things, so within minutes, he was nestled up against her leg with his face centimetres from the digital screen. 

Following that, she let him use the camera to take some photographs.  He was in heaven!  Seriously, it was clear that everybody else in the room had faded well into the background as the two of them giggled and played with the camera.  OB went off by himself to do some colouring and NB didn't even notice - normally whenever OB does anything, NB immediately wants a piece of the action, but not yesterday.

As Mummy drove off at the end of the session, NB waved his little hand until her car was completely out of sight.  Then he turned to me and his little face crumpled and he said, "Want Mummy."

Today has gone in much the same vein.  Rain curtailed our plans to go to the park, so went ended up first at the indoor play centre, and then at the garden centre to have lunch and look at the fish, lizards and rabbits.  NB let Mummy take him to the toilet after lunch, and then I gently separated myself and OB from the two of them while we were looking at the fish - only just around the corner - but he was fine, only 'checking in' from time to time.  Again, he was upset when she left this afternoon, and asked for her when he woke up from his nap.

So far, so good.  Tomorrow she will take him out on her own for the first time.  I have primed him for this by promising 'a ride in Mummy's car' - something he's been looking forward to ever since he saw her driving it on the video she made for him!

And after that come all the tricky bits.  Mummy is keen that the idea is introduced to NB that he will be leaving us and not coming back (as opposed to only telling him that he's going to live with Mummy - these are not necessarily the same things in his head!).  I agree, but I've held off doing it until I feel sure that's he's comfortable with this new presence in his life.  Otherwise I feel as though I'd be telling him he's being cut off from the past without any idea of the future he's going to.  Mummy has brought suitcases for all his things so we've agreed that I'll involve NB in helping to put his toys in there and gently talking about why we're doing that.  Neither of us think that he'll really fully understand, but the concept has to be introduced nonetheless. 

That's for Monday afternoon and I'm not looking forward to it!


Friday, June 14, 2013

Stresshead!

We've got a lot going on at the moment - an impending house move, complete with rafts of builders, plumbers, electricians and decorators to sort out, not to mention fixing up the house we're currently living in, ready to rent out after we move.  Lots of organising, juggling, liaising and writing cheques . . . big, big cheques!

And then, of course, there's the prospect of moving NB on to his new Mummy right in the middle of it all, which will involve several days in a hotel as new Mummy lives a considerable distance away.  Booking the hotel has been a nightmare as it is wedding season, and our stay will include a Saturday night.  In the end we had to settle for a place in the next town, so there will be lots of driving in an unfamiliar environment for me.

So much packing and sorting.  As if packing up the whole house for the move wasn't bad enough, I also need to sort out all of NB's clothes, toys and books, ready for him to take with him.  Then there's his paperwork, memory box, scrapbook, and all the other little things that will need to be prepared for him so that in the future he has some chance of looking back to his past and being able to 'see' it clearly.  And to make it just a little bit more difficult, I'm trying to do all of this packing and sorting in such a way that the boys don't notice everything disappearing so that NB, in particular, is not disrupted any more than he needs to be prior to his big move.

Oh, and our central heating boiler has been intermittently broken for over a week now (I keep hoping it will magically fix itself!) and then the other day my letting agent phoned to say that the tenant that lives in my old house (yes, I'm a property magnate thanks to our sluggish house market!) had reported that the boiler there is broken too.

I'm not normally a stressy person.  I probably come across quite 'on the edge' sometimes just because I'm loud and fast-talking and rather overtly passionate about everything but, in my head, I'm usually pretty sorted and relaxed about things.  I'm the complete opposite of the serene swan paddling madly underwater!  More like a motheaten duck flapping my wings about crazily while my hidden feet are smooth and measured, propelling me along without needing to be tended to.

However, driving over to the new house the other morning, with the text from the boiler repair man fresh on my phone (burnt out circuit board  . . . prepare to write a big cheque!), and knowing that I was going to have to have conversations with my builder where I'd be required to make loads of decisions about fiddly things like what handles I want on my kitchen cupboards, or what paint colours I want on the walls, my head just sort of went BOOM!

It was only a temporary glitch - like a contained explosion in a lead-lined box - and it was over very quickly but, for the first time in all of this hassle, I'll admit that for a moment there I did feel genuinely stressed out!  By the time I arrived at the house, equilibrium was restored and I was able to tell the builder that I have no strong feelings about kitchen door handles but would be happy to look at some samples, and just to paint all the walls white!

I wonder if this is what happens in NB's head sometimes?  I think my life is being turned upside down at the moment, but it's nothing compared to what's about to happen to him.  He's seen the DVD and the photo album that his new Mummy has prepared and he seems to like them.  Sometimes he asks for them again, but sometimes he says, "No like it!".  Sometimes he wants to talk about new Mummy, but sometimes he says "No Mummy!" and puts his sulking face on.

New Mummy emailed me this week and asked me for tips on how to prepare NB for the experience of missing me and OB after he moves.  I have nothing - but any of your suggestions would be gratefully received!  I've made him a scrapbook with photos of us all, and we'll be sending special gifts from us that he can keep as he grows older, but how can I prepare him for that when I'm fairly sure that he doesn't really understand what's going on?

Of course we've watched the DVD and talked about sleeping in his new bed with the train on it, and playing on his bike in the lovely garden.  He likes the idea of these things, but I'm pretty sure that none of that equates to 'I'm leaving here and never coming back' in his head.  In just over two weeks I'm going to drop him off at that house with the train bed and the lovely garden, give him a kiss and say bye bye, and then walk out of his life.  How can I prepare him for that?

NB approaches stressful or unfamiliar situations by going completely quiet and still, like a little frightened dormouse, all motionless and watchful, but with a heart fluttering madly inside.  Then, at some future, unrelated time, he will present me with a series of meltdowns that crash into our family like tsunamis.  So I've no doubt that he will appear to handle all of these changes with complete equanimity, taking everything in his stride and lulling us all into a false sense of security.

But inside his head?  BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Cooking - or should I say 'heating'

I am a horrible cook.  I used to think I was a mediocre cook until I started getting feedback from the boys.  Since then I've had to downgrade my cooking level descriptor significantly!

Basically, if the boys have heard the microwave ping, then they're probably happy to eat it.  If they've seen me in the kitchen over a pan, or peeling a vegetable, then they're probably not going to eat it.  If I'm really lucky, they'll just push the plate away.  More often, one of them will start crying just at the sight of it!  We've finally got past the food-throwing stage now, but that was a right barrel of laughs I can tell you!

When I announce that I am making tea, OB stands at the safety gate by the kitchen door, demanding tea "on a plate Mummy".  At first I was bemused by this crockery fussiness, but now I know . . . if it's a 'healthy' tea like pasta, soup, stew, etc., then I'll serve it in a bowl.  If it's a 'freezer tea', like fish fingers, then it's dry so it comes on a plate.  OB isn't fussy about his crockery - he just wants potato waffles!

Personally I have dreadful eating habits.  I'm quite happy to have the same (deeply unhealthy) meal every evening for a week, or longer.  I remember when I was thinking about weaning OB, I got a book on the subject and settled down to read it one evening.  It said that I should give OB family foods - basically the same foods that everybody else was eating.  That night for my tea, I had had a bowl of super noodles with bacon chopped into it and two fried eggs on top!  Not exactly food to grow up on for a 6-month-old!

So, I have made the effort.  For the first time in my adult life, I now own a fruit bowl.  Occasionally I will even force myself to look like I'm enjoying a piece of fruit in front of the boys so that they get the idea.  Thankfully, they are both total fruit fans, so they don't take much persuading to empty that fruit bowl every week.

Unfortunately, not only do they have an aversion to my home cooking, but NB also seems to have a whole list of foods which are totally unacceptable if I serve them, but fine to eat elsewhere.

Let me give you an example.  When NB first came to live with me, I was told that he liked cheese.  Well, OB is a major fan of cheese, so we serve cheese in some form most lunchtimes.  But NB wouldn't eat it at all. I tried cheese in all its forms - cubed, sliced, grated, string, babybel, on toast, melted over pasta - no dice.  On the couple of occasions that I managed to persuade him to pop a bit in his mouth, he was actually sick on the dinner table!  I persevered because I read once that you have to introduce a food to a toddler 14 times before you can be sure that he doesn't like it, but in the end, after about 3 months, I gave in and stopped serving him cheese.

Imagine my surprise then when, around 6 months later, I was greeted by one of the Aunties at Playgroup with a funny story about how NB had filled his cheeks with cheese like a hamster at morning snacktime.  Oh yes, they assured me, he loves cheese and has a massive pile of cubed cheese every time he comes to Playgroup.  He also loves ham sandwiches apparently - he cries when I give him ham sandwiches at home!  Now, after a serious talk, he eats cheese at home too. And ham sandwiches.

I know that food is a big area of conflict and control for lots of kids, not just looked after or adopted children.  I've eaten many meals at the homes of my friends and watched them approach the 'battleground' in various ways with their children.  Personally I try to play it low key.  Every meal contains something I know the boys will like.  I encourage them to try everything on their plate.  If they won't eat something, that's fine, but no substitutions and no getting down from the table until everybody's finished.  If they make a decent stab at their meal, then they'll get their yoghurt or whatever we're having afterwards - I'm not usually into insisting the whole plate is cleaned.  

But sometimes it's hard when you've gone the extra mile to make something from scratch that you think they'll really like and they start shouting "No like it!!!" and crying about it before it's even on the table!  It's hard when, yet again, you've burned something on the stupid electric hob that you can't get used to even after two years!  It's hard when you're tired and teatime is just another stopover on the way to bedtime and a couple of hours of peaceful bliss.  So, sometimes my cool gets lost and my encouraging voice becomes an insisting one and then a nagging one and then a shouty one.

We always regain our equilibrium before bedtime though!

It's for these reasons that my cooking skills have had to be re-evaluated down to 'horrible', and my kitchen self-esteem has dropped to an all-time low!  When NB's new Mummy came to visit recently, the SW asked me to provide some sandwiches for everybody.  Well, it was a busy time and I wanted the house to look nice and . . . in the end I just called the SW and asked her to pick some sandwiches up at the shop!  Yes, I couldn't even bring myself to make and serve sandwiches for a few strangers.  Goodness knows what I'll do when new Mummy comes up for introductions and I have to provide meals for her.  She definitely looks like the sort of person who eats green things she's picked herself from the garden - the sorts of things that I would mistake for weeds.  I have a feeling that a plastic plate with fish fingers and beans on it won't fill her with as much joy as it brings to the boys!





Friday, June 7, 2013

Turning 40

Apparently, life begins at 40.  I assume that when people say this they're talking about the kids being nearly grown and long-suffering parents getting their lives back.  Yeah, not so much in my case!

This has been a momentous year - a life-changing year.  I won't say my life is beginning at 40, because the 39 years that went before were too good to just write them off like that!  I'd rather say that in my case, life re-starts at 40.

In the year I turned 40, I got all grown up.  I got myself a beautiful, unexpected, treasured son.  I got myself a proper grown-up house.  I'm even thinking about getting a grown-up car.  Grown up indeed.

I'm getting myself a new mindset too.  After living for so long with only myself to be responsible for, I now find that someone else's future depends on mine.  I regularly catch myself thinking about various things I'll do with OB once he's old enough, and then I have to stop and remind myself that I'll be 50, 55 or 60 by then and might not be up to doing all those things myself!

In the run up to my birthday, several people who didn't know my age expressed shock that I was going to be 40 - apparently I don't look anything like as old as that.  Thank you all you lovely people for saying that!  But on the other hand, a complete stranger thought I was OB's gran the other day.  I'm not sure whether that was because I look so old or because the average age of grannies is getting lower! 

However I look at it though, I'm going to be an older mummy, and if I want to be able to do all the lovely things I've planned to do when OB is 'old enough', then I'm going to have to do something to make sure that I can keep up with him.

So, maybe this will be enough motivation to finally get on with all those healthy lifestyle changes I've been thinking about for years - maybe!