Friday, March 24, 2017

Fists of Fire

"Wouldn't it be great to have a super power!" I said, as playfully as I could muster. "If you could have any super power, what would you choose?"

"Angry power," replied OB, in a tense growl. "And fire would shoot out from my fists."

It was nearly 11pm and we were having, shall we say, a tricky bedtime. Hoping to diffuse things a little, I had tried out a 'flight of fancy' distraction technique I read in a book recently.

I suppose it sort of worked. He stopped jumping around and quietened enough to give me hope that Birdy wouldn't be woken up just yet. But as he spoke, he was half standing, half crouching on the bed with his arms tense at his sides and his fists of fire clenched so tightly that the knuckles were white. Poised to pounce.

We are all familiar with that rush of adrenaline that accompanies real or imagined danger. For people who have experienced trauma, it can come unbidden and unwelcome at unexpected moments. For some children whose early lives have been marked by trauma and loss it can seem like an almost constant state, triggering the fight/fright/freeze response time after time.

OB experiences all three of these responses depending on the situation. When we're out and about around lots of people, I know that what could easily be interpreted as timidity or even stubbornness is actually 'freeze' in action as he makes himself smaller and smaller, and more and more invisible.

Yesterday in the park, 'flight' took hold as OB's nemesis - a small dog - presented an unbearable threat by running around in our vicinity. Wonderfully, OB actually ran straight to me on that occasion, literally jumping off the ground as he reached me and trying to climb up me, legs wrapped around mine. On other occasions, he has run in any and all directions, towards me, away from me, into people, into obstacles, into the road. Cats, birds, loud and sudden noises and many other things have the same effect.

And of course, there's our old friend, 'fight'. Angry-man the Superhero with Fists of Fire. I know what to do with freeze and flight - lots of reassurance, calm talking, gentle demeanour, empathy, presence and so on. I know that Angry-man needs the same. He pops up at the most inappropriate times, and behaves in surprising ways but, right now, he is some sort of dystopian super hero, there to protect OB against an enemy or enemies unseen, a foe long left behind. He's a throwback.

This is the final paragraph. I'm struggling to write it because I'd like to round this off with a neat solution or a pearl of wisdom or a smart analogy and my mind is blank. The thing is, I like a neat ending. Sometimes there isn't one.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

God Botherers

I had an interesting social media conversation recently about faith, or no faith, and adoption. There have been a few church-related threads going on where people have been talking about fitting their adoptive families into their churches. This caused one person to wonder whether atheist adopters were quite rare in comparison to Christian ones.

There certainly are a lot of Christian adopters on social media - at least among the group of people I regularly converse with. I tend to know who they are because mostly they announce it in their profile. I do. And others announce other things they consider to be significant features of themselves - single mum, single dad, a particular job, LGBT, and, yes, sometimes atheist.

It was an interesting and respectful conversation. A few other atheists weighed in so I felt glad that the original wonderer didn't feel alone. It was good - adopters sharing experiences and thoughts about beliefs. Adoption is what has brought us together. In many ways some of us probably have very little else in common. And yet we have managed to form a respectful community where differences can be explained and discussed. Pretty mature of us, eh?!

There was only one comment that didn't fit for me. It was a comment made by a person I don't know, and who is not part of regular adoption community conversations I have taken part in - a person who follows one of the participants but is not known to any of the others.

It was this:

"When I was on the panel, I always had concerns about the god botherers."

It's not the phrase "god botherers" that concerned me. That's so ... whatever. Like 'Bible bashers' it rolls off the duck's back.

No, It was the "When I was on the panel..." part. What panel? An adoption panel? Have I basically just read that a person who has responsibility for making recommendations about whether someone is suitable to adopt has blanket suspicions about all "god botherers" for no other reason than that they are religious people?

I let it go. Because you do. Because there's no point getting into a row with someone you don't know at all on the internet. But I do wonder that it's apparently fine to just casually say something like that. And the commenter didn't retract the statement upon realising that I was, in fact, a "god botherer" myself. (Actually he followed it up with a comment about my "imaginary friend" - so old hat, heard it all before mate.)

Don't get me wrong. I'm not offended. I didn't need to go to my 'safe space'. This is not a post about Christians being oppressed - I'm really not oppressed. This guy has an absolute right to think that what I believe is a load of old tosh and to say so on social media.

But when anybody lays themselves bare before an adoption panel, awaiting the judgement of strangers as to whether they might be permitted to become parents, they deserve a fair hearing based on their individual attributes, not coloured by anyone's blanket "concerns" about a particular characteristic they might happen to share with millions of others. I would hope we would all get that.

Friday, March 10, 2017

It's all gone quiet over here...

There has been a flurry of fostering-related activity here this week as my annual review is coming up next week. My supervising social worker called unexpectedly yesterday (statutory annual unannounced visit - tick!) to drop off the paperwork for me to sign.

There wasn't much of it. I've only fostered Birdy this year and that placement ended in August when the adoption order went through. None of the requested reports from other professionals have materialised, so there was only my social worker's report to read. Most of it is pretty much the same as last year's. And when I say "the same", I mean lifted word for word, complete with last year's dates. Then there's the paragraph that begins by talking about me, but ends with several sentences about a completely different fostering family. Cut and paste. Hey ho.

I signed it off anyway. I have a strong suspicion that these reports aren't always given the close attention they deserve and all end up in a filing cabinet somewhere. Let's see what the IRO says next week.

All of this has thrown into sharp relief how much quieter things have been around here since I asked for a six-month fostering break about six weeks ago. It's not so much the lack of social worker visits - she comes around once a month, so it's not so onerous. No, it's more the fact that I haven't spent a single moment of the past six weeks jumping when the phone rings, anxiously stretching my finances, and worrying about what will happen if the phone doesn't ring. I have been able to plan things. I have been in control about what will happen this week, next week, next month.

There is a new rhythm to our lives now. We're experiencing an ongoing period of adjustment. OB has voiced his disapproval about some aspects of it but I like this. I much prefer it when he uses words to express his disapproval! We seem to be settling into a routine that works for us for now.

It feels as though our lives belong to us again, and I can't deny that it's a good feeling.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

If I had a new Daddy...

The subject of OB's daddy comes up from time to time. He knows he had a first mummy before me. He knows her name and he's seen her picture. His first daddy is a bit more hazy. This is partly because it took him a lot longer to show any interest in his birth dad than his birth mum. It's also partly because his first daddy didn't show any interest in him either. He was a total no-show in his life, except for a 20 minute visit at the hospital shortly after he was born.

OB's six though now, and he notices a lot more, including how our family is the same as, and different to those of his friends. And so the other day, he asked why he doesn't have a daddy. We talked. I explained a few things. He seemed to understand, but still, he thinks he would quite like a daddy.

Apparently, a daddy would be useful for all sort of things. He would make the house "run a lot easier" because, for instance, he could take OB to things while I sat at home relaxing. Wouldn't I like that? Well, yes, as it happens, I would.

For the rest of the day, he thought of nothing else. He drew some pictures of our family, complete with hypothetical daddy, and asked me to save them so he could give them to new daddy when he appears in our lives. That evening, while skyping my parents, he confidently announced to them that we were "thinking of getting a new daddy".

And then this question about whether his new daddy would love him. I said of course he would. OB's response? "Why?"

What to answer? Maybe I overthink these things but the answers rarely seem straightforward to me. Perhaps I should say "Because all daddies love their children," but I think I'll be called out on that one. For all I see about how birth parents love their children (and in my experience they do) it's hard to make that case for a dad who saw his child once and thereafter steadfastly refused to accept that he was actually his dad, until a DNA test proved it. It's not a great track record in the dad department.

I was tempted by, "Because you're so lovely!", but then I wondered whether OB would get the impression that being loved depends on being lovely. No. He needs to know that I and other people in his life will love him no matter what.

In the end I went for, "Because I wouldn't let anybody be your daddy who didn't love you as much as I do." He went for it.

I'll be sure to update you on his continuing search for a daddy!