Saturday, 6 April 2013

The End

How many times have I “threatened” to end this blog? As you know, I have tried on at least two occasions. Every time I’ve ended up starting it again. Not this time. This really is the end of this blog (not the end of our adoption!). It seems appropriate to do it today, as today is exactly three years to the day we met Robbie.

I started this blog just over 5 years ago, on 8th March 2008. I did it to document what it was like to go through the adoption process, both in general and as a gay adopter in particular. As I said at the time, I had looked for similar accounts online and found nothing, and I thought it would be useful for other prospective adopters.

The blog became more successful than I ever imagined. Five years on, I’ve written over 850 posts. The blog has attracted over 63,000 visitors with 110,000 page views. It’s had readers from literally all over the world: UK, Mainland Europe, North and South America, Japan, Australia, Africa, the Middle East… from places where adoption is legal to places where being gay, let alone gay adoption, is illegal. As well as attracting gay prospective adopters, I was pleasantly surprised to find that many of my readers aren’t gay or lesbian: they are adopters or prospective adopters who realise the “gay thing” is only a small part of our adoption story (much more of an issue during approval and matching than later on through placement). I’ve published over 900 comments from amazing readers. Some were grateful that I was sharing my story and it served as an inspiration to them, which I couldn’t be more pleased about. Many have become online friends, whose support has been invaluable to me. Yes, there’s been a few negative comments but, if I’m honest, fewer than I thought I would get. And the blog was never featured on the Daily Mail, my biggest fear… : )

But I digress, as always. The few postings as we advanced through the process became more and more frequent as things progressed. Readers were genuinely pleased when we got through the approval panel, and even more so when we were matched with Robbie. The introductions period started a completely different chapter in the story, as it reflected the changes in our lives. I was so excited about it that I blogged every day, and the reader count shot through the roof. I got many comments from readers old and new celebrating such a special occasion.

So I kept on writing and ended up blogging about every single day of our lives for nearly two years. How I found the time, I just don’t know. It became a habit. My “mission” became to document the early days, and the milestones of adoption: getting to know Robbie, the adoption reviews…

My original plan was to stop on the day we went to court for our adoption celebration day, but by then our house had flooded and we'd had to move out. Robbie was in such a bad place, being violent at every opportunity, that I just didn’t want to end it there. I wanted to end on a high, positive note. Happy ever after. So I kept going. I thought I’d share how we got over all the bad stuff, and our fight for Therapy funding became the next stage. I also learnt a lot about parenting an adopted child, and hoped that others in a similar place would learn from our mistakes and our successes.

Now we’ve been seeing therapists (not counting the early attachment-focused counselling) for nearly a year. Robbie’s behaviour has changed somewhat, but the therapy has also made it very clear that there's a lot of work still left to be done. As I said on a previous post, my outlook has changed. And with it the motivation behind writing this blog. The whole point was to get to “the end”, the place where our lives became “normal” and there would be no point in writing about it anymore. Now I realise that for the last few months my posts have been an account of good days, bad days, and little or very slow progress. There’s no point in keeping the blog going: it’ll be an account of more good days and more bad days (hopefully more of the former than the latter) and it’ll just be a repetition of what everyone’s read before. There may be new reasons for the good or bad days, we may try this or that approach, but in the end it’ll be more of the same.

On many occasions I’ve received feedback from readers thanking me for my honesty. More and more, I think this blog must be putting more people off adoption than encouraging it. I want to make something clear: adoption is a wonderful thing. Gay adoption is a wonderful thing too. I have seen many many fantastic families not to believe so. One thing is obvious to me through my own experience and observation of others, though: adopting a younger child is a completely different experience than adopting an older child. I personally put the threshold of younger and older at 5 years old. Adopting an older child has its advantages: no nappies is the obvious one! : ) The children can speak and communicate what they’re thinking (if they choose to). They’re over the terrible twos (although maybe not emotionally). They have some sort of understanding of their past, remember being in care and look forward to being adopted. But their trauma level is so high. I see it in adopters’ get-togethers. I hear it from fellow adopters. I follow other adopters’ blogs: many of those where an older child was adopted didn’t end well. I know of two where the placement disrupted. Others went offline, and I never knew their fate. Some still report huge struggles many years after the children moved in. If you adopt an older child you don’t only become a parent, you become a therapist. You are “on call” 24/7. You’re not allowed to make mistakes. I’m not saying “don’t adopt an older child”. I’m saying “be prepared”. And if you think you’re prepared, think again. Read more. Talk to people. Make sure you’ve got the full picture. Get support in place.

I do not regret adopting Robbie. Ok, it hasn’t quite turned out the way I hoped it might, but he’s my son. Some people have children with disabilities, or children who suffer from terrible illnesses. We have a child full of trauma. But also a child who’s capable of loving, most importantly, and many other wonderful things. I love him more than words could ever communicate. We have a lot of work ahead of us. But it'll all be worth it if Robbie learns to make and keep friends, is able to hold a job (I frankly don't mind if he gets a PhD or stacks shelves in a supermarket as long as he's happy), manages and keeps a relationship that is not abusive and eventually has children who won't get hurt, therefore breaking the circle of violence that's been going through his family for generations. For that he'll have to learn to trust others, to love himself, and let go of the past. We'll be there for him as long as he allows us to. We're not giving up.

There’s another reason for wanting to end this blog: privacy is an issue that has bugged me a lot throughout these past few years. I was very silly to use our real names. It never occurred to me that I’d regret it one day. And even though I use a pseudonym for Robbie, there’s still the moral issue of sharing his behaviour, hopes and fears with the world. They are private and should remain so.

In addition, Robbie's learning to use the Internet more and more. He may one day hear about this blog. If he does, I hope he realises that I've never ever given away his real name, our location, or told people who actually know us about it. There's a few fellow adopters whom we've met through New Family Social and read this blog, but none of the people (family, friends) we knew before we started the adoption process or the parents we've met through Robbie's school know about it. I also hope he realises how much it's helped me (and therefore him indirectly) and, from the feedback I get, others too.

I will delete this blog in the near future. I’m not doing it straight away as I know some of the regular readers don’t read it that often, and I want to give everyone the opportunity to catch up.

I want my final words to acknowledge my wonderful readers one more time. You’ve been amazing. You’ve given me strength when I was down. You’ve brought humour, support, advice… you’ve seen me through terrible times and celebrated the good ones. You’ve been friends and my emotional tissues. Thank you so very much. I shall really miss you. Like good old Holden Cauldfield said: “Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody”.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

We survived Mother's Day!

So, today was Mother's Day. Every year Robbie feels duty-bound to miss his birth mother and be miserable all day because of it, so, knowing that he's not really aware of when it actually happens, we didn't mention it at all. In fact, to avoid going out and seeing signs on shop windows etc., I declared today a "pyjama day". We didn't get dressed at all and had a lazy day watching TV and playing games. Glen rang his mum while Robbie was in another room (I didn't ring mine because Mother's Day in Spain falls on the first Sunday in May) and Robbie never knew about it. We had a lovely day (we've actually had a very good week except for "homework wars" yesterday).

We've not quite got over the whole Mother's Day thing as there'll be preparations going on at school for the Mother's Day assembly on Wednesday, but at least we're over the worst. On Wednesday Robbie won't go to school (as agreed with the school) and we'll have a day out instead. So who knows? Maybe this year we'll get off lightly.

BTW: The Observer carried a piece on Mother's Day for gay parents today. It even included a quote from yours truly. Fame at last! ; )

One less fairy* in our household

Robbie lost a tooth tonight. It had been wobbly for a few days and it finally came off just as he was going to bed. As he mentioned that he should be getting a pound for it, I innocently asked who'd be giving him that pound. He looked at me sheepishly and said "the tooth fairy?" I returned the look and he said "actually, I know it's you". I said that I thought he might know and that's why I'd asked him. I added that he's grown up enough now to know that the tooth fairy doesn't exist and he nodded. He almost looked as though he was letting me down in a "I'm growing up and not your little boy anymore" sort of way. It was very sweet.

I'm fairly sure he knows about Santa and the Three wise men too. I guess we'll be having that conversation in due course. He really is growing up and not our little boy anymore!

[*note: I don't condone the use of the word "fairy" to refer to gay men by non-gay people. My use of the word here is meant to be humorous. It's a bit like the n-word, which I'd never use but those who can be referred to with it sometimes use to refer to themselves, taking ownership of it. So there, I'm not being politically incorrect, just taking ownership of the word. Clarification over.]

Saturday, 2 March 2013

I dreamed a dream

Family life’s not been easy lately. Robbie’s been all over the place for the last few weeks. We’ve had lovely days and also terrible ones. As a consequence I’ve also been all over the place: enjoying his company one day, despairing the next. Despairing about his future, his ability to control his anger, his ability to form relationships…

And then I had a bit of an awakening. I’ve realised I can’t keep on living like this. I’ve done a lot of soul searching and concluded that the reason I despair when Robbie explodes, hits, kicks, punches etc. is that every time he does any of those things he shatters even more the dream I had when we started the adoption process of what our family life would be like once we adopted. It’s been nearly three years now. For the last 2 years and 11 months I’ve been telling myself that we’d get over whatever trauma, behaviour, anxiety… that we’d find a way to get through it all and at last we’d reach our happy ending. Now I realise that happy ever after is not coming any time soon. It may never come. At least not in the way I imagined it.

I was so naïve. We brought a heavily traumatised boy into our home (although we didn’t realise the extent of his trauma at first) and therefore brought trauma into our lives. We tried everything we could. We keep on trying. But it’s so hard, so often. The violence doesn’t help at all, of course. There are days when I remind myself that 9 year-olds are a handful for every parent, and everyone gets through it. Hell, we’ve got the teenage years to come, and God help us with that! But I know an adopted child is not like any other child. Yes, to a large extent Robbie’s behaviour is like many other 9 year olds’. But other kids haven’t suffered the trauma he has suffered. Other kids don’t believe themselves undeserving of love and blame themselves for what happened in their early lives. Other kids don’t doubt that the parents they live with love them unconditionally, or fear that one day those parents will disappear, like everyone else in their past: birth parents, foster carers, siblings...

So, even though I’ve been fighting not to, I’ve finally accepted that this life of unpredictability IS our life. That Robbie may never get over his trauma. Certainly not in the next few years. To protect myself from feeling down every time our future seems less and less like the happy family life I pictured, I must adjust that picture. We live with a heavily traumatised boy. We love him very much, but he’s very difficult to live with. The best way I can describe my frame of mind is to compare it to having a child with a disability. Nobody hopes for a disabled child, but many parents have to learn to live with one. I need to accept Robbie’s emotional/behavioural disability and adjust my expectations accordingly. A parent of a wheelchair user wouldn’t expect their son to run a marathon, just like a parent of a mentally handicapped child would not expect their child to get a PhD. Likewise, I can’t expect Robbie to let go of his trauma and the way he feels. I can hope for progress, albeit slow. But just like sometimes we take a few steps forward, sometimes we also take a few steps back.

Although this may seem very negative, I think it’s for the best. A pessimist is never disappointed. I think this attitude is helping me cope with his blow-ups a lot better than I have in the past. I see them as an expression of his “disability”, and therefore easier to accept and deal with. Hopefully they’ll also help me to be less disappointed when they happen. If I don’t feel the disappointment maybe Robbie will be able to feel less like a disappointment himself.

Just because I think it’s for the best doesn’t mean that it’s easy. Ever since I had this change of outlook I’ve also been feeling very low. I recognise that as a grieving process. Grieving for the family life I’d imagined: my naïve happy ever after. But I’ll get over the grief and accept the situation. Maybe I should have done this months or even years ago. Maybe this way I’ll also learn to really enjoy the many good times that lie ahead.

Dan Hughes says that one of the main thing that needs to happen in his PACE approach is acceptance. I thought I was accepting of Robbie’s behaviour, but now I see I wasn’t really. Maybe this is true acceptance. I now must accept Robbie as he is, with his trauma, his disability. This acceptance, however, doesn’t mean that I won’t keep on trying to have as many good and positive times as we can. “I dreamed a dream in time gone by…” The dream I had is gone. I now wake up to reality.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Thank you

A few days ago I received a series of comments from an anonymous reader. She was adopted and had a very hard time of it. She thoroughly recommends 'Trauma Release Exercises' (Google and youTube it for more information) to help deal with trauma and anger. I've only had a brief look so far, but I wanted to acknowledge her message and thank her here.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Things keep improving

We’ve had quite a good few days lately. Robbie’s being a lot less defiant with me and seems to have calmed down. This has allowed me to calm down too. One hiccup was our own “Valentine’s Day Massacre”. What a day that was! Robbie didn’t want to take any cards to school (fair enough) but came back with four cards from four different girls! He also came back rather upset because the rough boy in his class (the one who called him names a few weeks ago) punched him in the eye after Robbie made a comment about a girl the other boy fancies. Then one of the girls who’d given Robbie a card actually defended the other boy, whom she’s decided she likes better than Robbie. Big Drama! It’s like a soap opera in that school. And they’re 9. Robbie, as was to be expected, took all this out on me that evening. But I was quite prepared and managed to avoid the issue escalating into a full-blown incident at home. I haven’t taken the news of the punching lightly, by the way: the Head Teacher is looking into the incident after I emailed my concerns.

In the meantime we’re halfway through half term and we’ve been doing a few activities (one day out to visit a castle, playdates with friends…), but nothing too exciting.

We’ve also had contact with Robbie’s siblings. Robbie became very distressed the day before, worried that his siblings may not like him anymore, but as soon as he saw them he was absolutely fine. They played together for 4 hours before the time came to say goodbye. Usually there’s some sort of fallout the evening after contact or the following day, but this time Robbie’s been fine so far.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Tarzan: the ultimate successful adoptee?

We watched Disney’s 1997 adaptation of Tarzan the other day with Robbie. I hadn’t given the story any thought before we rented the DVD, but as we watched it dawned on me what a wonderful example of successful adoption the story is.

Tarzan is, as everyone knows, brought up by a gorilla after his parents die in the jungle. In the Disney film, the young Tarzan struggles with being “different” to all the other young gorillas. He also feels that the tribe leader is disappointed in him for not being like them and Tarzan feels the need to prove himself to him as he doesn’t think he’s good enough. As a grown-up he discovers other humans and how not all of them are good. Tarzan has to make a choice between going to “civilisation” with the other humans (where he thinks he should belong) and staying with those he has grown up with.

The film provides a great opportunity to discuss some adoption issues as part of the story rather than as a “let’s talk about adoption” conversation. I thoroughly recommend it. Oh, and the song “You’ll be in my heart” echoes the feelings of adopters very well. 

Monday, 11 February 2013

Back to “normal”

Things have got better. Well, they couldn’t get much worse, could they? Last Friday I had a chat with Robbie and told him that I appreciated the effort he was making not to let his anger get to him. We all know it’s a matter of time until he hits me again and I didn’t want him to be living in fear of what might happen, so I also told him that even though I have faith in him, if he should ever hit me it won’t mean that I will automatically leave the family as a consequence.

At the weekend, homework brought with it a whole load of screaming and a complete refusal to do it. We tried distraction, doing in it short bits, putting it off, helping… but Robbie was not to be moved. In the end he exploded and insulted both Glen and me, and he also threw a toy at me. He lost his iPod and DS as a consequence only this time, instead of the usual strategy of returning them the following day, we told Robbie he’d have to earn them back by doing “good deeds”, such as helping around the house. Poor cinde-Robbie had to do such horrible things as tidying up his bedroom, folding washing and setting the table to earn some points. No wonder he hates us.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Leaving home

What a difference a few days make. I intended to write a post on Thursday afternoon, but never found the time. I was going to write about how last Monday we had a therapy session during which we talked about violence, how both Robbie and I felt about it, and how we’d tried to find something to dissipate it. Glen was away on a work trip for all of last week, so we knew this was a potentially difficult week. Robbie was a complete angel from Monday, really trying hard to be good while Glen was away. I was very proud of him. I also tried very hard to make sure I explained why I was asking him to do this or that, and to keep the tone of my voice soft.

If I had posted this last Thursday, it would have reflected well how we were doing. I was feeling much more positive about our relationship, and I thought we might have turned a corner after the past weeks. But then on Thursday evening Robbie hit me because I wouldn’t allow him to watch a second episode of a cartoon he likes to watch. It was 50 minutes after his usual bedtime, and we’d made a deal about being allowed to watch one episode while he had his milky drink and a biscuit. I was cross and disappointed after all the effort we’d made during the week.

Things got a lot worse on Friday. Glen came back from his trip and we were set for a nice dinner together after being apart for a week. Then Robbie got cross and Glen, tired after a long flight home, didn’t react very well. This only made Robbie angrier. I got caught in the crossfire. I went upstairs to see what was going on and Robbie directed his anger at me. He shoved me just as I’d got to the top of the stairs. I lost my balance and had to grip the banister to avoid falling down. Seeing this, Robbie shoved me again. The first time he shoved me had been a show of anger. The second one was meant to make me fall downstairs. I got very angry and I just couldn’t take any more of it. I told Robbie that every human being has a right to live in a safe environment where nobody hurts them. I said that when he was little he was removed from his birth parents’ home because of this. But now I was the one who wasn’t safe at home, and because of this I had to remove myself. With that I picked up my car keys and left.

I sat in the car for quite a while, shaking and unsure what to do next. I ended up going to the house of our friends who are also adopters. We had a good chat until late. I then went back home and talked to Glen. He told me Robbie had blamed himself for splitting the family up, certain that I would never come back. I told Glen to tell Robbie that I would only come back if Robbie apologised, asked me back because he wanted me home, and promised not to hit me ever again.

I couldn’t face seeing Robbie in the morning. I also thought he should realise that his actions have consequences, so I slept on the sofa and crept out of the house first thing in the morning, before Robbie got up. A few hours later Glen got in touch and said Robbie was ready to talk to me. We met on neutral ground (I didn’t want to go to the house until we’d talked) and Robbie gave me a letter in which he apologised, said he wanted me back, and said he’d “try” not to hit me. I told him how much I appreciated his letter and thanked him for it, but added that just “trying” not to hit me wasn’t enough. I wanted him to promise he wouldn’t do it again. Robbie doesn’t think that he’s able to stop hitting me, so he refused to promise. In his defence, he was very honest about it. Unfortunately that wasn’t enough for me, so I said we’d talk again when he was ready to promise. Glen told Robbie to say goodbye to me. Robbie interpreted this as a “final goodbye” and broke down in tears. He hugged me tight and promised he’d never hit me again. I thanked him, acknowledged how hard it must have been, and said I was very pleased that he had said that, as I really wanted to come home.

We had lunch out and did a few things to keep us distracted. In the evening we watched a film together and had a good bedtime routine. Sunday was a good day too: jobs around the house, out to play with a friend of Robbie’s, games at home and a nice dinner.

I know my reaction on Friday evening was hardly conducive to attachment, yet I really couldn’t take any more. I’m not sure what’ll happen when he hits me next. Because I’m not fooling myself, it’s not a question of “if” but “when”. Robbie knows this too (he said as much yesterday). Hopefully it’ll take a long time and things will have settled again. Then I may be able to communicate to him that hitting me is a blip after a long while without hitting and that I believe he can have another long period without doing it. Fingers crossed, as ever.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Gay bullying

Despite our fears and worries as we went through the approval process, and later on when we were matched, we've never really had a negative reaction to being gay parents. Neither had Robbie for having gay dads. However, this has changed. A new boy joined Robbie's school this year. He's a troubled boy who's been kicked out of just about every other school in the area. Robbie told us the other day that this boy's been saying that Robbie must be gay because he's got gay parents. A couple of other boys have apparently started doing it too, following the example of this other boy.

We had a chat with the parents of one of the other boys. They've become friends of ours since Robbie joined school and I had to delicately approach the matter with them. They were great and didn't take it the wrong way. They were mortified when they heard what their son had been saying and soon had a chat with him and made it very clear that he's not to say that again.

Robbie has struggled with it though. He wasn't able to tell us for some time, and it only came out in the middle of one of his outbursts, when he was making a point about how horrible his life is and how us being his parents only makes things worse. He said he never wanted gay dads and he hates that we adopted him. He hates being different, and just wants to be "normal".

Research into gay and lesbian parenting has shown that our kids are likely to be bullied because of having gay parents. They aren't any more likely to be bullied, it's just that that's the things that bullies will pick on. So our job as gay parents is to prepare Robbie for it and make sure he knows how to deal with it. Boys his age just want to fit in, so we understand where he's coming from. If it wasn't because he had gay dads there'd be another reason for other boys to pick on him. In fact we know that he's been teased before, and the nasty boy in his class accused him of making up his adoption story and that it was a lie that he didn't have a mum and dad. We explained to Robbie that he isn't like everyone else. Yes, having two dads is different, but being adopted is also different. And being left-handed. And many other things. We also explained that one of the reasons he was placed with two men was because his social workers thought he might find it difficult to form a relationship with a new mum because of the horrible things his own birth mother did to him. Of course, Robbie's not mature enough to understand much of this. He just wants to be like like everyone else.

We did however come up with a strategy if he ever gets told that he must be gay because he has gay dads: if someone does, he will reply that that boy must be half boy / half girl, seeing as he has a mum and a dad. Same logic! Robbie liked this, and was glad to have something that he can fall back on.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

The three year pattern

In the middle of one of his outburst the other day, Robbie screamed that he knows that he'll have to leave our home soon. He turned 9 in December, and it will be three years in April since he came to live with us. He knows he stayed with his birth parents for three years, then spent three years in care before coming to us age 6. He's spotted the pattern and is convinced that it'll soon be time to go. Nothing we say seems to convince him otherwise. This may be a big part of the cause for his recent behaviour. We think he's finding it so stressful to "know" that he's leaving but not knowing when that he wants to make it happen. Because it's "better" or maybe easier to know than to live with the tension of the unknown. It's terribly sad to see him struggle so much with it, yet very difficult to cope with his attempts to do something so bad that he'll finally be kicked out.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

The human punchbag

Towards the end of December the violence started again in our house. It all began because I caught Robbie playing with his iPod way after his bedtime. He tried to lie his way out of it and only made things worse. I remained calm, which frustrated him, and he lost it. He became quite aggressive and, seeing that I was not rising to it, he kicked me very hard in the groin. It hurt. A lot. I was bent over double in pain for a few minutes, unable to move. Robbie has hit me many times before, but its rare that he actually hurts me. When he saw me on the floor he panicked. He ran out of the house, full of shame for what he'd done and as he did so, he tripped and hurt his hand. Glen managed to bring him in. Robbie was hysterical. He was saying that he is like his birth mother and he hurts people. It was very hard to convince him otherwise, since it was obvious how much he'd hurt me. I tired to reconnect with him, but he was so ashamed that he couldn't bear to hear me say that I still loved him regardless, and kept telling me to leave him alone and how much he hated me.

Since then things have been very difficult. Robbie is completely stressed out in my presence. He takes everything I say or do as a criticism, and reacts angrily towards it. We had a break from this for four days when we travelled to Spain for epiphany. He stayed at my brother's almost every night and played with his cousins every day. He also loved getting presents from the Three Wise Men, of course. But as soon as we returned home, the anger flared up again. The pattern keeps repeating: he'll take something I say or do as a criticism, get angry and start becoming aggressive. Because I refuse to rise to it and manage to keep calm (and most importantly don't hit him back, which is the response he wants from me - like it used to be with his birth parents) he keeps increasing the level of aggression until I have to restrain him to keep both me and him from getting hurt (on one occasion he was dangling from the upstairs bannister to get me to react). When I restrain him he accuses me of hurting him, therefore completing the vicious circle.

Glen does his best to contain Robbie, but most of the outbursts happen when he's not around. Robbie's also had a couple of angry moments with him, but nowhere near the level of the ones he has with me, and without violence. I'm finding it very hard to cope with this. I return to the house from work full of dread. Something inevitably happens most days. He takes everything out on me. Recently he became very angry and started having a go. I asked what was going on and he said someone had annoyed him at school. I said I was sorry to hear that and then added that what I didn't understand was why he was taking it out on me. He didn't have an answer.

Robbie's also begun to carry his anger through to the following day. We've always been very good at starting each day afresh, and although I greet him every morning with a nice smile to show him I bear no grudge, he often refuses to cuddle me or give me a kiss. According to his teacher he's also become quite defiant at school, which he's never done before.

I'm struggling, and finding it harder and harder to be around him. I feel like a victim of domestic violence, and it's not nice.

Friday, 25 January 2013


We had a good Christmas Day. Robbie woke up at 5, opened one of his stocking fillers and went back to sleep until 9 am. His godparents were staying with us and we spent the day together, opening presents in stages as we went through breakfast, bath, etc. Robbie loved his presents and we played with some of them throughout the day. He had a couple of sad moments when his godparents weren't in the room, saying he was missing his mummy. But even as the evening went on and he got tired he managed to stay calm. When we put him to bed he told us it had been a horrible day, though. He'd probably felt quite sad at times and managed to keep it together for the sake of his godparents, but it was quite sad to hear him say it.

Things changed on Boxing Day. Robbie couldn't hold it for the whole day and became very defiant as the day wore on. I left the house to drop a present off at a friends's and when I got back I found Glen and Robbie looking at Robbie's life story book, which Robbie had brought out. He was telling Glen that he's very confused about the way he feels about his birth mother: he hates her for what she did, but also loves her and misses her. He also said something that he'd never mentioned before. His birth mother had told him not to talk about what had been going on in their household or he'd be taken away. I'm sure she said that at the time when the police and social services were looking into the case that eventually led to his removal from his birth parents, but Robbie thought that it was still the case, and if he talked about the things that went on he'd be taken away from us. It also made him feel guilty, because he was indeed taken away, so he assumed it was his fault. Who knows? Maybe now that we've cleared that one up, he may be more open to talking about his past with the therapists. Maybe not.

Best intentions...

25th January and I still haven't even blogged about Christmas. Will do something to catch up, promise.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Wizards Vs Aliens – not safe for the traumatised child

(c) CBBC

Being back in the UK and on holiday from school and work meant that we had time for the family to spend time together. One of the things we did was to watch a few episodes of Wizards Vs Aliens we’d yet to catch up with. The series was broadcast on CBBC, so it’s aimed at kids, and written by Russell T. Davies of Doctor Who (among other many shows) fame. We’d watched the first few episodes of the series, about a young wizard and his geek mate who fight against aliens trying to “eat” magic, together and enjoyed them.

A couple of days before Christmas, Robbie kept getting out of bed, complaining of a (clearly non-existent) tummy ache. After putting him back to bed twice, I mentioned that sometimes tummies ache because of an emotion that’s inside us rather than something we’ve eaten. I wondered out loud if that might be the reason why his tummy ached. Robbie nodded. He said there was something bothering him, but he didn’t want to tell me as it would hurt my feelings. After I explained that whatever it was it was more important to share his feelings than to hide them, he opened up and told me that he was worried that he may kill us one day. I empathised with what a horrible worry that must be. Then I made the connection with a Wizards Vs Aliens storyline in which it’s revealed that Jackson, a teenage “rebel wizard”, killed his parents in a moment of anger (it’s later revealed that he didn’t actually kill them, though). I asked Robbie if his fear was connected to the TV programme; he said yes and broke down in tears. Robbie feels so bad about the times when he’s violent and can’t control his anger and worries (as I also do when I’m feeling low) that he will continue to hurt me when he’s older and stronger. I told him that he’s a good boy and he’s been controlling his anger better lately. I also reminded him that the TV show is fictional. Finally, I reminded him that that’s the reason why we go to therapy, so we can all learn to understand each other and to control his violence. I felt so bad for the poor little thing. He was truly worried.

A week later the TV series was responsible for another crisis. The final two episodes, which we watched over Christmas, deal with the reappearance of the main character’s mother. Everyone thought she’d been dead for years, but it turned out she’d been kidnapped by the aliens. Tom, the main character, suddenly sees her on the street and his life is turned upside down by her reappearance. That evening, Robbie told us he was worried that his birth mother would find him and she’d suddenly appear in the street like Tom’s had. We explained to him, like we have many times before, that she doesn’t know where we live and that she’s not looking for him; and that even if she turned up we are his parents now and have all the legal rights. He was somewhat reassured, but clearly shaken by the fear that he may be found by his birth parents.

New York

Last December we were booked on a trip to New York just before Christmas, but Robbie broke his arm and we had to cancel the trip. As soon as we could, we re-booked for this December. Robbie was convinced that something would go wrong again this year, but thankfully that wasn’t the case and we managed to get to our departure date without breaking any bones (and that’s despite an ice-skating trip a few days earlier!).

The flight was fine and, after an 80-minute queue at customs when we landed, Robbie wasn’t questioned by the officials the way he was when we went to Canada. We spent five lovely days with hardly any upsets. We were in a great hotel near Times Square which was very handy. On the first night Robbie woke up at 2 am ready to start his day. I heard him and had to point out the time, and thankfully he was able to go to sleep until the morning. I didn’t, and spent the whole trip completely jetlagged.

Robbie was curious about seeing the city and all the sights, and it was a pleasure to take him everywhere that we could fit in: Central Park, The Statue of Liberty, Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, The Empire State Building... We went to a show and of course did some shopping; his favourite shop was FAO Schwarz, the toy store (and yes, we did play on the giant piano). Robbie wrote his letter to Santa and we posted it at Macy’s. He made sure that he wrote “England” under his name so that Santa wouldn’t think that he had to deliver his presents in New York.

Robbie even had his picture taken with some real New York cops, one of whom let him wear his cop hat. We also ate rather well and tried lots of different restaurants (New York Deli, Pizza, Barbeque ribs, Oriental…). We were all sad to have to leave as we’d had a lovely time, but Christmas was just around the corner, which provided something else to look forward to.

Friday, 11 January 2013


Despite Robbie fearing that his birthday party would be a disaster and nobody would turn up (ever the optimist), it actually was very good. We’d booked 9 guests plus Robbie for two Laser Quest games. Everyone came and they had a blast (literally). Afterwards they had something to eat, Robbie blew the candles as everyone sang Happy Birthday to him, and his guests went home happy after nearly two hours of activity, crap food and plenty of sugar. When we got home Robbie opened his presents and we made a note of which present came from whom so we could do thank you cards at a later date. His actual birthday was a couple of days later. Glen’s mum came to stay with us for three days and he enjoyed having her around. He loved his presents and enjoyed the day.

I was very pleased that we’d managed a good birthday weekend. The following day, however, when I asked him to write thank-you cards for everyone who had given him a present, he refused. Soon enough he lost it altogether and became very aggressive towards me, which surprised me as Glen’s mum was still staying with us and he normally tries to control himself in front of her. She had a quiet word with him later, and told him he mustn’t speak to me or act violently towards me. This seemed to do the trick and thankfully his aggressiveness didn’t spill over to the following days.

Catching up

Despite my best intentions I haven’t managed to catch up with myself, let alone this blog. I’m going to try to do so in the next few days. There’s a lot to write about! I honestly have no idea how I used to do this on a daily basis – where did I find the time?

Friday, 28 December 2012

Must do better

I know! No updates for ages. Apologies. Have a lot to write about and I promise to get on with it soon. In the meantime I hope everyone had a nice Christmas.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Therapy review

We had a review of our therapy progress a few days ago. You may have noticed I've not been reporting on therapy lately. This is because the post-adoption support agency we're working with read my comments on this blog (I had to disclose I was writing it as part of the confidentiality agreement) and didn't feel able to continue with our work unless I stopped reporting on what Robbie says during the sessions. They think it's a breach of confidentiality, so I agreed not to. This is why I can report on the review, because Robbie wasn't present. Anyway, the therapists thought we were making progress in some areas, particularly attachment, but there were others that will need further work, such as Robbie's low self-esteem and his need to be self-reliant, sometimes unable to trust.

It's now been agreed that we won't continue with the SAI, which is a relief. The therapists have made arrangements so that we can use some of the funding that had been originally allocated for it to fund further DDP work, which is great. We find it much more useful.

The other thing that the therapists mentioned was the run up to Robbie's birthday in a few days, and of course Christmas. They stressed how difficult this time is for adopted children, and that the best strategy we can use is to lower our expectations to avoid disappointment. Certainly I'd rather not have a similar experience to last year's, when Robbie was so focused on what he couldn't have (his birth family) that he was unable to enjoy what he did have. This is our third Christmas together and for the first time we're having guests, Robbie's godparents, stay with us. We're hoping they'll be a distraction and Robbie won't sink into a low mood. There, I've done it again, haven't I? Hoping for a good and peaceful day when we've been told to lower our expectations. Well, they do say hope is the last thing that dies...

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Speeding up recovery time

An area where we seem to be making progress lately is the time it takes us to get back to "normal" after a bad episode. It used to be the case that when Robbie felt misunderstood / scared / ashamed he'd stay with the feeling for days on end, as did the behaviours that helped him to externalise those feelings. We had a couple of rough days with Robbie this week and, after the relative calm we've had lately, it was scary to see how quickly things seemed to be spiralling towards his old feelings and habits (screaming, hitting, swearing...).

After a huge eruption on Thursday evening, Robbie took himself upstairs and warned us not to go up to try to talk to him. We let him be for 20 minutes and after that he came downstairs ready to apologise. He still blamed me for everything that hadn't gone his way (that would be a change too far, let's not run before we can walk), but he had calmed down enough to have a conversation about what happened and be somewhat rational. Afterwards we had a nice bedtime and he's been fine since.

Another area where I thought I detected a small amount of progress this week was in his understanding of consequences. He missed out on going to Cubs on Thursday because of the way he'd behaved and the things he'd said. Later, when we were discussing the events after he'd calmed down, Robbie went into his default understanding of event through the filter of shame: he didn't deserve to go to Cubs because he's bad. I explained for the umpteenth time that we don't think he's bad, but his behaviour had been such that it had warranted a consequence, on this occasion not being taken to Cubs. This explanation is usually met by the "well I did the bad behaviour so I must be bad" reply, but it didn't come this time. Instead he allowed me to explain further and I thought I caught a glimpse of understanding in his eyes. Maybe it was there, maybe it was wishful thinking. After all, just like Robbie had quickly reverted to old habits during the week, so had I: thinking that I couldn't cope, getting stressed, losing sleep, losing hope about his future... Still, we both seem to have overcome this bump, and it feels good.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

A wonderful holiday… and a horrible return to the UK

Our holiday in Canada was brilliant. Glen had to work and while he was in the office Robbie and I visited the sights in Ottawa, a kids’ museum, and did some shopping. Glen would join us in the evening for more fun activities. We all went to Montreal for the day and then to Niagara Falls for Glen’s birthday. It was amazing. We had a room on the 25th floor of the hotel nearer the falls with fantastic views of both the American Falls and the Horseshoe Falls. We also went behind the falls, as close as you can get, where the sound of the water was all you could hear.

Getting close to Niagara Falls
On the last day we went to the airport. Glen was continuing his journey to the USA for another week of work there, and Robbie and I were due to catch our flight back to the UK. We got to the airport three and a half hours before departure and went to check in. At the desk they told us that the flight was oversold, and Robbie was on standby. I pointed out that it made no sense to give me a seat but leave an 8-year-old boy on standby. They reassured me that it would not be a problem and to make our way to the gate. After several enquiries at the gate and as time went on and they started to board the flight, it became clear that we would not be getting on. They said they might be able to squeeze Robbie in, but we wouldn't sit together. Robbie panicked at the thought of not sitting with me, and in the end I had to give up my seat on the plane. I had to call a number to rebook to another flight for the following morning. They told me that they could reallocate Robbie, but not me as I was never on standby and I’d voluntarily given up my seat! After an hour of calls and getting customer services involved, they finally agreed to rebook us. The only problem then was that because of all the cancelled and re-routed flights because of Hurricane Sandy, there were no available seats on any of the direct flights, so we’d have to take two planes instead. We went to a hotel (by the time we’d sorted all of this out it was already midnight) and had a few hours’ sleep before making our way back to the airport for 7 am. They put us on a flight to Edmonton (a 4-hour flight in the wrong direction) and then we had to wait a further 6 hours before catching a flight that took a lot longer to get to the UK because we’d gone so much further west. In the end landed 25 hours after our original arrival time. The whole thing was ridiculous. In case you’re wondering, the company was Air Canada. Avoid at all costs!

Once home, it didn’t take long for Robbie to get very grumpy. He’d had very little sleep and soon enough there was a violent incident over nothing. The rest of the week has been difficult. I’ve been jetlagged and caught a cold, so my patience and attitude towards Robbie’s challenging behaviour haven’t been my best. But we’ve finally made it to the weekend and Glen will be back tomorrow. I’ve told him he’s in charge for the rest of the week so I can get some rest!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

It’s officially a marriage, but children of gay parents still face difficulties in Spain

Soon after the law that allows gay marriage in Spain was passed in Spain under the socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in 2005, the conservative party, supported by the catholic bishops’ synod, challenged the law, calling it anti-constitutional. When the conservative party gained power last year there were fears among gay organisations that they’d manage to overturn the law as current conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is still against gay marriage. Yesterday evening, after 7 years, the Constitutional Court upheld the validity of the law, and in particular the fact that the word “marriage” applies to all unions, be it of man and woman or two people of the same sex. This is very good news, especially for the 22,000 gay and lesbian couples who have married since the law was passed (us among them).

The vast majority of people in Spain are generally supportive of the law and the many gay and lesbian couples who have chosen to marry. Some institutions, however, have had trouble accepting this. Sadly, on the very same day the law was upheld, El País reports on a gay couple whose son was denied a place in a local school. The school claimed they didn’t have a place available for the child. However, when a few days later just one of the men in the couple applied for a place for the same boy (without mentioning his husband), he was offered one. They have now reported the school and a legal process has been started to challenge them. I certainly hope they win and it sets a precedent for other schools. The article (in Spanish) is here.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Invisible Parents

Watch this:

Now watch this:

And now go here and sign the petition, please.

Thank you.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Expressing feelings with words

We're in shock. No, it's not the crappy weather here in Canada (Glen got out of New York two days before Sandy hit). It's the fact that Robbie has on two occasions expressed his feelings using words rather than actions in the last few days.

On the first occasion we'd gone into a shoe shop and found a pair of shoes that he really liked. Unfortunately, they didn't have them in his size. He looked at others, but wasn't keen. Then he came to find me (I was a little further away trying on a pair of shoes myself) and said "I'm frustrated because they don't have my size". You could have knocked me sideways with a feather. I empathised with the frustration and followed that with a big "we'll done" for describing his feeling to me rather than externalising it in some other way. Robbie seemed pleased to get this feedback.

On the second occasion we'd told Robbie we'd take him for a swim in the hotel pool. He'd been looking forward to it all afternoon, but we spent the evening sightseeing at the other end of the city and it got too late. When we got back to the hotel he had a face like thunder. I was expecting a big scene, but instead he turned to me and said he was angry about not being able to go to the pool. I empathised and told him how sorry I was that we'd not been able to make it. I then suggested that maybe rather than angry he might be very frustrated. He stopped to think about it and agreed that the feeling he felt was frustration rather than anger. After a promise to go to the pool first thing the next morning, he calmed down and got on with it (we kept our promise and took him to the pool twice the following day).

I'm not suggesting that Robbie will be able to express his feelings with words rater than actions every time from now on, but it's a very promising development and something we will keep encouraging him to do.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Aren't you a little short for a Stormtrooper?

Our first ever Halloween this side of the Atlantic! We could hardly go around knocking on the doors down our hotel corridor, but luckily there was a street event and We went trick or treating there Robbie got a fair amount of "candy" and even a few small toys!

After he'd changed out of his costume we encountered a Stormtrooper, and just had to have a picture taken with him. He even let Robbie wear his helmet! Once the guy had removed his helmet and I saw how cute he was, I was rather jealous that it wasn't me he had his arm around. : )

A very exciting Halloween for all of us.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012


After much anticipation, the day we'd been waiting for all week finally arrived. We took the coach to the airport, checked in, had something to eat and boarded the plane to Canada. We encountered a couple of hiccups: at first we were given separate seats, but they sorted that out at the gate without problems. The second hiccup was that if travelling to Canada alone with a child you're supposed to have a letter from the child's other parent giving permission to travel. I didn't. I had all of Robbie's adoption papers and explained that we were actually travelling to join Robbie's other dad, though, and thankfully we were allowed on the plane.

The 8-hour flight was fine. Robbie enjoyed having a whole entertainment system to himself and we watched a few films that we'd missed at the cinema (Brave, Madagascar 3...).

When we landed I had to show the adoption papers to the customs officer again. He asked Robbie a few questions: who I was, why he was travelling to Canada, if he lived with a mum and dad... Robbie answered truthfully and we made it through.

Glen was waiting in arrivals. As soon as Robbie spotted him, he ran towards him, jumped up into his arms and locked his arms around Glen's neck. It was lovely.

Something was very different about this reunion, however. Instead of ignoring or rejecting me as soon as we were reunited with Glen, as has happened in the past, Robbie included me. He held both our hands as we walked through the airport and I got hugs and kisses too. It was very touching to see him make an effort to be part of a family of three, rather than him and whichever parent he feels closer to at any point.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Desperately missing Daddy

For the past week, Robbie has been missing his Daddy like never before. Last Saturday, when we got home after dropping Glen off at the airport, Robbie started crying, saying he was missing Daddy a lot. He was inconsolable for quite a while, and my reassurances that we'd be seeing him in seven days' time didn't do much to calm him down.

It was much the same on Sunday night. Robbie was overwhelmed by emotion and seemed unable to entertain logical thoughts. At one point he sobbed "I just wish I could see him one more time", as if Glen was gone for good. I was wise enough not to try being logical, I just accepted his feelings of loss and empathised with how awful it must feel. When he was calmer he was able to process that we'd be seeing Glen in only a few days. We managed to speak to Glen on the phone and he suggested Robbie cuddle his (Glen's) teddy bear whenever he's missing him. Robbie grabbed hold of Glen's old teddy bear (the one Glen's had since he was a little boy) and pretty much hasn't let go of it all week.

For the rest of the week Robbie has been functioning ok during the day, but desperate to see Glen both first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Some mornings he's been looking for Glen under the bed or inside wardrobes, and every night he's got up well after he was put to bed with some excuse to get extra cuddles.

It's been sad to see him suffer like that, but in a way it is lovely to see just how attached he is to Glen and how much he misses him when they're apart.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

A night out

Everyone tells us how important it is to go out every now and then, switch off, do something that doesn’t involve kids, just the two of us. We had a few days in Sweden in the summer, but it’s infrequent for us to have a night out. So a few months ago we booked tickets to see a comedy show, which was on last Friday. We called the childminder for the first time since April and arranged everything necessary.

Just after 6 we left. The drive should take under 90 minutes and the show started at 8, so we should have been fine. Alas, the main road was blocked after an accident. No problem; we heard about it on the radio before we’d got there and took an alternative route. The only problem was that everyone else seemed to have taken that road too, and the traffic was very heavy. It looked like we might be a little bit late, but we’d make it. Then a car broke down near us, and the traffic got a lot worse. We were now seriously late, but we might make the second half and at the end of the day it was a comedy show, not a play - where it’s much more important to have seen the first half. That’s when we found that the road that we needed to take had been shut too. We’d never make it. Sigh. We stopped for 45 minutes to have a pizza. That was nice.

All in all, we spent nearly 6 hours driving to get precisely nowhere and back, paid for tickets to a show we never saw, paid for the childminder and petrol… A great night out, don’t you think? Next time we’re getting a DVD. It’s cheaper. And more comfortable.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

I have two fathers


Original version below

Saturday, 20 October 2012

What a change

Glen goes off on a big work trip this evening. He has to to work in the US and Canada for the next three weeks. When he first told me about it a few months ago I immediately dreaded the idea of three weeks of being a single parent to Robbie. I worried that he'd panic about being on my own with me and express this through extreme behaviour, as he has done in the past. I knew that if that happened I'd end up being the mean baddy that he expects me to be as a consequence.

Robbie struggles when one of us (Glen in particular) has to be absent for a period of time. Last time Glen went on a work trip (5 days away), Robbie asked him IF he was coming back, rather than WHEN he would be back. To break up the long absence, we decided that Robbie and I would join Glen in Canada during half term the week after next. Not cheap, I assure you, but probably for the best.

So I'll have a week on my own with Robbie followed by a week in Canada when I'll be with Robbie all day until Glen can join us in the evening after work, followed by another week on my own with Robbie back home. And you know what? I'm not dreading it. The last few times that Robbie and I have been on our own have been fine. More than fine, in fact. They've been an opportunity to enjoy each other's company and we've made a lot of progress during that time. So I'm actually looking forward to us having an opportunity to spend time together. What a difference, huh? I'm giving myself a rare pat on the back just for putting my fears aside and believing that I can do this. And of course the one who deserves the most credit is Robbie, who little by little is learning to lower his defences and allowing himself to trust me. What a change indeed.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

We're not what he wanted

Like I said in my previous post, despite not being overall impressed with the SAI, we are happy with the DDP. This week, Robbie and I went on our own as Glen wasn’t feeling well. I don’t think Glen’s absence was a factor, but it was a very good session and Robbie opened up like never before.

We spent a good part of the session throwing a ball back and forth between the therapists, Robbie and I. This seemed to work very well as a distraction, and Robbie was happy to talk while this game was going on. We started by discussing an incident that happened last week: Glen had asked Robbie to take something in to school for one of the teaching assistants, whom we know outside school. Robbie completely panicked, thinking that he might be told off for going into her classroom. I tried empathising and to make him understand that he wouldn’t be, but by then Robbie had become quite irrational. Glen was very angry about Robbie’s refusal to do what he’d been asked. It wasn’t so much about not wanting to do it, but about the fact that despite having lived with us for two and a half years now, Robbie still assumed that Glen would ask him to do something that might get him into trouble. The discussion of this incident at the therapy session brought up many issues around trust, self-dependency, and Robbie’s understanding of what being parented means.

The other major thing we discussed was Robbie’s attitude towards having two dads. I’ve long suspected something about it, and I verbalised it during the session (not in the words I’m using here). Could it be that Robbie feels that – due to his low self-esteem and feelings of unworthiness – he didn’t deserve a mum and dad and that’s why he got two dads? Yes. Was he disappointed that he didn’t have a mum and dad “like everyone else”? Yes. “It’s not what I wanted. I wanted a mum and dad”. Whilst this wasn’t easy to hear, at least now that it’s out in the open it’s something we can discuss and be aware of. For the record, I don’t think Robbie thinks we’re not doing a good job. I think he’s very aware that (although he knows several kids with two dads) he’s not like most kids, who have a mum and a dad. I also think that this comes down to foster carers and social workers going on about “finding a mum and dad” when they talk to kids who are waiting to be adopted. The law allows single parents and gay and lesbian couples to adopt, but in most cases children aren’t made aware that this is an option until they are due to be matched with such a parent. The work needs to happen beforehand, so social workers and foster carers talk to children about finding “a family” for them, and maybe discussing what a “family” may mean.

Robbie was quite emotional that evening after the therapy session, and last night he got out of bed at night to tell us that he was “missing his mummy”. Glen was out, so I offered lots of empathy and sympathy, and consoled him as best as I could. I guess he was thinking about what he’d said at the therapy session and was aware that I might have not liked what he’d said (even though I’d done my best not to show any sort of emotion other than empathy when he talked about it) because when he was ready to go back to bed he gave me a final hug, a big kiss, and whispered in my ear that he was very glad he has us as his parents. I told him how glad I was to hear that and what a lovely thing to say it was, and took him back to bed.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

“Have you got a womb space for your son?”

I haven’t got a list of “questions that I thought I’d never be asked” but surely if I had, that one would have been near the top somewhere. I’ll put it in context: as I’ve said before, we’re doing two types of therapy: Developmental Dyadic Psychotherapy (DDP) and Sensory Attachment Intervention (SAI). The DDP is great. Some days Robbie is more open to talking and other days not so much, but we can see the use of it and we think we’re making good progress. The SAI has mostly involved Robbie swinging from a giant rubber tyre and all of us jumping on cushions so far. This gets recorded on video and then the SAI specialist gives us feedback on how Robbie interacts with us. Last week we had a feedback session and the therapist, given our obvious lack of understanding of what’s going on, went through the aims of the sessions one more time. Nope, still no clearer. I mean, we understand what it’s supposed to do, but we really don’t get how it’s supposed to happen by jumping on cushions and swinging. It really doesn’t help that we don’t seem to connect with the therapist either. She’s a bit earth mother-y for us. We keep thinking any time soon she’s going to give us a talking stick…

So anyhow, at this latest feedback session she said two things that first puzzled me, and then the more I think about them actually made me quite cross. The first was the question above. The answer? No, we don’t have a “womb space” for Robbie. By “womb space” she actually means a safe place that he can withdraw to when he wants, somewhere near us. The term is as inappropriate as it gets. Whoever came up with it obviously didn’t think that many adopters are infertile women who probably don’t like the idea of having to provide a “womb space” for a child that was born out of someone else. And let’s not get started on how two men might feel about the suggestion that their son needs “womb space”. Infuriating. The therapist suggested a pop-up tent in the living room would make a good womb space. We’ve looked at a couple and Robbie isn’t keen, but he quite liked a huge cushion that some friends have at home. We could buy a similar one and put in the living room. I’ll ask the therapist what she thinks…

The second thing she mentioned was our physical contact with Robbie. Robbie can be very baby-ish sometimes. He wants a lot of cuddles and kisses, sits on our laps and also climbs into our bed speaking “goo-goo ga-ga”. The therapist thinks we have to be careful that Robbie doesn’t get confused as to what appropriate contact with adults is, as that may make him more prone to sexual abuse. Like I say, I was puzzled by this at first: we’ve always been told that because of his trauma, regression was a typical stage, so we’ve gone with it. Also, after a quick survey of close friends (some of whom have children two or three years older than Robbie) I find that their kids also get into bed with them for a cuddle. The more I think about the comment from the therapist, the angrier I get about it. A small part of me also wonders if a heterosexual couple would have received the same advice…

Monday, 1 October 2012

Where have I been?

I’m sorry I’ve not been more prolific lately. I have not one but two excuses: first of all, I’ve had a cold for most of the past two weeks. It just won’t go away and it’s a pain. Second: I’ve lost my iPad. Yes, stupid me left it on a plane. It was seriously delayed and I had to literally run to get a coach home, so I bolted it from the plane and left it behind. Of course I rang lost property etc… but no success. I’m still kicking myself for it. Anyhow, I used to do all my writing on the iPad and without it I just don’t seem to get around to it.

The return to school was quite a non-event. Robbie adapted well to his new teacher and everything’s well. He’s been invited to a couple of birthday parties already. Even homework seems OK (well – until last Friday, more later), especially compared to how awful it used to be.

Therapy has continued too. More DDP (Robbie wasn’t particularly engaged for this latest session) and SAI (more jumping on cushions whilst being videoed – still not terribly clear what we’re getting out of this). The evening after therapy last week Robbie found an excuse to hit me. I think there’s so much that comes to the surface that he has to let it out somehow. Would rather it was with words, though, but it wasn’t a major eruption and we managed it quite well.

Last Friday was worse. Robbie got angry over homework and punched Glen very hard. Then he pinched him hard too. Glen was fuming (and hurting both physically and emotionally) and refused to acknowledge Robbie’s presence until I convinced him that his ignoring Robbie was only making Robbie feel even less worthy. As the grown-up, Glen gave in and there was a bit of re-connecting. There weren’t any further eruptions over the weekend.

And today… I’m taking the opportunity to catch up with this blog. What? No work today? Nope. That’s because I’ve reduced my hours to four days a week and shan’t be working Mondays for the next year. Everyone keeps telling me that I need to spend time doing things I want and relaxing, so that’s the plan. So far today I’ve been to the office once to pick up some paperwork I need to read before tomorrow morning and I’ve also done some housework. Me time? Hmmm. I’ve not given up 20% of my salary for this! Must try harder.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

A fabulous day

I don't often post about our good days, of which there are many. I guess this is because it's the hard ones I need to get my head around and writing helps me do that. But last Sunday was such a great day I just have to write about it.

We went up to London, where Robbie was taking part in the sponsored Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research London bikeathon. He did amazingly well, riding his bike for over six miles in under 90 minutes. He got a medal as was very pleased with it. We cheered him on every time he completed yet another lap of the circuit (he went round 34 times in total) as when he finished we told him how proud of him we were. I also told him that he should be very proud of himself. For the first time ever, on hearing those words, Robbie didn't shake his head. He didn't nod either, but it's a step in the right direction.

After the sponsored bike ride (Robbie raised £150), we took the Emirates cable car to the Greenwich peninsula. From the cable car we could see this huge ride by the side of the O2: the BT Infinity ride. Spinning chairs 40 metres high. Robbie wanted to go on it, so we agreed. The four-minute ride felt like an hour. Glen and I got off feeling rather queasy, but Robbie had loved every minute. After a walk around the O2 (thankfully you have to be 10 to climb on the roof) we took the cable car back, made our way home and went for a meal out at Robbie's favourite restaurant.

Like I say, it was a great day out. We all enjoyed ourselves thoroughly and there wasn't a single bad moment.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Elton John, homophobic parent?

I was on holiday when this piece of news came out and I've been meaning to write about it. Elton John recently said in an interview that it will be heartbreaking for his son to grow up without a mum, and he worries about homophobic bullying.

You can read the story here.

I was quite angry that Elton appears to take the view that growing up with two dads is somehow a hindrance, especially coming from such a public out gay figure and one that is a gay dad (by surrogacy, not adoption) himself.

I was going to write a long text about it when I found the responses from a gay and a lesbian parent. Of all places, it was published in the Daily Mail. They say everything I wanted to say and more, so I leave you with the link here. As usual with all Daily Mail articles, whatever you do, don't read the comments or have a look at the voting on how they are received.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Contact with siblings, therapy, meltdown and home therapy

On Monday we had contact with Robbie’s older sister and brother. As always it took place on “neutral ground”, a park in a city that’s more or less within equal distance of the three families involved. Robbie was very anxious about it the night before, worried that they wouldn’t get on or that he’d be challenged about past behaviours when the three of them lived together with their birth parents. He feels so much shame about it. He was also sad about not being able to see his siblings more often and once again queried the reasons why he can’t live with them. As it was, the kids got on very well. They played together without needing much supervision and enjoyed each other’s company. Because of this, we extended the contact time beyond the agreed two hours, which wasn’t a very wise thing to do as the kids started to annoy each other and returned to previous negative interactions.

We expected Robbie to externalise some of the things that might be going through his head afterwards, but he didn’t. When we got home we had a lovely afternoon and he went to bed just fine.

Yesterday we had two appointments with the post-adoption support agency. The first one was just Glen and I, and we got some feedback on our Sensory Attachment Intervention assessment. Some of it we expected and some of it was surprising. They offered some good advice and we found out more about the sessions to come. The second appointment was another DDP session with the three of us. We talked mostly about the summer and contact, since it was such a recent event. Robbie was quite engaged during the session, which we were pleased about.

Once again we expected some sort of outburst straight after, but Robbie appeared to be fine. It was only at bedtime that things went very wrong very quickly. There was a lot of violence. We were punched and I was beaten with cushions. I remained calm and supportive, asking Robbie what was going on and trying to empathise, until he threatened me with a pair of scissors. I then had to remove myself as I was really shaken.

When he eventually calmed down, Glen had a long chat with him. Robbie burst into tears and then blurted out a lot of revelations about how he feels, including feeling that we hide his past from him, his fear that he'll have to go after 3 years with us (the same way he had to leave his birth parents and his foster carers after 3 years), thinking that he's just like his birth parents because he hits, and saying that everything (the violence the kids had to endure, not being able to live with birth parents) was all his fault. He also uttered the line we'd hoped we’d never hear, or at least not until he was a teenager: "You're not my parents".

Glen listened and tried to address his concerns, but Robbie was too disregulated to listen. Eventually, Robbie fell asleep. The three of us had a long chat this morning and addressed all of the issues Robbie had mentioned. Amazingly, he allowed us to talk for a long time without any avoidance techniques, and he engaged with what we were saying: replying and asking questions. I think some of what we said went in. We also told him we'd probably have to discuss them with the adoption support agency too, which he didn’t like.

School starts tomorrow and I’m a bit sad about it. With the exception of the bad moments, I’ve enjoyed the last few days with Robbie and having a chance to do fun things as opposed to having to do routine school and homework stuff. I hope the return to school doesn’t lead to any more anxiety and negative behaviour.

Friday, 31 August 2012

His heart belongs to Daddy

As I mentioned on my last post, I was somewhat concerned about how Robbie and I would get on while Glen was away for three days this week. I needn't have worried: it was fine. Actually, it was better than fine. We got on really well, did lots of stuff together and really enjoyed each other's company. He was kind, considerate and very affectionate towards me, as was I towards him. It was just lovely to spend time having fun together.

As we drove to the station to pick Glen up, I told Robbie how pleased I was that we'd got on so well while Daddy was away. He agreed. Then, as soon as Glen came into view, he ran out of the car and into his arms. As they hugged, Robbie turned to me and gave me an apologetic look. It seemed to say "I know how well we've got on, but it's Daddy I love most". I smiled and winked, trying to convey that it's ok. We both know his relationship with Glen is safer and a lot more stable, and bound to be interpreted in that way.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Back and forth

Glen and I took three days off parenting while our friends Jonathan and Stuart looked after Robbie and went away to Sweden, where we enjoyed some sightseeing and just catching up with each other. It was lovely to reconnect and have some “us” time. Having said that, we both missed Robbie a lot and everywhere we went we kept thinking of things we’d love to be sharing with him.

After three days, Glen went back to the UK and I stayed in Sweden for work until Saturday. Once again I really enjoyed being a professional and not a therapeutic parent for a few days. In the meantime, Glen and Robbie went to the New Family Social camping event. Robbie had a whale of a time with all the other kids and enjoying total freedom from scheduled activities for four days. I joined them on Sunday when I got back to the UK. When I saw Robbie, he was playing with other kids and he just about acknowledged my presence with a quick hello. I asked for a kiss since I hadn’t seen him for a week, and he reluctantly came over to give me a quick kiss before rushing away again. We spent the afternoon and evening catching up with friends and had dinner before getting ready to go home. Since we had two cars, Glen and I arranged for Robbie to come back home in my car. Robbie refused to, and wouldn’t explain why. I felt very rejected but told him it was fine if he wanted to go home in Glen’s car. Robbie changed his mind, but I told him by then it was too late and he should think before he speaks. Robbie got very angry and tried to hit me with a pillow. I drove off and left Glen to it.

Yesterday Robbie found it hard to adapt to being home again. After all the freedom and being surrounded by kids, he was bored being “alone” with us again. He watched TV for hours, and when we said he’d been watching it for too long and he should find something else to do, he got angry again. Soon he was kicking me in the back, whacking me and slapping me in the head. It was the same as when I got back from Spain a few weeks ago: all my relaxation and rest went out of the window and the stress of being a parent to a traumatised child came rushing back. I found an excuse to leave the house because I couldn’t cope with it.

Glen spoke to Robbie and things calmed down. When I returned he apologised, but he was still claiming that he cannot and won’t play on his own with any of his toys. After his bedtime Robbie got up and told Glen he couldn’t stop thinking about his birth parents. He also told Glen that he’s worried he’ll turn out like them. He feels so guilty about hitting me. He said he doesn’t know how to stop.

This morning he was fine again. We played in bed and had a brief chat about last night. I told him that we have to work hard at getting on and reminded him that’s why we go to see Adam at the adoption therapy centre. He didn’t particularly engage with me (he was covering his ears), but he heard me. Glen is off on a work trip for the next three days, so I hope we can get along without him.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Happy contact with foster carers

Last Wednesday we had contact with Robbie's foster carers, Annie and Peter. We saw Annie last year, but we hadn't seen Peter for over two years because he's not been well. On other occasions we've met on "neutral ground" or they've come over to us, but this time we went over to them. They've moved since Robbie lived with them, so there wasn't an issue with going back to the house where he used to live with them.

Robbie was looking forward to seeing them, but also nervous about it. I think he was worried they wouldn't like him anymore. He was very quiet on the drive there. He wouldn't even play on his DS. Whatever worries he had were dispelled as soon as we got to Annie and Peter's house. Peter came outside when he heard us pull up and Robbie ran to him and gave him a big hug. He also hugged Annie as soon as he saw her. It was lovely that Robbie didn't feel he had to hide his feelings or play it cool for our benefit.

Annie and Peter are currently fostering four babies. Robbie, who was used to living with babies and helping out with them, soon was interacting with all four. We had lunch and then went for a walk to a nearby play area. Later we went back to the house and looked at our photo albums. We've been making an album for each year that Robbie's been with us, and he was keen to show them to his foster carers. He also insisted on taking his school work with him, which he proudly showed to them too. Annie and Peter made all the right noises, telling him how lucky he was to get to do all the activities that we do together and praising his school work, how neat his writing is and how clever he is. Robbie, who usually shakes his head when people praise him, soaked all these comments in. He also accepted the comments Annie and Peter made about how tall, handsome, polite and helpful he was.

We sat down and reminisced about the time Robbie spent with them. We also looked through some old pictures. This wasn't done in a sad or melancholic way, but rather reminiscing in a positive way and laughing about funny things that had happened. Both Annie and Peter told Robbie how much they think about him and miss him. Again, this wasn't done in a sad way or in a way that might make him feel like he "abandoned" them or they might want him back.

We ended up spending five hours there. Robbie had been playing with the babies throughout the visit and by the time we had to leave he wanted to take one of them home! Annie gently reminded Robbie that the judge said he needs to be in a home where all the attention can be given to him and that's why he and his siblings had been placed separately.

We said our goodbyes and drove home. Robbie was chattier on the way back than he'd been on the way there and seemed happy. There were no outbursts when we got home, which we had expected, although he did become very baby-like. He obviously felt he had to reconnect with us and make it clear that despite the afternoon at his foster carers' we are the ones who nurture him. It was lovely and such a positive experience for all of us.

During the visit we also discovered something we hadn't been aware of: while we were in the play area and I kept Robbie entertained on the swings, Glen had a chance to talk to Annie about Robbie's fears that his birth parents are looking for him and will take him. Annie replied that she wasn't surprised as during contact both his birth parents used to tell Robbie that they'd "come for him". That explains that. Maybe we can address it on one of our therapy sessions when they resume after the summer.