Thursday, 18 December 2014

Just a word of advice

'Just a word of advice'

It's an expression that fills my heart with dread. It usually means that someone is going to offload their opinion about what I'm doing wrong or how I should at least do it their way.

I much prefer advice that I've asked for than advice that's offered unsolicited. I don't take well to the tutting pensioner in the food isles offering wisdom whilst one of my offspring has a freakout over the lack of Peppa Pig shaped ham or some such.

A recent twitter thread highlighted the 'interesting' advice that was being given and how it was being received.

We all come to this adoption malarky on the back foot, our Social Workers are 'experts' and every suggestion or piece of advice is loaded. It's loaded with the bureaucratic authority they hold,  the unspoken reality that they are gatekeepers to what we want and need. So we nod politely and take on board what is said, after all they're the 'experts'. In different circumstances we wouldn't feel so amenable to advice offered but in this case we are.

If we chose not to follow the advice then we perhaps 'hide' what we intend to do.

The experiences and knowledge of others is invaluable but we must weigh it and measure it against our lives, our knowledge of ourselves and our gut instincts. In social work parlance we are experts of ourselves and our own experience. The approval process should lead us to this understanding so we can use it effectively.

Advice and guidance can be life changing and at times has been essential to us as individuals and as a family. But the spirit that the advice was offered and received seemed to be the essential factor. And not just professionals, family friends and pensioners, the same applies to you.

If you want to listen to me, get to know me and have a conversation then you've got a chance of being asked for advice.

We've been given a truckload of advice but standard' advice trotted out from 'standard' professionals is for 'standard' families and 'standard' children.
I don't know about you but I'm many things but it's increasingly clear that I'm not 'standard'.

For the record:

If anyone ever advises me  to 'relax' cos my child is 'picking up' on my anxiety, I will become the embodiment of the exact opposite of relaxed.

If you advise I use a 'star chart' to help her focus on not being 'angry', I might staple said star chart to your forehead.

If you advise that Flossy 'twangs' an elastic band around her wrist if she feels angry to distract her then I'll let her 'twang' it off your wrist to distract you.

And finally, if you advise Mrs C that she has 'control' issues, I WILL NOT restrain her. You were warned.

Thursday, 11 December 2014


For this to make any sense you need to be familiar with Chief Inspector Dreyfus of the Pink Panther films

P (Peanut): Daddy?

Me: Yes.

P: What time is it?

Me: Errrr.......(Thinking she is 3 and has no concept of time), 10 o'clock.

P: Thank you......................... Why?
Me: Well(Not sure where to start) just is.

P: Why?

Me: (Slightly perplexed) Do you really want to know?

P: Yes.

Me: Well, the world spins. (Smart arse patronising voice)

P: Ok. (Sincere voice)

Me: So, a long time ago people divided up how long it took for the world to spin one full turn. (Getting into it now)

P: Ok. (Interested voice)

Me: The people decided that they would divide it into 24 bits and that how we measure the time.
(I am über dad,  and she is going to be a genius)

P: Ok. (Understanding voice)

Me: So that's why it's 10 o'clock.

P: Ok, (Smiling).....................Daddy?

Me: Yes.

P: What time is it?

Me: 10 o'clock (Hoping this will be the end of it)

P: Ok,....................................Daddy?

Me: Yes. (This is wearing thin)

P: What time is it?

Me: I've just told you, you tell me. ( I can feel my inner Dreyfus rise)

P: 10 o'clock?

Me: Yes, I've just told you! (Dreyfus has arrived)

P: Ok (Smiling).................... Daddy?

Me: Yes.

P: What time is it?

Me: (Sobs)

I am broken, defeated and owned. I am Dreyfus, thwarted, destroyed and outwitted by a by a lesser intellect.

Throughout my parenting years I've been bitten, punched and kicked, insulted, slapped and wedgied, laughed at, offended and sabataged.

But this takes the biscuit.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Dark nights

Today it never seemed to get light, wet grey clouds hung low over the darkNorth East townscapes.

New job this week, with all the pressures and tribulations. The high hopes competing against new systems, procedures and policies. Not bad just hard.

Our good old people carrier died today. Yes, it's a financial and logistical pain and challenge. But I feel sad, to the point of crying because it has been such a blessing, a great price at the right time. It carried the 8 of us round when everyone was little. Puked and pooped in, fought and cried in laughed and shouted and shouted in. RIP purple slug.

Tonight the Xbox died. Nuff said.

It's that time of the year, Christmas isn't here but the summer is a distant memory.
We feel constrained by the dark nights. Through the spring, summer and early autumn normally be busy outside til 7, 8 or 9 but now we're struggling to get home from school before it's dark.
Arriving home from my dark winter commute  I almost inevitably walk into 'something' happening or its aftermath.
My negotiation and conflict resolution skills would make Ban Ki Moon weep with admiration

Entering the house the steamed up kitchen windows evoke my own childhood, but we are non comparable to the nuclear family I grew up in. We accept conflict, negotiation and challenge as our daily work. Emotions constantly running high linked to events out of our control or jurisdiction.

We all feel caged, restricted and mourn the light.

It's our hardest time of the year, the days are still getting shorter and the hope of spring is a long way off.

We enjoy Christmas,  but for Mrs C it is a mountain of work and it holds no great religious significance for us as a family. Though we classify ourselves as believers religious festivals and associated traditions are not part of our journey to or through faith and have held limited meaning to us.

This week on Twitter I read a seasonal faith comment that I'd heard a 100 times over

"the light draws near in the darkness"

But this time it filled me with hope.

Spring will be here soon.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Just say no

If you can imagine the scene I’ve managed all day to avoid fights and strife. I’ve smoothed the path before my child at every turn. As I tuck them up in bed, about to kiss them lovingly on the forehead I can almost taste the relief, relaxation and few hours ahead where all I have to worry about is me.

Then she asks:

“Can I have a hot chocolate?”

Time slows to an almost stop and before me.
I visualise the potential outcome dependent on what I do next.

Option 1

I say “No, it’s a bit late now”, it all unravels, we fall into a dysregulation freefall of biblical proportions. Anything is possible, from fisticuffs, one sided slagging matches to bolting out the front door in PJs. Sleep is postponed for at least 90 mins.

Option 2

I say “Of course poppet, should we put cream and marshmallows on it”. Not ruddy likely. I frame parenting in terms of winning and losing and in this option she’s won. From this night on she would consider bedtime hot chocolate a basic human right and demand it every night.

Option 3

I say anything but the word “No”. I might say, “Of course you can. How about we put sprinkles on, oh (slaps forehead dramatically) what about your sister Peanut? She would love a hot chocolate but she’s asleep. (Pause for effect).Do you think tomorrow you could make one for her? Do you think you’re big enough to make a hot chocolate? I’m not sure, well perhaps, would you like to try tomorrow?”

I go for C, distraction and choice, I appeal to her better nature; a bit of flattery and challenge. All the while stalling for time hoping that the moment will pass and a different part of the brain will wake up.
I’m the master of saying “no” without saying “no”, the non-answer distraction technique.

Yes, I do sometimes just say “no” and it’s ok.
I sometimes say it because I can’t be bothered or am sick of being so damn wishy-washy. 
I sometimes say it and it kicks right off.

The word “no” provokes a response in my child like nothing else. Clearly, nobody likes being told “no” to a request, I don’t and Mrs C doesn’t. But for some children who’ve been ‘through the mill’ it can provoke an extreme response. A simple word that seems to provoke an avalanche of emotion and a crushing sense of being unloved and being unlovable.

If that how it feels then no wonder she doesn’t like it.

Friday, 21 November 2014


I enjoying writing my blog, playing with thoughts and stories, turning them into little windows into our life. I enjoy the opportunity to reflect on the ebb and flow of our daily family life and some of the broader issues that impact on adoption.

Today I feel the need to write, but I've nothing to say, not because there's a lack of things to tell more that I'm struggling to bring a little light. I try to write with hope and humour to side step the 'other stuff' but today there seems to be more of the 'other stuff'.

Nothing out of our ordinary has happened; trips to school to talk to staff; unending negotiations/fights about 'screen time'; hyper stress and anxiety over what to wear to school on children in need day, near psychotic sibling rivalry and a bit of violence.

But today I'm struggling to see where the future lies. This week I confessed to a friend that my greatest ambition for one of my children was that she'd still be living with me by the time she's 16.

In another life she'd be the head girl, she's bright, athletic and focused. But were not living that life and in this life she's all those things but terrified and frequently dysregulated as well. My hopes are a set lower.

Today my head hangs low, my heart is heavy and I ask Mrs C 'is it all going to be ok?'.

She says 'Yes' and I'm choosing to believe her.

'Hope that is seen is no hope at all'

Maybe tomorrow the tables will turn, she'll be asking and I'll be answering.

We've been in darker spots, days when we both asked and there was nobody to answer.

That's what I've got to say today.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Five Steps

Fear ye not, this is not a post designed to give you the steps to therapeutic parenting Nirvana. It's about a little journey I make, five steps in fact.

After I've been called this and that, roughed up a bit in heart, soul and body my inner 7 year old can surface. My internal monologue is peppered with thoughts unrepeatable I find myself busying myself around the house chuntering like Muttley from the Wacky Races.

Flossy calms and an uneasy and delicate peace is restored, usually assisted by Mrs C.
Bedtime comes and I tuck Lotty up in bed and Mrs C tucks Flossy up and we normally cross over the landing and say our goodnights. But more frequently Flossy's door is shut and the light is off. Be this shame or residual anger and resentment the message is clear 'Dad, you are not welcome'.

It's five steps to the top of the stairs, then down to a few hours calm.

Five step that take me past Flossy's door. The temptation is to keep going, to put another storm behind me.

Five steps where I make choices and decisions, where I banish the 7 year old me and shake the grown up back to life.

I'm not always welcome but I know that it matters that I'm constant and there is always a way back.
I don't always feel the love, given or taken.

But I knock, go in and say 'I love you, we'll have a better day tommorow'

Friday, 7 November 2014

National Adoption Week: Time machine

So after all the shouting and balling NAW14 is almost over and I'm sure I speak for many when I say it feels like it's been a long week. 

Challenging images and interviews on daytime and morning TV bring conflicting emotions as I consider the hopes of prospective adopters and the needs of children. Naturally I compare this to the stories that I hear in my day job and are piped into my consciousness through Twitter, blogs and Facebook. Good, bad, mundane stories of lives lived in parallel to the oblivious world around us 51 weeks a year then thrust into the spotlight for a week in November.

NAW is a good news story the politicians, of all sides,  and the media love adoption, it's a golden subject that reflects well on those who discuss it. But though the challenges of contemporary adoption are explained and laid bare I fear that the man and woman on the street hold fast to the orphan Annie fairytale*. 

I am confident that good comes of it and if one child is found a loving home then it is more than worth it.

So, tomorrow when the brouhaha is over I'll wake up, dust myself off and get on with my life slipping back into anonymity. 

However, I can't help but consider the future, how will the adoption landscape shift over the next year and the next 10, 20, 30 years. 

Practice that we consider as normal will be examined with the benefit of hindsight. 

What will be the long term implications of the recent rulings in relation to Placement orders and subsequent reductions in their number?

What will be the impact of the much publicised adoptions support fund?

Thinking further ahead will we look back with horror and shame as we do when we consider the circumstances, practice and societies seeming indifference of the 50's and 60's?  

Reading the BASW magazine this month the issue of Human Rights and adoption was raised with the reality that we are in a minority of nations that still place children for adoption without the consent of the parents. What will be the implications for the future?

Will we be aghast at the expectations placed on adopters in light of the experiences and needs of the children they parented?

Will there be any adoption re union programmes looking back through the years?

Will adoption be seen as a side issue compared to the number of children in care that need stable and secure long term homes?

Ifs and buts.

I'm not sure where we'll be and if we'll be seen as villains, victims or saviours.

I'm pretty sure I'll still be dad.

*In my retirement I intend to write my own musical "Annie: the Truth", with swearing, singing and fighting.