How do you know…?

In the Disney film Enchanted, the main character Giselle sings a song called That’s How You Know. It’s really good. She’s explaining to Robert that he has to romance his love everyday so she knows he loves her. By the end of the film, she realises that love isn’t about romantic gestures, it’s about mutual respect, trust and commitment. She also learns that it isn’t quite so clear cut as finding ‘the one’.

While we were waiting to be matched, I was very conscious that our children were ‘out there’ somewhere and we needed to find them. I was also aware that there were a lot of children who fitted our criteria, and who we could love for the rest of our lives. We weren’t looking for ‘the one(s)’, we knew whoever we ended up with would become our own. We knew once we found our children, we would love them wholeheartedly. We would commit to them, no matter what. That is how we would know.

The question was, which ones should we commit to.

We kept our criteria broad, mostly to improve our chances of a quick match! Before we were approved, we decided that we would say yes to the first offer we had, unless there were any serious red flags. We also agreed with our social worker that we would leave the search to her. She knew our criteria, she knew us, and she knew the system. She could also be led much more by her head than we could. However, once we were approved, we had to set up a Link Maker account so that she could look on our behalf. This was lethal. Once we were on the website, how could we not look?!

We looked at every profile we could find on there. We imagined them as ours, in our house, with our family, in our arms. We talked about how their names would sound with ours. We wondered how we would manage certain health or development issues. We considered if we could actually take three, or four… We flagged up several profiles for our social worker to look at and pursue for us. We also started to get messages from childrens’ social workers.

There were a lot of children who fitted our criteria, who we could have loved forever. There were some profiles we preferred based on little things – names, ages, hair colour. How else are you supposed to choose between them?! Our social worker followed several leads for us, all very different profiles, all very real possibilities. At one point we were in the top two for some sisters who we were very keen on. They went with the other couple because we were too white. I sobbed in the M6 toll service station for a while after that phone call. It was a ruthless, brutal process. 

One day in the summer holidays, when we were decorating the loft, our social worker rang to say that a family finder wanted us for two little boys. She gave us some details and asked if we would like to read their CPRs. I felt numb. We were completely blindsided as we hadn’t seen them on Link Maker, and at this point we had several profiles in our minds that were at different stages of being explored. Our social worker explained to us that if we decided to meet with the family finder and social worker, she would have to suspend all of our other inquiries. It felt like a big step, to cut off all those other options.

That same day we received the CPRs and read them on the loft floor while my in-laws carried on decorating. It was hard to take in all of the nitty gritty details they don’t include in the Link Maker profiles. We’d never read a CPR before, and it was a strange experience. We decided straight away that we would pursue these little boys as far as we could. The professionals thought we were the right match, and we knew we could care for them and love them. We were excited because we might have found ourchildren. Would we have felt like this if it was a different CPR? I don’t know. Probably.

The more likely to happen it seemed, the more certain we became that we wanted it to. We looked at their photos all the time. We talked about what they might like. We decorated their room and imagined them in it. The social workers chose to give us these boys, and so we chose to love them.

How did we know? I don’t think we did. How do we know? I know because I think about them every waking moment.  When they are afraid or hurt and need their Mum, I know. When the punch and kick and bite me, when they spit and swear at me, I know. When they wake me up, when they cuddle me, when they set the table, when they ignore me, I know.

I know they are mine, I know that I love them because I choose to. Sometimes it’s easy. As I write this, Spiderboy is playing X-Box with his Dad. I keep stopping to watch him. He is just about perfect in every way. His little knees sticking out of his shorts, his gorgeous eyes magnified by his glasses, his blonde hair combed over to the side, his voice and his fingernails and the way he keeps rocking on his chair and driving his Dad mad. I keep welling up when I look at him because Iam overwhelmed with feelings of love.

But sometimes it’s not so easy. Sometimes he presses all my buttons on purpose. Sometimes his pain and trauma spill out of him, and it causes me pain too. Sometimes I’m just too tired to play, or to answer questions, or to say the same thing. Again. These are the times I really know. Every time I choose to sacrifice my own comfort, wants, happiness, safety for the sake of my boys, I know they are mine. I wouldn’t do it if they weren’t.

I suppose the moment we ‘knew’, was the moment in matching panel when they said yes. We left the room and I cried. I knew then that I was a Mum. And I knew I had the best little boys in the whole world.

This is just a recreation of me coming out of matching panel.

Everybody wants to live happily ever after
Everybody wants to know their true love is true…

His heart will be yours forever
Something everyday will show
That’s how you know…

That’s how you know it’s true.

 

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Why I made my boys shift rubble…

Before the boys arrived, we ripped up the patio in our back garden to lay a lawn. At our local tip, you can only dispose of 10 bags of rubble a year. Once we’d used our quota we had piles of rubble left lying around. We’re planning to have a BBQ to celebrate our Adoption Day, it’s given us a focus to finish clearing the garden and so this morning we all got out there together. I dug up the weeds, my husband mowed the lawn and the boys moved the rubble into big sacks ready for the tip.

It may sound a little bit like child labour, but let me assure you that they enjoyed themselves! (Lifting and smashing rocks – what little boy wouldn’t enjoy that!)

Here’s 5 reasons why I made my boys shift rubble…

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Not the actual rubble…

1. It gets them outdoors

When the weather is nice, we love to be outside. We don’t have a massive garden, and so footballs often go over the fence. Strong as my boys are, I’m not sure they could get the rubble over!

2. It’s good exercise

Physical exercise is good for the health, good for the mind, and good for getting kids to sleep. They love to show off their strength, so when it comes to rubble, the bigger the better!

3. It’s a goal-oriented task

Having a goal gives them a chance to practice their concentration – they focus on the task for a lot longer when they’ve got something to aim for. It also gives them opportunities to succeed, even at something small, which boosts their low self esteem.

4. It teaches them social responsibility

When all of the family are working together, each with different jobs, it teaches them what it means to be part of a community. It also gives them a sense of responsibility for the family home.

5. The rubble is really in the way…

The rubble has been there for a while, and having two boys who will move it for us is really useful!

Image: Flickr user Derek Bridges (2012)

 

Heaven v. Disneyland

We have a new favourite song as a family at the moment. It’s called Home in Heaven by Slugs and Bugs and we sing it at the tops of our voices wherever we’re driving. I find it really encouraging personally, and it’s something I really want my boys to trust in.

I’ve got a home in heaven,

And my Lord will be there too.

I’ve got a home in heaven,

He is making all things new!

It’s based on Revelation 21, a passage that speaks about a time to come when God will remake this broken world.

There will be no more death, for He has made it so,

No more pain, tears or sorrow.

Write this down, He says these words are true,

He is making all things new!

It is a massive promise, from a God with a track record of promise keeping. As Christians it is a hope that we cling to. That one day there will be an end to suffering and to sin. That the world will be made perfect, and so will His people. The way it was meant to be.

But how easily I doubt God’s Word! disney

It feels like at the moment, everybody is going to Disneyland, Florida – my most favourite place in the world. And then the grumblings start deep in my soul. If only we had more money… if only we prioritised family holidays abroad… it’s not fair… grumble grumble grumble. And before long I find myself believing that a fortnight holiday to Consumer Central will satisfy me. The truth is, I’ve been there before. 5 times.

How many times do I need to go before I am satisfied? Or maybe, just maybe, I will never be satisfied. C.S. Lewis once wrote  “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” How true! And yet how easily I forget!

Do I really, deep down in my heart, trust that the world God has promised for His people will be a disappointment? Do I actually believe that Disneyland is better than the New Creation? I know in my head that this is not the case. But how easily my heart forgets and yearns after worldly pleasures that cannot offer lasting satisfaction. I was made for another world. A world where I live in perfect relationship with my Maker, and perfect relationship with His world and His people. I long for that Home in Heaven. And while I wait I will keep pointing myself and my sons to a place that is better than Disneyland.

At times like this, all I can do is cry out with John (the writer of Revelation) “Come, Lord Jesus!”

Mother knows best…

At the start of the adoption process we were very keen to take all the help and advice we could. We were aware that a lot of people are experts in this area, and we are not. We attended a lot of training courses and tried to absorb as much wisdom as possible.

Even after our boys arrived, we would ring or email our social worker often to ask advice and check in. It felt wrong to make decisions or do ‘parenting’ without permission.

When we were first matched with our boys, we were told that the Family Finder thought we were just the right fit, we were flattered. (We’ve since found out that she’d only met our boys twice at this point, so we’re not sure how she knew that.) Despite concerns that we are Christians, and that we didn’t want to send our children to nursery, their social worker agreed that we were the best parents for them.

When we first met our boys’ social worker, we were keen to glean as much information as possible. She was obviously going to be the expert on our boys(!!!) One questions we asked at that first meeting was who are their favourite superheroes. She confidently told us Hulk and Iron Man. Then we met the foster carers and we started to doubt if the social worker knew our boys that much! The foster carer told us that their favourites were Spiderman and Batman! At this point we had already ordered our introduction toys – Hulk Bear and Iron Bear. Grrrr.

And now, six months in, we are at a very different point in our journey. We have asked for some extra support to help us manage the boys’ anxieties, big feelings and the resulting CPV. For a long time our (agency) social worker has been trying to arrange a meeting with the LA to review the Adoption Support Plan and apply to the Adoption Support Fund.

Suddenly, the same people who picked us as the best parents for these children no longer think we are capable of knowing what they need. It’s our fault because we are too intense and should have sent them to nursery. There isn’t a problem because the foster carer (who didn’t ‘believe’ in attachment issues) never felt there was.

Fortunately, through we our agency we have access to CFAS and were able to have a consultation with a therapist. Just as I was beginning to doubt myself we met with a lovely lady who talked everything through with us and reassured us that we were doing the right things to help our boys, and that we were right to ask for support.2242240802_8aaa5f0845_o.jpg

It was a wonderful meeting for another reason too. It taught me to have confidence in myself as their Mum. I know my boys better than any social worker ever will, I am their Mum. Yes, we need expert advice and input at times, and we are so thankful for our wonderful social worker and all of her help. But there is a certain intuition that comes with the unconditional love of a mother for her child. And no social worker will ever have that.

Image: Flickr user Malay Maniar (2008)

 

One of those days…

Today has been one of those days.
😲😨😵

No, not one of those days… 

😊🤗😄

One of those days!

The thing is adoption (and parenting in general) is filled with lots of those days, and those days.

It all started when the boys managed to stay in their room (note still not quite beds!!) until the sun rose on their Gro Clock. It meant we didn’t start the day getting grumpy with them and them with us. It meant we could shower them with praise to set them up for the day. If we look hard enough, there is always something to praise, to show them they are valued and motivate them to co-operate!

We reviewed our visual timetable and discovered today was the day we get their new bikes! The bikes were never a bribe, but they did seem to inspire obedience! Gifts are given freely, bribes have strings attached. Giving our children gifts without strings sometimes is an illustration to them that our love comes without strings attached.

After breakfast, the boys helped tidy away the laundry. I love getting them to help out with housework. Taking responsibility for their home means it is just that: their home. Plus it’s good training for them, often useful for me, and nearly always becomes a fun game!

Once we were dressed (and had narrowly avoided a minor meltdown) we set off for the park. Our favourite park is next to Spiderboy’s new school and we go often as we’re preparing him for September. This morning it was empty and the sun was shining bright.

The boys feel safe there, it is familiar, it is never busy and it is surrounded by wide open space. Watching your children playing carefree should never be taken for granted. We played for an hour, and we were just feeling ready to leave as another family arrived. Thankfully it was polling day, and the community centre was open so we could use the toilets.

After a snack we went on to the farm. We have annual passes there and we make good use of them. Parenting in summer is a million times easier than in the winter! We arrived just in time to feed the lambs. 

We also groomed and rode donkeys, cuddled rabbits and guinea pigs and rescued some escapee lambs! We love our farm, all of the staff are happy to let the boys help with jobs, or teach us about the animals. (There was a small, chicken related incident, but the less said the better.)

After we got home and had some lunch, it was Quiet Time. At Quiet Time you either sleep, read a book or watch a film, the idea being I can get some jobs done. In reality I either spend the time soothing Batboy and trying to teach him to feel safe enough to go to sleep without​ me, or needing to sit with Spiderboy while he watches a DVD so he knows I haven’t forgotten him. 

Today however, Batboy went straight down for a nap and Spiderboy settled happily in front of The Lion King. And so I managed to pay some bills, roast a chicken, load the dishwasher, hang up laundry and set another load going, make two weeks worth of pasta lunches to freeze for husband to take to work, and drink a cup of tea! It was really satisfying to use my time well, and reassuring  to get some much needed jobs done! Not to mention getting to listen to the radio for 90 minutes! Sometimes housework is as soothing as any form of self care.

The Lion King finished before Batboy woke up, so I was able to do some reading practice with Spiderboy. Cue loads of over the top praise, eye contact and one to one attention, all of which he really needs and loves. 

Then it was time to go and pick Daddy and the new bikes up. The boys were so excited that they were getting big boy bikes, and I was so excited that we were the ones giving them to them!

The boys loved their bikes. They didn’t say thank you. We really want to teach good manners, but today I didn’t mind because I’m glad they take it for granted that we give them good things. We are their parents. That sense of entitlement that often drives me mad in other children, fills me with joy in my own! At one point as Spiderboy cycled round the playground he shouted at the top of his voice “thanks Dad!” and my heart exploded.

After much riding, falling off, ringing bells and taking bottles in and out of holders, we set off home. There was some pasta leftover from the lunches I made so tea was easy, and then after a quick shower we had family Bible time. We were reading Revelation (in this children’s Bible).

The boys are really starting to engage with Bible time, they ask questions and make links with other parts they know. We know a song about the passage we were reading too, so the day ended in spontaneous singing and snuggling.

The passage reminded me though that even our very best days here are nothing in comparison to the perfect eternity God promises for His people when we are finally with Him.

Today has been one of those days. We all have them. Those almost perfect days. Those days that make all the others a little bit easier.