Over the past 6 months, I have seen and heard an increasing number of tales about the ‘challenges’ faced by adopters. These come from a variety of sources with some stories coming directly from fellow adopters but mostly from the media. You only need to look at the results of the latest Adoption UK, File on 4 survey to see the bleak picture many families are facing. Talking about adoption in terms of the ‘warts and all’ is essential as it allows adopters to feel less alienated in their struggles and also lifts a lid on the challenges many adopters are being left to struggle on with alone. Talking about it helps to push forward the need for greater Post Adoption Support.
However, sometimes when the flood gates are opened, the media can be seen to be jumping on the band wagon and opening a can of worms from many years ago – a recent example was a report in the Herald about a family who adopted two girls. Very little background information was given to the family about the girls and as the years passed, it transpired that one girl had brain damage and the other severe mental health problems. The latter committed suicide. I’m not for a second saying that these stories should not be told – they absolutely should so lessons can be learned, however such stories do put a deep set fear into even the hardiest of adopters never mind what impression it gives to those who may have been contemplating adopting. By the same token, there is absolutely no point in painting adoption as all flowers and roses, because it most certainly isn’t that either. What there needs is a balance – the good and the bad, the challenges and the rewards, the darkest of times and the sheer highs.
After the Adoption UK/File on 4 survey results were published, I was asked to talk on the radio and TV about child to parent violence. Yes, it was something that we went through but things have massively improved – I was told (not surprisingly) that its the negative that makes the best of news stories and so that was what would be focused on. Thankfully, the radio allowed for a little longer exploration and so many positives could also be highlighted.
If you have read my blog for a while, you will know that we have had many many challenges as a family – from those early days, to trigger points in the year to celebrations such as Mother’s Day and of course Education. Yes, many of these have been hugely dark times but there always has been light at the end of the tunnel. We were away on holiday this past week and it really was one of the best family holidays we have ever been on – light at the end of a 6 year tunnel.
One of the major reasons for the success we feel was that for the first time ever, we had returned to the exact same holiday lodge. We fell in love with the lodge last year because it had a very similar layout to our own house and the boys seemed to both find comfort in that. As soon as we arrived this time, they just instantly settled – both M and I agreed it was like being home (albeit a home in the Highlands). Last year, we had lots of issues over the week with Tom attempting to be really controlling. He demanded each morning to know what each meal would be and if we were eating out, where it would be. We once turned up to a restaurant to find it was fully booked and he just couldn’t cope. This year – none of that. No food related questions whatsoever – he was happy to eat when, what and where we decided.
Last year, there was also a lot of controlling behaviours with regards to the hot tub we had in our lodge and also the free swimming passes we had to the local country club. Because they were available to us, Tom felt this meant that both should be used every day, regardless of whether they fitted in with our plans or not. If we weren’t going, cue the meltdown. This year, if we had time, he was delighted to make use of both amenities, but if our plans changed, he was completely understanding. In fact, on our last evening, I asked if he would like to come in the hot tub and he decided not to. I reminded him it was the last chance to but he was content to tell me it was quite okay and that he would get a chance next year (by mid week we decided to book up again for next year!).
Last year, I had to do a daily visual timetable to ease the anxieties of being on holiday. I decided to be brave and take a chance with just giving verbal explanations of what we were doing – this worked completely fine.
I’m not saying the week was without it’s challenges, because there is a little bit of the ‘warts and all’ to be told. Tiny refused to go to sleep the first two nights so I had to spend up to an hour outside his bedroom door reminding him to stay in bed. EVERY morning, he would wake at 6am and wake everyone else up. The only positive of this was that by day 4, he was utterly shattered each night and was asleep within 5 minutes for the rest of the holiday.
Tom still showed controlling tendencies. He would at times deliberately argue black was white, just so he was in control. We had DVD players in the car for longer journeys and the rule was that Tom got to pick a DVD for the way there, Tiny got to pick on the way back. Tom argued that this wasn’t fair because his DVD might not be finished and so he should get to still watch it. When told that we were telling him what was to happen and that was the fairest way, he would then decide that Tiny should just pick both DVDs – cutting off his nose to spite his face! Or if another time when he was told he was to pick first, he would say that it should be the youngest to pick first – this may sound like a very kind big brotherly act, but it wasn’t done this way. It was about him trying to control the order. One day we travelled to Urquart Castle and made a few stops on the way back for photo opportunities. Tom tried to make us agree how many stops there would be and would get cross with us if we made one more than he had tried to get us to agree too. This is typical Tom on holiday behaviour. I only see this when he feels out of control in another aspect of his life – holidays bring that anxiety. I know this and now talk to him about it. It’s a natural reaction for him that he can’t stop himself from doing. It is hugely frustrating to deal with as a parent, but it was nowhere near as bad as the year before so still excellent progress.
Tiny was amazing too. On holiday, we tend to have at least one meltdown from him that ends in him hitting one of us…….we never even had a sniff of a meltdown from him. He was absolutely loving each and every experience.
Most of our days were spent outside and this was something both boys thrived on. There were lots of amazing ‘wow’ moments from both boys within the week. Here are some of them:
Cycle around Loch and Eilein – Tiny managed to cycle (or run and push) his bike the whole way around. Tom cycled a little fast with me and never complained once! Huge progress from both boys. Tiny would normally struggle as his bike doesn’t have gears!
Urquart Castle – We watched a video first about the history of the castle and Tiny just lapped this information up – he can explain why the castle was burnt down. He soaked up the amazing views too and was commenting on how beautiful it was!
Landmark – Tiny was brave enough to go on the waterslide with Tom, he came down full of glee having absolutely loved it. Tom went up again on his own and went down the sheer drop slide – as soon as we saw him at the top, we couldn’t believe our eyes. He just totally went for it and was delighted with himself (we felt very proud!)
Treezone – Tom went here with M and he was up high in the air, swinging fearlessly. He even cycled to Treezone and back again from our lodge and then cycled again in the afternoon to the swimming pool (and back again). Tiny and I went to the Highland wildlife Park that day and he listened intently to a number of the talks/feeding sessions given. He came back and told Tom all what he had learned about Red Pandas! As we were leaving the park, he reached over and hugged me and said thank you for a lovely day out!!!
Reindeer Feeding experience – We did this last year too and Tom was hard work! There is a 20 minute walk in the Cairgorms to get to the reindeer – last year Tom complained the whole way and couldn’t cope with people walking in front of us – he kept charging ahead to be front of the line. This year – none of either of these things. Both boys hand fed the reindeer and loved just being up close and personal to them (as did M and I).
M and I had some ‘wow’ moments of our own too! We only took the one car away with us which was M’s car. I am used to driving a compact VW polo, he drives a Ford Mondeo Estate (i.e A tank!!). We had decided to split up one day and I needed the car for the Highland Wildlife Park. Over the course the holiday, I build up my confidence driving the tank and even drove the hour journey to Urquart Castle. It meant I was happy to take it alone for the day out with Tiny – I did only pass my driving test last year and so this was a huge step for me…I even managed to park it too!! I also had some down time to read a whole book while we were away. I always take a book on holiday but rarely get the chance to read it. This time I took ‘Not my Father’s Son’ by Alan Cumming. Utterly heartbreaking read about him being abused by his father as a child. Do read it if you get a chance but it is equally uplifting too.
M had bought a new camera and put it to great use in the holiday capturing some really special moments, some of which you can see above! He is very talented!!! 🙂
So whilst the challenges of adoption can be really tough, the rewards like seeing your family progress, develop and thrive year on year makes it all worth it.
I can’t wait to report back next year how we have all progressed again!
Tom even thanked us both for the holiday saying it was the best one ever – we fully agree!