Monday 28 April 2014

Things We Do : The Round of Applause Game

Right from the start, when Missy came to live with us, we started playing The Round of Applause Game at meal times.   I think at the time I had just read The Magic for the second or third time, in which one of the tasks is to think about things during the day for which you are thankful, the thinking being that gratitude can lead to abundance. So, I thought I'd try something similar at home with Missy and turn it into a game which would hopefully help her self-esteem.

Whenever we all eat together, usually at weekends and occasionally during the week, at the end of the meal we take it in turns to give each other a round of applause.  For example, I'll say "A round of applause for Missy for listening so well in swimming" for which Daddy and I will give the round of applause.  We then take it turns to give each other a round of applause, but with Missy getting the lion's share.  We'll think of activities she's done well in or tried her best; perhaps we'll notice a good behaviour or something she has said.

Lately, we've given Missy a round of applause for helping Daddy dig a big hole in the garden, for keeping going on a long walk, for making a good effort when learning to ride her bike, for making great tasting muffins, for shouting so brilliantly at the London Marathon runners, for painting a fabulous picture, for helping Mummy plant some seeds and for playing so nicely with other children in the park, to name but a few.

Missy loves to receive these positive affirmations.  She's also good at giving them too.  Quite often it's 'a round of applause for Daddy for working so hard' or 'a round of applause for Mummy for another great meal'.  One of my favourites was 'a round of applause for all of us for just being us', along with 'a round of applause for my lovely family'.

No matter the mood she's been in that day, the Round of Applause game will be sure to lift her mood to one of positivity.  I'm sure it's a game we'll be playing for a long time to come.

This post links up with #TheThingsWeDo on The Adoption Social

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Who can adopt?

A few weeks ago I posted on Twitter that Missy had been designing my wedding dress for one day when Daddy and I get married.  I had some amusing replies about us not being married but I also got two from people who genuinely were surprised that we weren't and thought that couples had to be married before they could adopt.

There are still many misconceptions about becoming an adopter which I'm sure is putting people off.  Despite many of the adoption information websites explaining who can adopt, it seems for some the message is, sadly, not getting through.

Almost anyone can adopt.  You can be in a straight relationship, a same-sex relationship or you can be a single adopter.  If you're in a relationship, straight or same-sex, it does not matter if you aren't married or entered into a civil partnership.   It may be true that some SWs will frown on you getting married during the approval process - I've heard of a few cases within my LA -  which of course is quite ridiculous in my opinion as it surely shows commitment to each other, and quite frankly who should tell me when I can get married.  Nevertheless some SWs feels it changes things and prefer you to hold on til you have a child.  But the bottom line is you DO NOT have to be married to adopt.

Indeed you don't even have to be in a relationship. I know of a few single adopters who are doing a mighty fine job. One of my favourite blogs is written by a single adopter which you can find at Adopt and Keep Calm. I often find similarities between Missy's behaviour and her son, called Boyo on the blog, and I take comfort from knowing that another adopter is feeling the same as I do.  I take my hat off to them because I don't know if I could have adopted without the support of Daddy.  As a single adopter you will need to show a good support network because adoption can be isolating at the best of times, but if you have good support then there is no reason why you couldn't seek approval.

Age is another area where people think there is a barrier.  Not true.  Technically you have to be over 21 but there is no upper age limit.  Most of the adopters I know were first time adopters in their late 30s to mid 50s. and I do know a wonderful couple who are early 30s.  I was nearly 44 when Missy came home and Daddy was 49.

Already have birth children?  Doesn't matter.  There may be a required age gap between birth child and adopted child and generally they won't place an adoptee who is older than the birth child, but if you can provide a stable loving home then you can certainly look into adoption.

Gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender?  Your sexual orientation is NOT a barrier to adoption. Another of my favourite blogs is written by Nick King at Nick Kings World, writing about himself, his partner J and their two adopted children, whilst Adopting Mummy is writing about her journey to adoption with her partner.

What if you've had a history of depression or trauma in your own life?  That's OK too.  Certainly the adoption agency will talk at length about how you felt but if you can demonstrate how you were supported and how you coped then that is fine.  An understanding of how you felt, your emotions and feelings could indeed help you empathise with your adopted child.  I have suffered from depression several times in my life and, in fact, at the time of our first home study meeting with our SW, Daddy had been written off work for a month with stress and anxiety.

The qualities you do require to be able to adopt are the ability to provide a loving, stable home life, provide safety and security for a child, have bundles of patience and understanding to help them with their challenges as they grow.

If you've ever thought about adoption and thought you couldn't because of a misconception about who can adoption, then do think again.

Friday 18 April 2014

Thoughts on 15,000 Kids and Counting

I thought I'd wait until all the episodes of '15,000 Kids and Counting' had aired before writing about it on the blog.

For those of you who didn't see it, the programme was about the 15,000 kids in care in the UK awaiting adoption and looking at the process of adoption. I feared it may be sensationalist but actually I thought it gave a sensitive, fair and balanced view.  

We saw the work of child protection social workers, foster careers and family finding social workers. SWs often get a bad rap but I felt this programme showed what a tough job they have and, if the Twitter feed was anything to go by, they gained a lot of respect.  I know some people feel the SW and courts sweep in, make rash decisions and take children away.  But there's always so much more to it than can be portrayed in an hour's programme.

We saw several birth parents, one or two of whom I really felt for. We often forget that birth parents have feelings too. Not all birth parents are physical abusers; some genuinely love their children but just don't have the capacity to look after them.

We saw the children waiting to be adopted and I cried a lot during episode 2 when adopters were found for seven year old Lauren who just wanted a mum who didn't smoke, drink or take drugs. Little Lauren reminds me so much of my own daughter; the look of happiness and joy and the look of fear in Lauren's face I have seen so many times with Missy.  Lauren's case highlighted that so many adopters want to adopt babies yet there are so many older adoptees out there waiting for a loving home. Older generally equates to 4+.

We saw several sets of prospective adopters at approval panel and matching panel. I felt their stress, although I would have liked a few minutes more on film showing their process on the way to approval.  I thought it brave of one adopter to admit it wasn't love she felt straight away towards her new baby and that the love would grow.

Of course what the film didn't show was what happens after placement.  Whilst for some adopters, it's a happy life ahead, for so many it's not a happy ending and attachment issues rear their ugly head. If the cameras had been at our introductions, you would have watched a happy couple with their happy new daughter.  If the cameras had come back a month later, you would have been watching me on the downward spiral of post adoption depression, us really questioning if it was the right match and Missy's negative behaviour escalate. There is another episode at least that could be made.  The programme also didn't mention the financial side, the cuts to care services in local authorities, the lack of support for so many adopters, or indeed the great support that some adopters do get.

But, look, I don't want to be negative about what I thought overall was a good programme. A lot of people in my Twitter feed expressed an interest in adoption and if only a handful of them start the process and adopt then that has to be a good thing. 14999, 14998, 14997 and counting.

Link to the programme on 4OD

Thursday 17 April 2014


When we were being matched with Missy, her SW explained that whilst her BM had lots of toys at home, many were not age appropriate and Missy was not really shown how to play with them.  Its thought that BM didn't play with her much at all.  Whilst with the FC, she certainly learnt how to play more, and play with other children but her desire for control made it difficult sometimes to play with her.  When she came home to us, we, as new parents, spent ages playing with her although again her need to control the game sometimes caused major tantrums.  What we also noticed was the she didn't seem to like playing by herself, immersing herself in the world of make-believe and playing with her toys.  Play is vital for development; it helps create happy, contented, balanced, connected children.  The skills they they learn through play are vital as they grow into adulthood. The building blocks of play are the building blocks of life.

Over time, Missy has developed an ability to play by herself.  There have been times when we've been gardening and I've looked through the lounge window to check on her and seen her playing tea parties with her toys, all the cups and plates and pretend food set out beautifully. Or she'll be playing with her dolls house or her little ponies.  She has made the choice about which toy to play with and how she is going to play. It makes me smile to see her playing like this.

However, in the last six weeks her play by herself has almost stopped. I don't know why, perhaps it's anxiety based but her anxiety has reduced considerably since the Celebration Hearing. She still plays but it will be because we've started the play and virtually led the play too.  She will rarely chose a toy for herself and if I suggest a few toys or things to do, the answer I get is usually a resounding 'NO'.  They say boredom is good for a child because it means they have to use their imaginations to entertain themselves, but boredom and Missy don't mix.

Missy likes to hang around us a lot. I get followed everywhere.  I know this is generally a good sign - it's the toddler in her - but boy is it tiring and I really want her to play. We had Daddy's sister and her partner here for three days and all Missy wanted to do was be next to her Auntie, despite much encouragement from me to play.  It's not that I don't want her to create a relationship with other family members but I'm mindful of the importance of play and it's role in her development.  I've tried to start her off with play and gently move to another area to do something else, occasionally  returning to join in but all too quickly she'll stop and be by my side.  I don't want to continually be creating the play because I want her to use her imagination.  I know she's got one because I've seen it in her artwork.

As part of the course Daddy and I are doing, our homework for the holidays is play-based.  For 10-20 minutes a day, we encourage Missy to play and join in but do not lead play or teach her anything new.  Whilst playing we encourage, give praise and essentially provide a running commentary, along the lines of  "So you've chosen a red brick", "Now you're giving teddy some cake", "I see you're rolling out the Play-Doh into a sausage" etc etc.  We don't ask lots of questions about what she is doing, but show interest via the commentary.   At first it felt quite odd, describing what she is doing all the time but I soon got the hang of it.  When we've been out and about - a long walk, a day out in London, visiting a museum -  I've also used the commentary technique.

The point of this exercise is not about showing her how to play, but aiming to build the relationship between us all and building her self-esteem.  But a side effect is that she is gradually returning to play, choosing her toys and playing by herself.

It's slow-going though and yesterday I was thoroughly exhausted initiating things to do, when I really just wanted to sit quietly in the sun by myself, reading my books with a cup of coffee, although I was quite proud of the tent I made with an old sheet and bamboo canes!   Eventually though, I admitted defeat and for some quiet I put CBeebies on for half an hour.  She's back to CBeebies now after a brief flirtation with CBBC.

We'll see how today pans out.

In other news, my vegetable patch is coming on nicely.

"Image courtesy of Akarakingdoms /". 

Friday 11 April 2014


We were really pleased with Missy's school report at the end of the Spring term.  She got some great comments for her art (of course) and for her reading, which has come on in leaps and bounds.  Her maths is weaker but considering she barely attended nursery school, she is doing really well.  "She is beginning to shine" said her teacher.  I think, despite what she says sometimes, she really does enjoy school and is happy to tell me more about what she does there.  Friendships seem to be improving and she has one good friend, although I suspect the social and emotional side of things will still need some good support going forward.  I haven't yet had a conversation with the Head about how he's going to use her Pupil Premium Plus, I'll speak to him next term about it.

She has a go at reading everything and anything - road signs, posters in shops, leaflets that come through the door, back of the DVD case and, of course, her story books.  She devours her library books as soon as we bring them home.

The only problem with this is that now Daddy and I have to be mindful of what we are leaving around the place such as papers to do with the adopting course we are on (more of this in another blog).  We used to be able to spell things to each other that we didn't want Missy to understand eg. What shall we do for l-u-n-c-h?   Do you want some c-a-k-e?   We can't do this now because her spelling is getting too good!   We text each other instead!  Right, it's time for a cup of coffee and a b-i-s-c-u-i-t.


Tuesday 1 April 2014

A weekend of celebration

Well, that went remarkably smoothly considering the anxiety-laden, verbal and physical abuse-laden build up.

Last week we finally had our Celebration Hearing. Finally, we are officially a family.  Its taken a while, mainly because it took us time to feel right about putting in the paperwork, but here we are.

The courtroom was smaller than I had imagined and I smiled slightly when I heard the words "All rise". I've heard it so so many times on TV and here we were standing in front of a judge, in his full robes and wig. He was great, very smiley and instantly put Missy at ease. He invited her up to the bench, invited her to sit in his big chair and put his wig on her. I could see her anxiety almost melting away. She loved being centre of attention in her new rainbow coloured summer dress.  She answered all his questions and both posed happily for photographs.  My Mum plus Daddy's Mum, sister and her partner came with us too.

Afterwards, we all went for brunch at a nearby restaurant where Missy had the largest plate of American style pancakes, ice cream and raspberries she's ever seen!

The next day we had permission to take Missy out of school and so we went down to the south coast where we stayed for one night in a youth hostel.  This brought back great memories for me of when I went backpacking many years ago.  Oh the freedom!  Missy bagged the top bunk which was always my favourite too.  I always felt safe up there, looking down on who was coming into the room.

The next day we headed to the beach, spent time on the pier, looked round the shops and back to the beach for fish and chips and ice cream.  Well, what else would you eat on the beach!   One day I would love to live by the coast.

The next day (phew, I'm exhausted just writing about it), it was Mothers Day.   Missy had been so excited by it and had written me a beautiful poem plus made a gorgeous card and a wall hanging at school (actually I had these on Wednesday as she couldn't wait).  Daddy has also bought a card from the shops for her to give to me and she gave me a Paul Hollywood cook book, which she chose all by herself.  Plus lots of gorgeous flowers too.

We then headed out to a place I wanted to visit in the morning and in the afternoon went ice skating as Missy has seen it on the Winter Olympics and really wanted to give it a go.

Now, imagine a baby giraffe after it's just been born, wobbly with legs all over the place.  That was Missy, clinging to the side for dear life.  Smiling with it though.  Daddy was also a bit wobbly as he hadn't been ice skating for 30 years!  I'd had a few lessons five years ago but really all I can do is skate round and just about go backwards.  Missy spent more time on her bottom than on her feet but gradually she became more confident and took some advice from a steward who helped her along (of course, wouldn't listen to me or Daddy). By the end of the 90 minutes she was managing five metres or so by herself - more stepping than gliding but a good start nonetheless.

And then home. To rest.

What an exhausting weekend and maybe we did pack quite a lot in as Daddy and I were certainly exhausted. Missy really did enjoy herself and I'm really proud of her because it was a huge event, the enormity of which I'm not entirely sure she'll understand for a few years.

Apart from a few tantrums over food (as always) Missy had a thoroughly good weekend. Hurrah! A certain level of anxiety seems to have lifted from her.  The judge was a nice man after all - so nice that she now wants to be a judge (I think it was the purple robe that's swayed her). She's still an anxious little girl of course - food will long be an issue plus she's exhibiting separation anxiety this morning as she didn't want Daddy to go to work and I'm out all day on Thursday at a family member's funeral.

And so, onwards, to the next stage of our journey.

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