Last week roundup results #1

The results of our first ever Adoption and Fostering Weekly Roundup are in.

A huge thank you to all of you who took part and a big congratulation to last week top 5 blog posts:

#ArticleVotes
1thumbThe Non-Argument: Adventures in Battling Trauma | Herding Chickens and Other Adventures in Foster and Adoptive Care2
2thumbForming Attachment Through Love, Hugs and Play2
3thumbWhen friends ask ‘What can I do to help?’ – Hannah Meadows2
4thumbThe day we met our children - A Hopeful Dad2
5thumbHow To Live Through The Wreckage Of This Journey | Confessions of an Adoptive Parent1
Of course, This week roundup is already up and running. You can add your new entries by visiting this page.
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Is there a seat available on this roller coaster?

We are two weeks away from Fostering Panel, and I’m getting increasingly worried. No, not about panel. After attending Adoption and Matching Panel, Fostering Panel it’s just another day at the office. What worries me is what comes with fostering and my role as a main foster carer. It’s about my family and its ability to adapt. And it’s about Ben and how he will cope with it. Now that we are so close to panel, I have to wonder if this is the right choice for us.

Life with Ben is a roller coaster of great days—even great weeks at times—filled with laughs, happiness, love and joy, followed by the anger, defiance, provocations, temper, and the rage of the bad days. Don’t get me wrong, I think we have more good days than bad ones, not that I ever counted them, really, but so it seems.

Our is a happy life, but in constant need of adjusting, returning, and twitching to remain so. Our life is a structured one, made of weekly planners, set times, timer countdowns, and lots and lots of patience. When things start to go bad, we need to make swift changes to repair the situation before it collapses. Sometimes I feel like a bit like a magician, always with a new trick in the hat, but what if I run out of tricks in a middle of a placement?

Diego and I keep going through the pros and cons of welcoming foster children in our home, and how this will impact on Ben. He is still little, and we will be asking so much of him. He will need to learn how to share his toys and playroom, how to share us and our attentions, sharpen his social and communication skills, and become more independent from a very early age.

“Our is a happy life, but in constant need of adjusting, returning, and twitching”

As if all that wasn’t enough, he will need to deal with the conclusion of each placement: we’ll lose a foster child, Ben will lose a brother or sister.

As a parent, I want to give the best I can to my son, and I want him to be happy and satisfied with his life. Ben will have so much to gain from fostering, some I can predict, and some I can’t.

This will be, for Ben, an opportunity to learn about being tolerant, open, outgoing and kind. A chance to learn about new cultures, new habits, and new emotions. Above all, I hope understanding about life in care will help him making sense of his own adoption story, and process his own losses.

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The Adoption and Fostering Weekly Roundup

The Adoption and Fostering Weekly Roundup is a collection of blog articles related to the topics of foster care, adoption, and parenting, to which anyone can contribute by submitting their own nominations.

The roundup can also be used to find the best articles around, chosen by parents like you.

How does it work?

You can add your favourite blog posts to the weekly roundup by submitting a nomination.

Submitting a nomination is simple:

  1. Copy the address of the blog post you want to nominate
  2. Visit the page http://fulltimetired.com/roundup
  3. Click on the “Nominate a post” button
  4. Enter your email and the paste the address of the blog post you intend to nominate
  5. Click on the “Submit” button

The 5 blog posts with the most nominations at the end of each week will be included in a weekly newsletter, which is sent out to all our subscribers each Monday.

Every Monday morning the list is emptied so that new articles can be added.

Questions?

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Your email is used to avoid duplicate entries in the roundup. Your email will never be displayed on the site, or shared with any third party.

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No, there is no need to subscribe to nominate a post, although if you do, you’ll receive the result of the roundup directly in your inbox every week. Your email is still required to identify your vote, but it won’t be published or used for any other purpose.

The post I have nominated does not show up in the list?
The roundup lists articles by the number of nominations they received, with the 10 articles with the most nominations on top. It is possible for the article you have nominated not to appear in the list until it has not received more nominations. Don’t worry tho, each nomination counts towards the final top 5.

In what way is the roundup different to other linkys?
In linkys articles are typically added by their author, while anyone can add an article to the roundup. In our roundup, articles are ordered by popularity. When the same article is nominated by more than one person, it increases its ranking.

Can I add my own blogs post?
Why not? Adding your new post to the roundup gives it the chance to reach more people, and if others nominate it too, it might make it into the top 5.

My post didn’t make the top 5 list this week, can I add it again next week?
Yes. Every Monday the roundup is emptied, and any nomination will be accepted. So, if your favourite article didn’t reach the top 5 last week, you can always give it another chance.

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Adoptive parents do it better

I enjoy school runs. I love to listen and observe other parents while waiting for the gate to open. I’m not generally judgemental, but these occasions are something out of the ordinary, and it’s hard not to notice certain things.

I wonder sometimes what kind of parent I would have been if I didn’t adopt Ben. Would have I been one of these?

  1. The oblivious: a young mum is queuing with two kids, one about 4 years old and the other boy maybe 1, sitting in his buggy. The little one is shivering, and his feet are turning blue in the cold, while mum is talking with some other mums about the latest episode of The Great British Bake Off. The little one is now crying in distress, so young mum just rocks the buggy forwards and backwards and carries on talking about the TV show. Not once she looks at her little boy, not once she strokes him, reassure him, or put at least some socks on his cold little feet.
  2. The sociopath: a boy runs out of reception crying. He runs towards dad and, sobbing, tries to hug him seeking some comfort. Dad pushes him away and says: “I don’t have time now, go sit in the car and suck it up”.
  3. The know it all: I’m chatting outside school with red-hair-mum and back-from-the-gym-mum. Red-hair-mum is telling us his son keeps crying at school and he’s very anxious. He’s only 2 and a half, and he just started attending. Back-from-the-gym-mum offers the crowd her knowledgeable explanation, “I read of a new theory called attachment which explains that if your child cries when you leave him in a new environment, it’s because he’s attached to you. You should be proud of yourself. You’ve done a good job with your son”. And then always-late-mum adds a little bit more knowledge to that: “Studies proved that children are happy in a new place only for the first day because they don’t understand what is happening and they are curious. After that, they cry for about 3 weeks. So, it is a good sign if your son is crying while at preschool”.
  4. The privileged: a little boy under 3 years old who is in the same class as Ben keeps running out of the queue and into the street. Mum just stands there shouting ever so loud at him to come back and behave. She yells at him for about 5 minutes with no positive results, when finally she gets annoyed, “Come here, NOW”.  Even the urgency of the word NOW leaves the little boy unaffected. So mum tries the very popular taking away privileges technique, “OK, no iPad for a week”. That threat is effective: the boy comes back to mum, sits quietly in his buggy and mum gives him the iPad. This happens every single morning.

Caring for a child “from a hard place” forced me to learn new skills and attune my parenting to my boy’s needs. We do things differently from my friends’ family. It’s hard, we often get it wrong, feel overwhelmed and exhausted, but we always pick up the pieces and we try again.

My friends think of me as a sort of Mary Poppins. They think I’m eccentric when I have “time-ins” instead of “time-outs”. They believe I’m too soft when I ask my boy to try to use his kind words when asking for something. They think I’m a bit of a nuts when I ask Ben to take a deep breath and try to explain how he feels. And they definitely think I’ve lost it when, after a huge aggressive outburst, I ask Ben for a re-do.

“My friends think of me as a sort of Mary Poppins”

My friends told me my way of parenting is only good with children who had a difficult start in life. I could have plenty to say to them, argue that my way of doing things could benefit some of their children too, but I just smile safe in the knowledge that adoptive parents do it better.


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Foster Care Inn

Planning is much harder when you don’t know how many people will be sitting at your dinner table next month.

Despite that, Social Services ask nothing else of you but to plan. Plan the house rules; plan how spaces in the house are allocated; plan a fire escape plan too. Normally I would love nothing more than making plans and preparations, but not this time.

Even setting up a kid bedroom isn’t much fun when you don’t know the first sthing about the children who will inhabit it. The room at the moment is as colourful, playful and welcoming as a vacant hospital room. Everything in there, is there purely to satisfy a basic function, like having somewhere to sleep, or a place where to hang clothes.

We are keeping it strictly non-committal when it comes to gender and theme: not too boyish or girly, not too babyish or grown up. The only sign that a child might be sleeping in there is a Winnie the Pooh wall meter, hanging in a corner of the room. Poor Pooh, he seems a little out of place against the cream walls and the plain white furniture, but he’s gender neutral–and I like him–so he stays.

I would hate for our kid’s bedroom to turn into a sort of misplaced B&B room. Nothing wrong with that, I’ve been in some lovely B&B rooms myself, but I always end up wondering how many people slept there before me, or brushed their teeth at the same bathroom basin. Nothing in those rooms has any connection to me. Not like home.

I truly felt home as I stepped through our house front door, coming back from a great week away. But the joy of being back quickly dwindled as I walked past our bare spare bedroom. How many foster families do a child need to move to before he or she realises that all these rooms and houses are little more that B&B to them?

I wonder if feeling loved and protected can somehow make up for that. But I need to ask myself how much I’d want a complete stranger to love and protect me when I’d much rather be loved and protected by my own parents, and stay and live with them instead, in a house that feels just like home to me–because it is.

They have every right to hate the new arrangements. Some children turn their hate against themselves because they wrongly believe something is wrong with them, or that they’ve have done something to deserve it. Others take it out on their foster parents because they can’t push themselves to blame their parents yet. Either way, these children learn to hate at a very young age.

“So many foster children learn what hate is at a very young age”

I thought I had to wait until the end of the training before calling myself a foster parent; now I know it will take longer than that. Foster parents learn to care for their children and not to expect gratitude in return. They also learn to accept that their children may leave them before ever releasing all they have done for them. I haven’t done any of that yet.

All I’ve done is setting up a room. I hope it will feel like home for our foster children once finished, though right now it doesn’t feel like home to me.

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Summer holiday bloopers

Our first holiday as a family just ended. As much as we tried to be prepared and foresee problems before we left for Wales, we were bound to make mistakes.

Here’s a list of things we’ll do differently next time.

1. Not splitting the journey into small chunks

On our way to Wales, we travelled the four hours journey there in one go. We only stopped for a quick picnic on the side of the road, probably for not longer than 20 minutes. Ben behaved reasonably well, but understandably last hour of the journey was hard on him. We struggled in the attempt to keep him entertained, and by the end of the journey nothing we tried to keep him occupied worked anymore: not singing ABC countless times, not playing “I spy with my little eye”, not counting all the red cars passing by, not spotting cows and sheep in the fields (that was understandably too easy).

We learned our lesson quickly enough. On our way back, we broke the journey in two parts. We chose on the map a nice (random) town where to stop after about one hour and a half by car. We had a relaxed walk around, we popped at the local second-hand market, and visited the castle overlooking the town. Ben run and burn some energies, just before sitting down for a tasty Italian pizza and setting off again. Ben slept for over 2 hours once back in the car, and the journey back home seemed so much less stressful for all of us (if it wasn’t for the torrential rain we then found around Birmingham!).

2. Not thinking about baby proofing

We thought about explaining Ben well in advance about the hotel, his room adjacent to ours, and the “big” bed he was going to sleep in. When we arrived at the hotel he was very excited to explore the new place. By the time bedtime arrived, Ben was feeling perfectly at ease with the new environment. What we didn’t really anticipate was the suitability of the hotel bed.

When at home, Ben sleeps in a toddler bed with bed guard. In the hotel, he only had a single bed. Not surprisingly the first night he fell on the floor after about one hour into his sleep and ended up spending the rest of the night in our bed.

For the second night, we put some pillows and cushions to stop him falling, but he slowly slid off the bed and a few hours later I found him sleeping on the floor. So I picked him up, and put him in our bed, again.

The third night, we travelled hundreds of miles to what it seemed to be the only Argos in the whole of Wales and bought a bed guard. Finally, a good night sleep for all three of us.

3. Improvised walkabouts

After settling in our hotel, we decided to go for a walk in the woods and explore the area. After all, we were right in the heart of Snowdonia National Park, and we wanted to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

We set off with our new-ish buggy, no jumpers or water, no map and no information about where we were heading. We just started walking: we went down a path, we crossed a river, went on a small wobbly bridge, up a hill, down a hill, another bridge… and 3 hours later we knew we were lost in the woods.

Finally, we met a nice family on the mountain bike route we were on. We asked for direction to the next rest point, which happened to be two miles away on a very steep track. And off we went: two miles on a woodland path, with a toddler on a city buggy, hot, thirsty and tired. But eventually we reach the information point, just to realise that we walked even further away from our hotel, which was another two miles in the opposite direction. The man at the info point offered to give us a lift by car, but Diego gently declined. The nice man looked pitifully at us setting off again in the woods, and asked: “do you have water with you?”. That was also the moment Diego realised he had all the maps of the area available offline on his phone, so technically we were never lost!

4. Not booking well in advance

Our hotel was only one hour away from the famous Snowdon mountain. To be honest, everything seemed to be one hour away: Snowdon, the seaside, castles, the local supermarket…

We googled Snowden and how to get up to the top, and found out there is a panoramic railway that travels up to the summit. Great, we thought, perfect with a toddler. Unfortunately, we decided to book the train trip too late, and there wasn’t any availability for the following few days.

It would had been worth looking into a couple of places we wanted to go and see, and book them in advance. Availability of activities and special places reduce greatly if they are child-friendly, and a little forward thinking can avoid disappointing the little ones, and grown ups too.

5. Not managing our return home

We invested long hours telling Ben about the holidays, what he would have found in the new place, and what we would have done once there. We wanted to make sure he was going to be happy, calm, relaxed, and be able to enjoy the time away from home.

Foolishly, we didn’t plan for our return home. It’s difficult for us adult to come back to reality once the holiday is over, and it must be even more confusing for a child.

“It’s difficult to come back to reality once the holiday is over, even more so for a child”

Ben understood the difference between being at home and on holiday. He enjoyed the time away, but once back, he was definitely glad to have all his toys back, to be sleeping in his own bed, and to be in a familiar environment. The drawback was that he struggled to get back to his old routine. We should have planned our return home better, and jump at the opportunity to bring back from holidays some of the good habits and new little positive behaviours he acquired while away.


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First holiday with our adopted child

I was on Facebook a few days ago, and as Facebook often does, without any prompt of my side, it showed me a picture of Diego and me on holiday. Couldn’t come at a better time, just few day before we leave for our summer holiday.

I looked at the picture a bit better: both of us looked so much younger! When was this taken? Oh yes, Paris, 5 years ago. Incidentally, that was our last holiday.

Everything was so different then. We went to Paris for a 3 days city break, but we were having such a good time that, at the very last minute, we decided to stay there 3 days longer. I bet we wouldn’t be able to do it now! Impulsiveness and adoption don’t really get along!

In a few days, we will be heading to Wales, Snowdonia National Park, for our first family holiday. I was looking forward to it, imagining long walks in the woods, a day at the beach, relaxed lunches at the pub, and just enjoying being in each other company. I can hardly wait. That was until yesterday morning when few parents at playgroup spoiled it for me.

Everyone was so eager to share their holiday adventures, and mostly what went wrong. One family forgot the son’s favorite dummy at home, and the little boy cried himself to sleep every single night for a whole week. One dad told me that his adopted children were really happy and excited to be visiting some relatives in Scotland, but they had a huge meltdown in the evening because they wanted to go back home and sleep in their beds. One mum told me that her girl, who never suffered car sickness before, puked all over her dad’s head after two hours in the car.

At every story, at every unlucky event, at every unfortunate detail, I could feel my breathing getting faster and faster: panic button, panic button, don’t want to hear anymore!

This is the first time Ben will be sleeping somewhere other than his bed since the day he was placed with us over two years ago. This will be his first holiday. I’m not even sure he actually understands what a holiday is!

Probably I’m too late already, but today I started our holiday preparation:

  1. I told Ben we are going away, explained we will be coming home after 5 nights, showed him a picture of the hotel (which by the way, it looks like the fairytale house where the good witch lives).
  2. We bought a nice Scoobydoo luggage and I asked him to put all his favourite things inside to bring with us: books, cars, diggers, Boris the giraffe and Choco the Tucan. He also packed his favourite blanket and night light.
  3. We looked at family pictures and Life Book and I explained that once back we will have more memories to add to the ones we already have.
  4. Finally, I explained what we will be doing, and mostly where we will be eating.

I think that the words “restaurant” and “food” won him over.

Perhaps, this will be our only chance to get away before being approved as a foster family.

“More kids, more drama, more stress… Just more fun”

Now that I think of it, next holiday will be even more challenging: more kids, more drama, more stress… Just more fun, I guess.


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A time to adopt, a time to foster

Ben, our little one, wasted no time at all. He catapulted himself on the top of the trampoline before I could finish tightening the last nut. I had to push myself to behave as the responsible parent I am, fasten that last nut as tight as it needed to be, dust my t-shirt down, and only then jump in like an excited school boy.

Ben could not stop himself laughing, and I could not stop laughing with him. The sound of a small child having fun is so genuine that it’s naturally infectious. He kept spurring me on yelling “Come on, Daddy, come on!”, with a brashness and impatience you wouldn’t expect from a two years old, but that only made me laugh more.

That’s the kind of perfect moments you would never want to end. But then they do, in this case with me laying flat on the trampoline bed gasping for air, trying to convince Ben how much more fun it would be to bounce gently on our backs, while staring at the clear sky above.

Follow the rules

In that moment I understood why Social Services relies on strict guidelines when deciding on the age of child a family can adopt. Most Local Authorities won’t allow an age gap wider than 45 years between the youngest partner in the relationship and the child. It’s surprisingly generous if you think about it. In our case, it means we could adopt again in a couple of years, when Ben is a little older, we even older than we are today, and still hope for an infant. I’m flattered that Social Services may actually believe I could look after a baby well in my forties, and do so for many years after that, but I don’t think I can.

It’s not simply because lately I’ve picked up a mild addiction to hot chocolate and gained a few pounds (there is a good chance the two might be related), but because I believe that raising a child is not just about being around on the day of their graduation or at the first dance at their wedding. It means so much more if we can join in in the fun, and sometimes, I feel old for Ben already.

Fun in sharing

Age seems to be less important for a foster family. It matters less how fit you’ll be in the next 10 years because 10 years from now your foster child won’t be with you anymore. With fostering it only matters how fit you are today. Then, of course, it doesn’t always work that way, some children never find a forever family, so I’m not sure why it should be different.

Age seems to be less important for a foster family.

For a while we thought Ben would have been the only child in the family, although that’s not what we wanted for him. Fostering changed that.

We didn’t decide to become foster carers so that our son could have siblings – that was never the plan – but because of it, he won’t grow up as an only child. I understand how hard it will be for him, some days he might even resent the choice we made, but my hope is that there will be something in it for him too.

Nobody ever mentions the positives of having a foster brother or sister; everyone always dwells on the heartbreak of seeing them leave.

There must be something to gain from sharing our life with someone, even if only for a short while, and I hope Ben will be able to see that. Because there is no point in trying to help others if it comes at the expense of someone else, least of all your own child. That would be the exact opposite of selfless; that would be us just being selfish.

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