This is a guest post by 'Dad of Four'
When people used to ask me what sort of person I was, I'd say things like “patient".
These days, with four children (three adopted) it’s slipped down my list of words that might spring to mind. In fact, especially in school holidays, I’m not really sure how to describe what sort of dad I am. In fact, scrub that, in school holidays, I actively avoid selecting adjectives to describe myself! Perhaps, like lots of adoptive (and biological) parents, I’m aware of my shortcomings. We live in a world of ‘Facebook perfect’ families, with carefully selected moments presented for other people to see and feel inadequate about. Our house is fun, busy, but also slightly deranged when school’s out. Most of the time, I realise that we don’t need to be a ‘Facebook family', but on a challenging day, as my twelve year old would say, it can feel like a #fail as a parent.
Our children are now (just) all at school, and are a very different bunch. Let’s just say that behaviour in our house reflects attachment related fear and anxiety, differences that disability brings, and all the usual fun that different ages and stages brings when we’re all together.
Feeling pleased that those two are getting on? Someone else is punching.
Feeling smug about the way I defused that anxiety? Someone is so excited they are about to puke.
Had a nice chat about birth mum? It’s coming back to get me later.
Got great plans? Here come the relentless questions and interruptions.
You get the idea; in fact, you may have your own little double acts. I have quite a wonderful combination of things that can happen in any given day. Everything bounces off everything else, even the stuff we don’t know about.
On top of it all, despite ‘knowing' a thing or two about children’s development, family functioning and so on, I still have that invisible check list I measure myself against:
Have I been consistent?
Have I fallen into the trap of matching children’s anxiety and levels of arousal?
Have I picked my battles?
Have I paid attention to the ‘little’ things that actually really matter?
Whose SENCO are we talking to here?
Did I match those tights with that dress? (not for me, I add).
It actually goes on a bit. As I said, having children - adopting children - who are ‘wired’ differently really brings out your best and worst. I have been really proud of myself as an adoptive dad, but also ashamed at times as well. My wonderful wife is normally a really chilled out person, which is handy, as I am a stress monkey, working hard not to be. We work hard at being a team, because we need to be: consistency, reenforcement, mutual support, a bit of challenge, a hug here are there (OK, lots).
I’d like to say that I advise all fellow adoptive parents with zen like calm. The best you get is listening, and reality. I'm incredibly positive about adoption and difference in family, but have and continue to be challenged.
I understand when people struggle with not always feeling ‘warm' towards their adopted children, or deal badly with an angry child who pushes for a reaction, or people who are ready to judge children or me. I don’t tick all my checklist every day, but the balance is right and I’m going in the right direction. Just don’t have so many school holidays, please.