Thursday 29 June 2017

Permissive Parent.

It's just not worth the fight.

Is it? Does it have to be a fight? If we dig our heels in and tighten the screw of consequences to a point of winning our argument what is actually learnt? Who's understanding of consequences is developed. Not sure.

So, do we roll over and play permissive parent? 'Do as you wish' because 'Do as I say' leads to the Raa and the shouty place, conflict, verbal abuse, dissent, threats etc.

But the bystanders, those on the edge, the teachers and professionals the family and friends. What do they think? When they see me looking for the easy route rather than standing my ground of forcing an issue. I choose my battles but as we tentatively and chaotically move into the teenage years I see that things are getting tricker. Of course there are days when lines must be drawn in the sand and all the training courses and cunning parenting plans/models/theories/techniques dissolve to nothing. They're not good days.

I've got to advocate better, oil the wheels of the agencies that are in hovering around. Explain why I'll not 'make' homework be done at the expense of our ever so delicate equilibrium, of course I'll encourage and support but 'making' can lead to a few hours or even days of raaa. We all wobble during those times.

So,  I choose permissive and I think what will this matter in a day, week or year. Of course I can rationalise it all. The inner me isn't so sure.

I'm having to retrain myself. My need to be in control and be a dad is well ingrained but I often feel like a bomb disposal expert looking at a red and blue wire. One wire leads to a nasty place and the other to relative safety. Red or blue my mind flits through all the options as I try to make the right choice and of course sometimes theres no right choice if it's hard wired to go off it is going to go off.

Thursday 22 June 2017

Little Man

I often find myself having imaginary arguments with people at three o'clock in the morning. I'm fighting some comment that pushed me over the edge or I'm railing against the dominant education paradigm that is trying to shoehorn my child into an educational onsie. I find myself quoting wiser minds, current research, government guidance and policy, all arguments and agents of bureaucratic nonsense resolve as I cut through their arguments like a scythe. I'm not loud or aggressive just an unstoppable force powered by a irresistible logic.

I'm marvellous, an über adopter, a member of the elite forces of the adoption world, no one can resist my knowledge and logic, they must yield. I'm an adoption wünderkind,  I'm blogger of the bleeding year and the bleeding year before that, I'm a social worker, I'm a grown up! They do yield, having seen the error of their ways. I'm gracious in victory, offer to share my insight and knowledge with them and their team and they gratefully agree.

It's three o'clock in the morning and I'm rehearsing another meeting with another professional. Words racing around my head again. I fall into an uneasy sleep and wake tired. I'm such a fantasist, I'm pretty sure it's going to be tricky and I've got a knot in my stomach again. I visit the toilet, then again. I can't even remember why I called the meeting, my blood was up about something, my blood is now very down!

I wish we'd scheduled this meeting for 3 am, I was on fire! But alas no. It's just stupid old me, sloppy unconvincing words and half baked arguments as I give in to my sense of  intimidation, I prattle on in an ineffectual way about this and that. I've become the definition of pathetic, they take pity and show mercy. They've got some good ideas, mine are pretty lame.

I go home, thank goodness that's over. I might start a blog about gardening.

Friday 16 June 2017

Father's Day

This is not a post about Father's Day, it's not really a post about fathers, more about me. If you ever thought this blog was about anyone else then re read the blog name.

I had this funny moment a few weeks ago, I looked at my hands as I washed the paint off them from the jobs I'd been doing and I saw my dad's hands. I'd reached an age where my hands look like how I remember his. Like memories do, they flooded in, countless memories of my dad.

I can recall watching my dad. I'd watch him potter on for hours waiting for a go on the tools that he was using around the house. I remember him cutting his finger as he fitted a pane of glass and wondering if I would ever be as brave as him to not cry if I cut my finger.

I remember my only trip to the pictures with him to see a James Bond film.

I remember train journeys with him.

I remember him teaching me to ride a bike on a summers night in the late 70s, all the kids in the street came to watch as I was so bad at it, I remember crying.

I remembered the rough and the smooth.

I remember twisting the arms of the nurses to be let into hospital at 11pm the night I was convinced he was going to die. I 'knew' that this was his last night alive and I needed to make things right, he said he was proud of me it was the best moment of my of my life. He lived on a few more days and we made some more memories.

I remembered this and I remember that as I looked at my hands.  I didn't have to recall them all individually it was like a block of emotion and history dropped into my consciousness with a thud as I looked at these familiar paint specked hands. Good and bad memories, love endures, a dad's unspoken love for a son and a son's wonky love for a dad.

It then got me thinking how my children would remember me. I felt sad that they'd never look in a mirror and see shadows of me in their appearance. That's a problem I can't fix and a place I'm not sure that I want to go to. The 27 year old me wasn't bothered the 45 year old me is not so indifferent.

I wondered how my children will feel when they're 45 when they think of me, their adoptive dad. That's a slippery slope to Unhappy Town. Parenting children who've walked the adoption road makes you a different kind of dad, yes I'm their dad but I'm also not their dad. A peculiar place, see I told you this was a slippery slope. My identity is often woven into the identity of earlier dads. I recall the fear of a six year old when she found out that her new daddy drank beer as well.  My children's views of the world are unique and specific to their lived lives. Children's perceptions can be so wrong and right, it's hard to know what they'll think.

My dad died the day of my first adoption assessment home visit. That seems odd now, he wasn't so sure about our plan to adopt, he said some unkind things. He would have loved his grandchildren I think it would have been easier than being a dad for him. Today is father's day, just another day when men think about their dads.

Wednesday 14 June 2017

A Guest Post: FASD & CPV

A guest post by an Anonymous Mum

Last night I came home from work and my 4 year old son wouldn’t let me in the kitchen. He was with my partner and he slammed the door in my face and screamed that I couldn’t come in. Later that evening, I tried to ask him not to splash water from the bath all over the bathroom floor. He’s not learnt to swear yet but his response was raw piercing screams of ‘go away’ and ‘I don’t like you.’ That morning he had arrived at school and promptly hit his friend in the face, making him cry.
Physical and verbal outbursts are a daily occurrence with my son and they are by far the most difficult thing about parenting him. Both at school and home he can hit, kick, push, bite, scream, slam, knock and throw things and the force behind these explosions can make them feel ferocious, and shocking.

There is a reason for the outbursts -  they are symptoms of his brain being injured by alcohol when it was growing in the womb. He has something that is rarely acknowledged or spoken about, foetal alcohol spectrum disorders - FASD. A damagingly hidden and stigmatised condition, FASD is a spectrum that is thought to be more common than autism and to affect up to 75% of 0-4 aged adopted children. Not all children with FASD will be violent to this extent but some aggression is very common.

One of the most maddening characteristics of this injury is its unpredictability. It is uncertain, spiky, and volatile. A good brain day, hour or minute can pass with very little incident. My son can be charming, funny, loving, eager and sweet.

But on a bad brain day his mood can switch to red rage in an instant. Then there seems to be an urge that must be followed through. He needs to get to you, to hit you in the face, to kick, to throw things at you. Faced with this, I find the biggest challenge is not to join him in the rage. When a random attack fit for the marines is upon you it is very difficult not to respond.

The anger I feel is based in fear. Fear for the future when my already incredibly physically strong 4 year old gets bigger and stronger. And the threats and insults become more and more offensive.
And I rail against this. Because I would never dream of associating with someone violent as a friend or partner.  And I have moments of outrage at the idea of putting up with attacks or abuse. If that came from a partner you could be protected. People would rush to condemn them and to get you to safety. But how are we going to be safe? Who is going to protect us? Who is going to help us? And what are we going to do?

When I’m in a more regulated place however, I know what ‘works’ better than anything. And that is the beauty of knowing about FASD. Once you truly understand that this violent behaviour is symptoms, you can try and change your response. You would not tell a wheelchair user to get up and walk. And while behaviours shouldn’t just be tolerated, in the moment of overwhelm, it is the symptoms of a physical and medical condition that are at work.

There are lots of ideas out there on how to respond, and I recently came across some great advice on youtube here  Staying calm, not talking, disengaging and not reacting are some of the hardest but best things to do. Re-directing to a calm space, is also something to try so that in the end the person with FASD can understand what they need to do for themselves to regulate and come down.

But such positive self-help is unlikely for the huge number of kids with FASD who are being misunderstood. Stigma and lack of awareness means they are being mis-labelled as naughty or as having attachment disorder and misdiagnosed with conditions like ADHD and autism. It’s often said that FASD co-occurs with these. It doesn’t. It mimics and is similar to them but it is not the same. We must have more proper research, recognition and diagnosis of FASD so that we can better understand and manage this surprisingly common condition and its sometimes violent symptoms.

Thursday 8 June 2017

Clichés & Hope

Some days it feels like I’m living a collection of clichés that are straight from the section at the back of the Big Book of Adoption. The section called 'At the end of a great day we have a bad night'.

Oh boy, what a bad night. I mean how many blog posts, book chapters, support group discussions, social work hours have been consumed with that topic.

'We had such a lovely day at the beach and it came as such a shock when they bit the wing mirror off the car when we got home and ate the cat'

I'm almost embarrassed to say how surprised I was that after a lovely day out with laughing, smiling, conversation and fun we ended in a full on ding dong with all that means. Not nice, but not a unique experience in any way. Once again, my head drops and I'm cast into the shadows.

You'd have thought that by now I'd be wary, guarded and wise to such shenanigans. It seems like so much of my life is a well worn path, with patterns that return and return, the stories that I read in blog posts and twitter threads all ring true and resonate. Perhaps that's why the fellowship we get from twitter is such a tonic. A cohort that gets it, truly gets it, and understands the metaphoric and very real slap that some of our daily experiences represent to our bodies and soul.

I chatted to a very wise friend and as we considered the future. All we could have hope for was the days ahead. I believe that I can do the days ahead.
Sometime my hope stretches to months and years ahead, sometimes it constricts to minutes and hours ahead. Funny thing hope, like mist, hard to grasp but certainly there.

I'm not sure how I ended on hope, so a little blog from clichés to hope.

Thursday 1 June 2017


On my desk at work there's a little book of social work theories and models. I keep it there to bamboozle the student social workers with my bredth and depth of knowledge or at least to show them I can read. I browse it occasionally to inspire thought. 

One of the cornerstones of social work thought and practice is empowerment:

 "the means by which individuals, groups and/or communities become able to take control of their circumstances and achieve their own goals , thereby being able to work towards helping themselves and others to maximize the quality of their lives." Adams

I've been pondering power and adopters for a while to be honest I've lots of thoughts so this is just a bit. 

Adopters are generally doing ok in life at the moment that they pick up the phone to start on the process of adoption, in fact it's a prerequisite that you've got to have your stuff together. Of course we've all lived a little and have our bruises etc but generally we are the captains of our own ships. 

In effect we're people who don't need empowering as we're actually quite empowered. But we then surrender some of the key elements of that empowerment to achieve our goal of adoption. Social Workers make appointments and hijack our diaries, we submit to the will of approval panels, all unpicking the sense of control that we had in our lives. We then wait by the phone for the news of potential matches or we trawl through the online catalogues of children that we're allowed to view. Of course we again submit to the will of Social Workers who deem us as a good or unsuitable match. I could go on, matching, introductions, placement, SW visits, court dates and then finally adoption orders. 

The adoption process removes our control of our own circumstances and we have to rely on others to achieve our goals it is the exact definition of disempowerment. A very tricky feeling and for many of us a very new feeling. 

One part of the joys of the court hearing at the end of the adoption legal journey is the sense that you are again the master of your own destiny. That's the end of that. 

Of course, some or many of us find that we're progressively drawn back into a world were we surrender our control and are effectively disempowered. Education, health and mental health services, post adoption support all necessary services for our children but we again feel the frustration as we give control over to professionals the may or may not 'get it' or care or be capable. Often we cannot do anything, we would if we could, but we're reduced to waiting by the phone.

To feel disempowered is to be isolated without hope and lost, not a nice place and that is often compounded by challenging behaviour of our children. A grim reality for many families. 
It's a unique proposition for Social Workers as well, we're removing a sense of agency and control and replacing it with dependency and barriers. Of course we're working to a goal but to get that we take them along this path. 

Perhaps this in an extreme view and of course others may feel differently, so if that's you then just ignore me.  Of course we could talk about how caring for tricky children is also disempowering in the extreme but that's for another day.

Well this is a  cheery little post isn't it? I guess knowing what's driving my inner challenges helps me navigate them. 

*To be clear I'm not an Adoption Social Worker.