Back to School…With Me!

So, 11 has now moved up to secondary. Choosing the school was an interesting decision to make. Did we send her to the school where I work or to another one in the area? I wanted to ensure that she was understood and looked after, but I didn’t want her to have the added pressure of feeling I was looking over her shoulder or staff were making judgements/treating her differently because of who she was.

We decided to send her to my school because:

  1. She can travel independently as there are no roads to cross and takes less than 5 mins to get there and back
  2. Most of her friends were going there
  3. She is comfortable with the building after attending events there
  4. She knows a number of the teachers
  5. The SEN dept is well managed (by a friend of mine)
  6. I monitor progress, attainment and behaviour of all PP students
  7. I would know the behaviour policy inside out
  8. I could find out homework expectations if she forgot what she had to do by the time she got home

As it happened, I was also made Designated Teacher just before the end of the academic year, so get to oversee her wellbeing in that respect too.

She was excited about coming to school. I think I was more nervous because I know what behaviour she can exhibit. In the back of my mind I knew she would behave differently at school to at home, but I would be fooling myself if I expected her to be the model student.

We’ve only done 1 day, but I can’t express how proud I am of her. In my role I had already let her tutor and staff know of her status, told them of the signs to look out for and gave them a number of strategies to use with her. Turns out I didn’t have to worry. Seating plans were already in place with SEN students being at the front (especially important as as teachers we can’t move out of the box taped onto the floor at the front of the room); she was confident enough to arrange to accompany a nervous friend to school in the morning; she was greeted by name by the Head of Campus as she arrived on site and when I bumped into her at break time she proudly told me she hadn’t been in trouble yet. When I arrived home at the end of the day, she had already hung up her uniform and rang her old foster carers to tell them what a brilliant day she had had.

I’m glossing over some of the preparation I put in with her, especially where the seating plans were concerned. Students in all classes have been arranged alphabetically (boy-girl) with SEN students at the front. This was a done to ensure students remained in one seat as they stay primary school style in one room while teachers move to them in order to stay as Covid secure as possible. I knew she would question this (and it would likely come out rude), so I explained to her she would be at the front and as expected I received ‘the face’. When I pointed out she liked the teachers checking her work and giving her a bit of attention and she wouldn’t get this if she was in the middle of the room she soon accepted the fact.

I know I am lucky as I am in the unique position where I can check that she is being supported and can give staff the guidance they need, and I’m fairly sure I made the right decision about where to send her. Time will tell.

Incidentally, I’m also the form tutor of another adopted student (and have corresponded with the parents already to ensure she is supported) and will be on the phone to the parents of another, along with the carers of those with an SGO, on Monday to see how we can support further. In my role as DT I an determined not to let the Post-LAC students be the forgotten few.

Running to Bond

This week I’ve started jogging.

Why?

Good question.

I’d like to say that it is because I want to get fitter. Or because I need to lose weight or trim up. But actually the reason is very different. it is to increase my bond with 11.

Since my girls completed our family 6 years ago, it has been quite obvious that 9 has had a stronger bond with me and 11 with her dad. Whether this is simply because 9 clings to me like a limpet at times I don’t know, but I decided enough was enough and I actually needed to make more of an effort to spend some quality time with the eldest of my girls.

If you know me, you will know that I am the most un-sporty person ever! The kids laugh at me if I run a couple of steps and if they ask me to do anything that requires effort I tend to just laugh at what a ridiculous suggestion they have just made. I’ve bought a number of pieces of exercise equipment, DVDs etc over the years, only to sell them after a month or two of them gathering dust. While walking the dogs, 11 has been asking if she could run down the road, so a few nights ago I made the suggestion we go for a jog. Like many adopted children she likes the routine of school and has, at times, struggled to entertain herself during the last few months and often expels her energy in an inappropriate manner. Jogging seemed to be the answer to a number of issues. She can expel energy; it is something we can do together (9 is far too much of a couch potato) and I guess I can get a little bit fitter.

We have done 3 runs so far. Today we went out first thing and this seems to be the way forward. She expends energy earlier; gets some quality 1-2-1 time and then seems happier to find something to do during the rest of the day.

For the last 2 nights I’ve asked if she is jogging with me again the following day and get the usual response where she seems to be considering it for a long period of time as though she might not take me up on the offer – but I know she is starting to look forward to this activity. This morning she was dressed with her trainers on ready for me to go and then came home to a pancake breakfast cooked by her dad!

So, another early morning run tomorrow then. And please don’t tell anyone that I’m actually starting to enjoy it……

Not Greener!

Out of all of us 11 has struggled the most with lockdown. Academically she has become stronger working on the basics at home, but not being able to socialise and shake off all of her energy her behaviour has become a little wearing. Don’t get me wrong, she’s not really naughty, just has to be constantly supervised as she will get away whenever she can when your back is turned and can’t seem to remember instructions from one minute to the other. This means someone has to be around her all of the time and so we aren’t able to switch off at all.

Both she, and us, are fed up of being told off and although we try and pick our battles patience wears very thin at times. Over the last week or so she has been particularly hard work and she has developed a feeling of being naughty (that we are trying hard to dissipate) and has implied that if she were elsewhere (with her previous foster carers or other family members) she wouldn’t be ‘told off’ as much. We’ve tried to explain this is not the case, but as is necessary for 11 she has to experience it to understand it.

So, yesterday we were off to the old foster carers for the day. As expected she kicked off in the morning and rather than tell her off I gave her an option. She could stay at home or we could go, but I would let them know about her behaviour. I wanted her to know that when her behaviour was dealt with it was forgotten and not held against her, so I was praying she chose option 2 – which she did eventually.

It’s important to say we had a brilliant day, just what the doctor ordered, but 11 did try and get away with what she gets told off for at home. Not surprisingly she was also reprimanded by the foster carers for bad table manners etc and she soon realised that the grass wasn’t greener on the other side.

When it was time to go, both girls got in the car happily after saying their goodbyes and when we got home I had a spontaneous hug from 11, which I haven’t had in weeks! Turns out I’m not so bad after all.

On the plus side, they also said we deserve a medal for being at home with her 24/7 for 16 weeks and so they are going to have them to stay for 5 days in a couple of weeks (just before 8 turns 9 so they can celebrate with her and we can have some ‘us’ time). I’m apprehensive, because it seems a long time to be without them, but planning lots of dog walks and pub lunches with the husband.

Lockdown and Us!

Do you know what? We are about to start week 6 of lockdown in our house and it hasn’t been too bad.  It’s not been wonderful all of the time and we have all had our wobbles, but I’m looking at the positives:

  1. Consolidation

I was dreading 11 taking her SATs. She wouldn’t have been bothered, but I was concerned about the comments her peers might have made on results day. So we have worked with her every day on the basics of English and Maths and are really starting to see an improvement. We are working in short bursts (not all day), but as we are able to work constantly on the same skill it seems to be finally sinking in.

2. Eating Together

Along with the 2 girls we also have 2 of my step-children living with us. As they have lost a lot of their income we have started to eat at least 1 meal a day together, rather than them cooking for themselves. This has been great for our sense of family and cohesion.

3. Hobbies

The girls have had more time to practise their musical instruments and do craft than they do during a school day. This has really helped with their confidence and independence. They have also read every day as part of their school work and this has become less of a chore for them as they have been able to choose their own books.

4. Family

Although we see less of our family, we are communicating more via the internet and Friday night family quiz night has become part of a weekly ritual. The fact there are 6 of us in the house also helps all of us to feel less isolated than we would have done living apart.

5. Weather

Been so nice to eat outside and let the girls blow off steam most days. Can’t imagine how we would have got through being cooped up.

6. Puppy

Without lockdown we would never have had Bess. Being at home means we can all help train her and keep an eye on her. Not sure the other half is looking forward to having her when we all go back to school, however!

7. Perspective

We don’t need a lot of material things to get by. Family has been the most important thing to keep us going during this period and I’m not sure I’m ready to go out and mix with hundreds of other people again next. Being happy within the home has really made me grateful that we all get along and actually really like each other. I’ve always found the 6 weeks holidays to be really hard to fill and rely on lots of days out, but after 5 weeks at home it just goes to show that we don’t need to go out much at all to cope.

It hasn’t been all plain sailing. Meltdowns and wobbles have all played their part and it really is difficult to provide as much structure for 11 as she needs. We are all having to make sacrifices, but we are doing ok. I was expecting this period to be much harder and I know we are extremely lucky to live where we do and have the space within the house to have some ‘me time’ when it is needed.

So, another 3 weeks and let’s see where we are then….th-2

 

 

It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to….

My eldest really struggles with birthdays. She can’t contain her excitement when it is hers and can’t cope with others getting more attention than her when it is theirs.

This year she turned 11 and we allowed her to have a friend over for a sleepover. She had been so good on her recent residential that we felt we could finally trust her. I asked her friend’s mum if she would be okay with it a month or so ago and we booked Rebound and bowling to keep them occupied and tire them out.

The 1st problem was her brother-in-law (thanks to a blended family) turned 30 the same week and so a surprise party was booked for the weekend before. This caused 11 some consternation as she couldn’t understand why he was having his party first when his birthday was 2 days after hers.

As is usual on a birthday, 11 chose where to go for her birthday meal. She chose the local (fairly expensive) Indian restaurant which certainly got the thumbs up from me. The girls usually share a bhuna, after poppadoms and pickles and so we humoured them as they looked through the menu. 8 complained the writing was too small, so I passed over my reading glasses so she could peruse it properly. As we went to order 8 put the menu down, looked over her glasses and stated “I’ll have a chicken tikka special please!” To which 11 replied “i’ll have chicken tikka balti!” They ate it all as well….along with an ice cream sundaeth-2!

The 2nd problem was her friend’s grandma had passed away between me asking if she was okay to stay over and the actual party. The funeral was held the day before she was due to stay with us. The death of her grandma really affected her and when we went to pick her up she was really tired and subdued. They had a great time while we were out, but when we came home for pizza she simply burst into tears as she missed her grandma. We offered to take her home or to ring her mum, but she kept saying she didn’t know. Eventually, at 10 o’clock she decided she needed to go home and I dropped her off after ringing her mum.

11 was distraught and as soon as we’d dropped her off she burst into tears – she was so looking forward to having a friend stay over. I really felt for her, but we talked it through and she did understand. The following day we text to see how her friend was and her mum thanked 11 for being so understanding.

Overall she had a lovely birthday, but she’s still waiting for her first sleepover to happen….

She’s packed….

10 is about to go on her first residential with school. As parents we have had many discussions over whether she should go or not:

Reasons for:

  • She should have the same experiences as others
  • It’s near enough that we can pick her up if there is a problem
  • PP+ has paid for it
  • It’s all activities that she will enjoy
  • The school want her to go
  • It may help her to become a bit more responsible/thoughful
  • Good way to make new friends
  • She copes well being away from us

Reasons against:

  • She can’t always be trusted – has stolen things on the past
  • She gets involved in everyone’s business – this could lead to friendship issues
  • She doesn’t always behave age appropriately
  • She doesn’t always listen to instructions or when she is being told something she doesn’t want to hear
  • It will be unbelievably embarrassing for her if we have to collect her
  • She will follow the person having the most fun – usually the one who gets in trouble

So, with some trepidation and after long conversations with the staff attending we have decided to let her go. She’s doing quite well to keep the excitement in today, although while packing and checking she had anything yesterday she was a little ‘away with the fairies’.

School have agreed the following:

  • They will contact us at the first sign of anything untoward rather than waiting until it escalates
  • She will be in the lead teacher’s group (deputy head)
  • They will ensure she is put in a group with suitable students
  • She will be closely monitored

Personally I think it will be the making of her, but her dad is a little more pessimistic. It’s just a case of watch this space…..th-2

But she’s not your real daughter!

A few months back I wrote about how my youngest daughter got confused about my relationship to her. As I have step-children, she was adamant that I was her step-mum too as she had a real mum as do my 4 step-children. Apart from the fact we have been to court and I have legal responsibility for my 2 adopted daughters, there really is no real difference. Over the course of the last 19 years all but one of my step-children have lived with myself and my husband for a period of time and I’d like to think I had just as much impact on them as I have my daughters (certainly two of them would not have a career in music if it wasn’t for my involvement).

Today we were in the car discussing the fact that 10 comes up to my school in September. “You won’t be teaching me” she said “you won’t be allowed!” Actually this isn’t the case (she might actually behave better with me) as I taught my youngest step-daughter. 8 was very quick to point out to me that that was very different as her big sister isn’t my real daughter and they are!

This from the girl who only a few weeks ago was adamant I was more like a step-mum and wasn’t her real mum either!!th-1

Family at Christmas

For us family isn’t as straightforward as it is for other people. Neither of us have parents to share Christmas with and myself and my husband both have factions of the family we don’t speak to for various reasons. However, I do have 4 step-children, 3 grandchildren along with a sister, aunt and uncle, cousins and a 97 year old grandpa. But, we also have the girls foster parents too!

Christmas itself was quite a quiet affair with 5 of us for dinner. I had seen my side of the family the evening before and my step-children who don’t live with us popped in between Christmas and New Year, or celebrated New Year with us. Apart from that we had some good old quality time together as a family and took advantage of going out with Adoption UK too.

The girls were going to be treated to a day at Harry Potter World with their old foster carers just after Christmas, but unfortunately one of them was taken into hospital the week before needing an emergency operation. This has subsequently been postponed at least 3 times – at the time of writing this 2 weeks after Christmas she has still not gone under the knife –  and so the trip out was not to be. They were more worried about cancelling the trip than anything else as another member of the foster family was joining them as a surprise for the girls. To be fair Harry Potter Studio Tours were great though and tickets have been swapped for Good Friday.

As the op was postponed she was allowed home for 2 days over Christmas, so guess where we went on Boxing Day? The girls loved it. They have their own room at their house (visiting family have to sleep on a put-me-up) and they were so excited to show me where all their stuff was. It was so nice to see that the foster carers still thought of them as ‘their girls’ too and were always ready for them to stay.

The lovely thing about visiting is the girls know that they will be coming home and we continue to treat them as simply members of our family. We swapped presents and had a lovely day before we went home and they went back to the hospital.

Hopefully the op will take place later this week. The girls are just hoping that it happens soon so everyone is well enough to go to Harry Potter World at Easter – where they will no doubt be spoilt again!!!!th-1

It’s not your fault…..

As my 2 get older they ask more questions about their background and early years. 10 has gone from refusing to look at her Life Story Book, to being a lot more curious about her early years.

While we were watching her sister in her swimming lesson a couple of weeks ago she was writing down in her notebook everyone she loved. Somehow, she was asking whether she loved her birth mum and whether she was kind. It’s a difficult one to discuss. On one hand I want her to be realistic, as I’m also aware of how differently she was treated compared to her sister, but at the end of the day she still does have a birth mum who is part of her.

In the end I decided to go with the basic facts at an age appropriate level and she decided that she didn’t know if she loved her birth mum, but maybe when she was older she would meet her and find out. We talked about how if everything had been great she would still be with her family, but how glad I was to have the privilege of being part of her family. We had lots of cuddles and she didn’t talk about it again.

Over the next week she was a little distracted and even went back to stealing sweets from the kitchen (a behaviour I thought we had overcome) and my husband, by chance, bumped into her teacher at the end of the day on Friday. She said it was the same in school – she had been great up to half term, but had been a little off the last week.download

Later on that evening we sat down with her and asked her why. It turns out (not surprisingly) that the knowledge she had uncovered had been playing on her mind and she was feeling to blame. This time she not only had me to talk to, but her dad and her adult sister. We talked it through and made it quite clear that non of it was her fault and she shouldn’t ever think it was.

I now have my bubbly 10 back. She is gaining more knowledge and understanding of her past, but as a family we are also learning how to deal with it and support her as much as possible. Her past is part of her and we wouldn’t want to take it away, but it is also important that she learns why she behaves in certain ways and knows she has her whole family behind her supporting her in whatever decisions she makes in the future.

A Note from 10!

As it’s National Adoption Week I asked 10 what her thoughts were.

I do not have a problem with being adopted. At first I didn’t want to look at my life story book and didn’t want to talk about my 1st mum and dad. Now I can read it happily and I don’t really blame my mum – she just couldn’t look after us as she didn’t know how.

Now I am adopted I do lots of fun things and am very lucky because I have been to Alton Towers, Splash Landings, Greece, Portugal and the Beach. I get spoilt!

I am happy to talk to my friends at school about it and often get time to talk with a special teacher at school about how I feel and what has happened to me.

Me and my sister have been adopted 😉 so if you get adopted you aren’t alone.

After writing this she went and told her dad he could adopt more children if he wanted to. With 4 birth children of his own, along with 10 and her sister, I think we have enough on our plate….th