Sunday, 7 February 2016

Wake me up before we Lego-go

Me: Boys, what do you think about going to Legoland ? Would you like that ?
Big Boy: Ooh yes please. Can I go when I'm big ? I'd love to go to Legoland. Baby Boy would love it too - they have things for small children too don't they ?
Baby Boy: (prods his brother and laughs)

Big Boy: Is it far to get there ? How will we go ? 
Me: Well, there are plenty of options. We can go by car, or by bus or coach.
Big Boy: What if it's a lot of traffic ?

Me: Well we could go by train ? 
Big Boy: Oh yes that sounds good. 

Me: Well we're quite lucky we live not that far from Legoland, but when me and Daddy were little there was a Legoland in another country and the only way to get there would have been to go by plane. 
Baby Boy: Wow !!
Big Boy: Can we take a plane ? 
Me: Erm, we don't have to, but I'll see what I can do. 

Big Boy: When we get there what will we do ?
Me: It's up to you. Like when you start with Lego you have a lot of different pieces don't you ?
Big Boy: Yes. I have a lot of Lego. Baby Boy keeps trying to take mine.
Me: He does. So when you start you don't always know what it's going to turn out to be do you ?
Big Boy: No. I sometimes make lots of different things and sometimes I make one big thing.
Me: Exactly. Going to Legoland is just like that. You can do as much or as little as you like. It's all there for you to explore and find.

Big Boy: So we might see a dog on a skateboard ?
Me: Maybe
Big Boy: Or R2D2 driving in a car ?
Me: Anything is possible
Baby Boy: (incoherent babble)
Me: Yep they might have a lego bike too baby

Big Boy: Can we be different characters when we get there ? 
Me: Of course you can. 
Big Boy: Brilliant - I can have a lightsabre or a sword or a backpack
Me: You can be anyone you want to and have lots of fun. 

Big Boy: I can't wait to go
Baby Boy: Lego ! Go ! Go !

Me: Well you never know boys - you never know. Goodnight.

(Just for clarity, despite their love for it my children aren't actually made of Lego)

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Ok I confess I do listen to the Archers

I was once asked by a manager if I thought of myself as English because he'd heard me call myself 'Indian.' He was a black man who identified as Scottish first and foremost so I guess he wondered why the disparity existed. I told him I felt that I couldn't identify with being English, but by birth I am British and my family originate from India so if anything that makes me British Indian. Then I realised that when I'm in India I am seen as English, firstly because I was born here and live here and secondly because Hubbie is so I guess I must be. The reality is that I am English for a few simple reasons:

  • I dunk biscuits into tea (only the basic ones like ginger nuts I'm not weird or anything) and apparently that is an English thing.
  • I drink a lot of tea - I always thought this was an Indian thing, but apparently it's English. What would I dunk my biscuits into otherwise ? 
  • I love marmite - my friend SJ says that having a strong opinion about Marmite (love it or hate it) is what makes a person English. 
  • The definitive marker, however, is that I listen to the Archers. My friend Tim who lives in Thailand still listens to the omnibus and we compare notes on a Sunday about what is happening. Now that is proper commitment, but then I suspect he takes pride in that whole 'Englishman abroad' schtick.

Making this admission in public is a bold move for me as it's part of my accepting my middle aged, middle class, self. It's also about something bigger than me or the Archers - I know, is that even possible ? At the moment the Archers has a storyline that has caused a lot of consternation and upset to regulars and newbie listeners alike. As someone who has been listening for fewer than 5 years I am still a relative newbie. I am, however, very invested in the current storyline about Helen and Rob. This has been going on for a while and it has emerged over time that he is emotionally manipulating his wife, isolating her from friends and family and is now turning her young son against her.

It is often difficult for someone who hasn't experienced this kind of domestic abuse to understand why Helen isn't just standing up to him or telling someone, but having lived with someone not dissimilar to Rob I think I understand why.

In the beginning of my relationship he seemed very kind and I believed he was misunderstood. Rob told Helen that his wife was mad and that only she truly understood him. The secrecy of the relationship was part of what made isolating me from my friends possible. Helen and Rob started out having an affair and she lied to everyone about seeing him. As the relationship progressed he ensured she relied on him more and more.

In public he would be charming and in private he had an unpredictable temper and I would be on the edge of my nerves as soon as he got home in case he was in a bad mood. Regulars will remember that Rob was very angry because he hates tuna and lied about being attacked by a hunt saboteur. If these sound like ridiculous examples let me give you some of my own.

We were driving to see his mother for the weekend and because she was off with him on the phone he swerved sharply off the motorway and threatened to drive into a wall. I talked him out of doing that (well shouted actually) and instead he threw his new mobile phone out of the window.

While we were away celebrating his 30th birthday he fell into a bad mood and decided to pick a fight before we went to eat where he made unkind comments to me while we ate dinner. I tried to stop myself from crying as he gritted his teeth and sneered at me to stop showing him up in public.

It isn't just anger though, it's also dishonesty. Rob has lied and manipulated others and is convincing Helen that she is going mad. Towards the end of my short lived first marriage I was broken and alone. On the first day back to work in January 2000 I got to the train station and decided to go home and rest for the day, thinking he'd already left for work. As I opened the front door to our flat I heard him indoors and felt my blood drain away. He was furious with me for being home. The smell was unmistakeable yet he'd told me he had stopped smoking weed ages ago. When he heard the door lock open he'd thrown the lit joint on the floor and it would be my fault now if the flat burnt down. As I crawled on my hands and knees to find it with tears rolling down my face I knew that this was enough. The lying, the loneliness, the lack of basic kindness.

I was lucky enough to get away without the need for an intervention and I was able to go to my parents' home. A lot of women are not so fortunate and if they also have children there is so much more at stake.

A lot of listeners have questioned why Helen hasn't told anyone or left Rob. Well I know women who have had their jaw broken and been too afraid to report it. Who have also asked to drop the charges, not because they forgive the man who did it, but because they are convinced that they did something to deserve it. Physical damage can be seen, but mental cruelty is very hard to prove. Someone like Rob will make you think you are the problem and that without him you just won't cope.

One of my fellow listeners Paul Trueman has created a Justgiving page in the name of Helen, with all donations going to the very real and much needed charity Refuge. So far it's raised an amazing amount of money to help Refuge support victims* of domestic abuse. I am a proud member of the Archers Appreciation Facebook group and even more so now that we have done something positive with all that unspent rage we are feeling towards Rob.

If you would like to donate please go to this link:

* I use the word victims advisedly and with no intention to shame anyone. 

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

What is Sanskrit for cultural appropriation then ?

I saw on twitter that Beyonce has been called out for 'cultural appropriation' in the video for the song she has dueted on with Coldplay. In it she features as a Bollywood screen star complete with cleavage enhancing outfits and henna painted hands. Chris Martin and fellow Coldplayers mime while doused in Holi colours and there is a smattering of scenes featuring 'local colour' such as poor kids, festivals and holy men. It's pretty harmless stuff really. Is it appropriation ? Not especially. It's heavy handed and pretty cliched, but no more so than when Madonna did it a while back when she made the Ray of Light album.

In fact Madge was credited with introducing the entire western hemisphere to yoga which apparently no one had even heard of before she did it. I've been a yoga teacher for 7 years now and have practised yoga for over 20 years. I first started when I came back from uni and read an article in Time Out about the life centre in Notting Hill and decided to check it out. The first lesson was tough, but I loved it and I kept going. Every Saturday morning I'd be in warrior pose wondering why I put myself through it as my teacher Andrea - an ex dancer - put us all through a tough Ashtanga routine. I was lighter and younger then and I struggled, but something made me want to do keep going and to get better. I did get stronger and learned a lot more about the practice and eventually took the step I had wanted to for so many years to train as a teacher.

One of the things that struck me when I was training was how often I heard the references to 'real' or 'traditional' yoga. I was lectured by tutors about how yoga is practised in India and on one memorial occasion a teacher impersonated indian people with that head bob we know (and that I loathe). I complained about her behaviour and she took to attacking me with the preserve of the racist and weak, 'some of my best friends are...'  I was fascinated by the mispronunciation of Sanskrit words and chanting what I can only assume is a non asian's version of the blessings. I was the only asian in the room and would often hear grand pronouncements about how things are done in India. One fellow student shared her outrage that in India disability is seen as a punishment as 'they believe it's karma' - oh man did I let rip on that day.

When I qualified and was looking for places to teach I found that there are a number of churches that do not allow yoga to be taught in their halls because it's seen as a religious practice that is at odds with Christianity. It isn't, but I'm not going to disrespect someone else's faith and there will always be other places to teach. Not long ago it was reported that a school banned yoga due to it being 'cultural appropriation' I have to admit I was a bit baffled until I thought, well yes it is. But so is the chicken tikka masala that is probably served in the school canteen and come to think of it the tie dye skirt that the art teacher wears.

The line between celebration and appropriation is pretty blurry. I think getting all het up at Beyonce is  missing the point. No one wants to appropriate the reality of what life is like for women in India. Why deal with misogyny and widespread violence towards women when the clothes are jewellery are so pretty ? It's so much simpler for beautiful, successful, western women (whether black or white) to objectify asian women even further.

Oh and the single isn't much cop either.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Snapshots of my boys

On days when Hubbie works from home we try so hard to make sure he gets plenty of time to do actual work. Last week Baby Boy decided to join him in some letter and number work on his own laptop computer.

Baby Boy decided to carry his brother's schoolbag on the way home, I'm not sure if this was his own idea or if Big Boy planted the seed of the idea. 

My adorable little nephew has been hanging out with the grandparents - he's loving his tummy time mat.

After swimming we always get chips for the boys' tea and Big Boy likes to take responsibility for ordering and paying for them now he's a regular. 

After school one day last week the weather was warm and dry so we decided to go to the park. The boys loved having it all to themselves. 

Finally I can't forget Neo - he's really into blogging now and has been proof reading my posts. Ok, he's actually just trawling Youtube for funny cat videos really.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

I claim my trophy thanks

I was on a course today. It was an all day event about 'the adopted child in school' and required a fair amount of mental energy. There was a lot to take in and so much that was useful and helpful, I'm so glad I went. Of course before I could go I had to make sure things were organised at home.

Last night I'd made a packed lunch for Baby Boy - having already agreed a longer day at pre-school for him so that Hubbie could work from home. They were celebrating Australia Day at pre-school so I made sure that the bag by the front door had his packed lunch in it as well as a koala toy for show and tell. As I was in the bathroom this morning I called out to Hubbie, "red, white and blue." To make sure that he dressed Baby Boy in the colours of the Australian flag as requested by nursery.

Having ensured that I ate some breakfast I walked Big Boy to school this morning - well I ran behind his scooter as we were running late - then went to catch the train to London. I ran down he ramp at East Croydon to make sure I didn't miss my train to King's Cross and even managed to get a seat.

During the lunch break I had a wander round Waitrose and picked up some Easter eggs for the boys and some fruit for the journey home. When I got to St Pancras I found out that no southbound trains were running so had to make alternative travel plans. I rang Hubbie to let him know.

When I did get home he had already cleared the backroom for my yoga class and I was able to spend a bit of time with the boys before they went to bed. Then after class Hubbie said he had a confession.
Me: "Was it that you forgot Big Boy's scooter at school ?"
Hubbie: "Er, yes."
Me: "Yes he did tell me, that's ok. You went back for it didn't you ?"
Hubbie: "Well, I think I drove over it actually."
Me: (sniggering) "Sorry ? What ?"
Hubbie: "Well, I was getting Baby Boy into the car and it was raining and I forgot the scooter was there then I heard a bump and thought it was the kerb."
Me: (wiping tears) "When did you realise ?"
Hubbie: "When we got home. I got the boys back in the car and we went back for it."
Me: "I love when you look after the kids for the day. It makes me feel so competent."

Hubbie, making Mummy look like a champ since 2010.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Modern Love: What my 5 year old thinks of marriage.

The latest in an occasional series in which me and my son talk about life.

Big Boy: "Mummy, me and Georgia are getting married."
Me: "Really ?"
BB: "Yes."
Me: "You told me the other day that Attie is your girlfriend."
BB: "Yes she is"
Me: "So if she's your girlfriend how come you're going to marry Georgia ?"
BB: (sighing) "Ok then I'll marry both of them."
Me: "Sorry ?"
BB: "I can marry them both."
Me: (stifling a laugh) "Now, there are a few reasons why that's not going to work.
BB: "I will be their husband and they can be my wifes"
Me: "The thing is that they're both quite feisty and they won't go for it I'm afraid son."
BB: (thinks) ... "I'll marry Baby Boy then."
Me: "That's a lovely idea, but you can't really marry your brother Bubby."
BB: "Why not ?"
Me: "Well, he's your family and you don't marry someone who's already your family, like your Mummy or Daddy, or brother or sister."
BB: "Oh, ok."
Me: "If you meet someone who isn't in your family and you like them and they like you, you can get married."
BB: "Not now. When I'm a man."
Me: "Of course, you do have to be a grown up before you can get married really."
BB: "Well, when I'm a man I can get married."
Me: "If you meet someone you want to marry, then yes you can."
BB: "And men can marry men."
Me: "Yes. And women can marry women if they want to."
BB: "I already knew that."
Me: "Me and Daddy don't mind who you marry when you grow up. Or even if you don't want to get married."
BB: "I will get married. Like you and Daddy are married."
Me: "Yes we are."
BB: "I know that."
Me: "I would be really happy if you meet someone who loves you as much as I do. Who takes care of you and keeps you safe."
BB: (Thinks) "Have you got a snack for me to eat Mummy ?"
Me: "Yes, sweetie."

This is the kind of Mum I am. 

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Ch Ch Ch Ch Changes...

I haven't written about adoption for a while now and frankly it's been deliberate in order to stop myself from writing anything too bitter and stressed. I know some of you are interested in adoption and some things can only be talked about (written) with hindsight otherwise the emotion at the time it's happening is just too raw. Just before Christmas two big things happened.

We had a family assessment with a child psychologist to help us manage the boys and the various issues we have with their outbursts, aggression and overall emotions around the adoption and how they are managing to live with each other. It was after school so not the best timing really, but it was interesting to have a professional come in and observe how we are together. Some of her comments were a bit hard to hear, but the bottom line is that Big Boy is acting out because he is feeling that Baby Boy is taking over his territory. Baby Boy is asserting himself in his new home and making it clear that he will not be pushed around. It seems so obvious really, but managing this on a daily basis is not as simple as we had imagined. As a result of the assessment we will be getting some structured support to help us and some one to one sessions for Big Boy which will help address how he feels about it all.

It  has taken so long for me to find the balance and work out how to spend enough time with both boys. For the first few months there was almost constant screaming as they fought for my attention and my default was to attend to the younger one. The other day a friend mentioned that she had noticed this when she visited and I felt so ashamed that it was that obvious that I was favouring one child over another. We all make mistakes, but everyone else's aren't under the spotlight as they are when you adopt.

The other thing that happened before Christmas was that we were given a date for a court hearing to decide whether or not to place Baby Boy with us permanently. It was a surprise as we hadn't expected anything to happen before the new year. We tried so hard not to get our hopes up too much, but it seemed that everything was in order so it was possible that it would be complete before Christmas and he would be officially in our family just in time for his first Christmas with us. On the day itself I had already booked the boys to go and see Santa at a grotto in town so we were there when the social worker rang me. I saw three missed calls when we were in Marks and Spencer and called her back. She said she was going to call in so I left straight away to get home to meet her. I knew it was unlikely to have gone smoothly as she didn't sound too cheery, but told myself she might just want to tell me the good news in person.

She was polite and friendly and played with the boys while I hung up the coats and offered to make tea or coffee. She had to get back to her own children as she was on annual leave and had attended court on her day off. Then finally the small talk finished and she told me the judge had given directions and there was one missing bit of information that had to be presented at a new hearing date set for January. So that was it. Our hopes dashed. In a 5 minute court hearing. The social worker had to go. I wished her a Happy Christmas. I fed the boys lunch, then called Hubbie to tell him. It was beyond disappointing. We had promised ourselves not to get our hopes up, but hadn't imagined that something so simple would be an issue. The judge wanted proof that Birth Mum knew about the proceedings. Fair enough and entirely correct. No one had done that. We went through anger, sadness, trying to make sense of it all then finally acceptance. Christmas was difficult.

I was thinking about how hard it must be for someone to accept that their child is not going to be in their lives any more. To know that their only contact will be via a letter once a year. That they won't see the changes in their face or hair colour, or listen to their first words. Missing those first steps or being there for the tearful nursery drop offs. Not being there to go to the park or to feed the ducks. No visits to A and E or plasters for no reason other than the child is convinced it will make the imaginary hurt better. Never telling a bedtime story or staying up at night with a child who can't sleep. Seeing a toy that you know your child will love and trying to hide it so they don't find it before their birthday. I can't imagine a time when I would be able to accept that was going to happen. It's a tall order to ask that of his mother.

The social worker managed to talk to her and confirm that she knew it was happening. That was enough to take to the court hearing. So on the day of the final hearing I was at a fitness class and had left Baby Boy with the lovely neighbour as he was too poorly for nursery. I had two missed calls when I left the class and decided to wait until I was in the car to call the social worker back.
I held my breath as I waited for her to answer her phone.
"Sorry I was in a class when you called earlier."
"That's ok. Was it a good class ?"
"Yes. How did it go ?" holding my breath.
"I've got really good news..."
I didn't hear the rest, but I knew it was finally done. She said she'd be in touch later in the week and congratulated me. I thanked her and breathed. I had to tell Hubbie first, then Big Boy. Both were busy so I went straight home and as I opened the door he gave me a huge, beautiful smile.

My son.

It doesn't matter how we came to be here or what happened before. We all belong to each other now.