Thursday, 26 January 2017

Conversations with my kids (an occasional series)

Before school this morning: 

Me: why don't you have your socks on - I did ask you to put them on
Brown Bear: I didn't hear you
Me: Really ? I was right next to you
BB: Blue Bear had his bottom on my face
Me: (suppressing a laugh) And that muffled the sound of my voice ?
BB: Yes.

I went into our bedroom and collapsed in a heap of laughter leaving Hubbie to be the grown up

In the car on the way to pre-school: 

Blue Bear: Happy Mummy.
Me: Yes sweetie I'm happy
BB: No Mummy. Happy
Me: Are you happy baby ?
BB: (pointing at the radio) Happy Mummy
Me: Sorry baby, you want me to put Happy on the radio do you ?"
BB: Yes, Happy
Me: Silly Mummy
BB: Silly Mummy

Oh dear, what have I started ?

After school today:

Me: Did you enjoy the tea party at pre-school today baby ?
Blue Bear: Yes Mummy
Me: What did you have ?
BB: Snack (crisps), biscuits, no carrots.
Me: So there were carrots, but you didn't have any ?
BB: No carrots
Me: Well that sounds nice

Brown Bear: Why did they have tea at pre-school today ?
Me: To mark Australia Day. Not that it's really something we should celebrate.
BB: Why not Mummy ?
Me: Well, the first Australians were dark skinned people and when the westerners came along they pushed them out. That's why the original Australians don't really have much to celebrate.
BB: Pushing people isn't nice Mummy.
Me: No, it's not. I don't mean they literally pushed them, but they took over and made life hard for the first Australians. That's why I don't know if I'd like to go there.
BB: I don't want to go to Australia Mummy.
Me: People did the same in America too. There were people with skin like mine and then people with white skin came and took the land from them and made them move away.
BB: That's not nice.
Me: No, it's not.
BB: We're not going to America until Donald Trump has died are we ?
Me: Well, either that or when he's not president any more.
BB: Hmm. I don't think Andrew* voted for him.
Me: I am pretty sure his parents didn't no.

Well, that's world politics sorted then.

This evening:

Me: Ok boys we have to write thank you cards. It's been a month now and it is so rude that we haven't done it yet.
Brown Bear: Thank you cards for my birthday ?
Me: No. That was months ago - I think that ship has sailed.
BB: Ship ? Do you remember when we went on a cruise ? Just you and me ?
Me: I do yes.
BB: We should do that again. Just you and me.
Me: I'd love to do that.

All I have to do now is win the lottery to pay for it !

* Brown Bear's great friend from school moved to America last year and he would love to go and see him. 

Sunday, 22 January 2017

You're not the boss of me ...

...was the petulant response from Brown Bear the other morning when I reminded him of the school rule 'no football in the playground before school. I was wrong footed and heard myself, say, "well actually I'm your Mum so I pretty much am." Uh-oh. Not exactly winning any parenting awards for that now.

I don't subscribe to the school of thought that my kids are my mates, I am their parent first. However, I'm very uncomfortable with the notion of harsh discipline that I was raised with. When I said those words all the work I have done on forming a secure attachment, being a loving and understanding mother and instinctive parenting seemed to fall away. I took a step back and decided to make amends. I gave Brown Bear a hug and wished him a lovely day at school.

My parents never made amends. They never apologised. It was their way or no way. If I didn't comply I was glared at, bullied, then manipulated into agreeing. As a child there was no choice. I ate foods I didn't like because to not eat was disrespectful or rude. I learned not to answer back because if I did the consequences were excessive. I was called a whore for wearing nail varnish, accused of trying to hurt my siblings if they were injured within my line of sight and not spoken to for years without ever being told what I had done. During this time my dad walked past me in the street and acted as though he didn't know me.

My loyalty to them was borne of a belief that they were entitled to my unconditional love because they are my parents. They demanded respect because as far as they were concerned they 'own' their children. If I asked to do something they didn't want me to do the first response was always, "who do you think you are ?" As a result I went to university where they wanted me to. Did a degree that they approved of. Lived a life filled with guilt at never being good enough.

My children don't deserve that. They deserve to enjoy their childhood, to take risks, to make mistakes. When anyone says to my older son, "you're old enough to know better," I get annoyed. I heard that all the time. As the oldest I was always looking after the younger ones and didn't resent it one bit. I love and care for my siblings to the point that I didn't see I was being used as a cashpoint machine by one of them for years. When I finally said no to her the reaction was shocking and upsetting. I don't think I've really got over that.

I'm not saying my boys should always get their way. If they did it would be wall to wall TV and haribos and that's no way to live is it ? Well, ok it does sound appealing, but it's not sustainable and they will lose all their teeth before adulthood. Instead I want them to know they are loved and that I'm being fair to them even when they don't like it.

So, this is all on my mind right now because I've been really angry lately and when I was swimming this afternoon I worked out why. It's the boss thing. At the beginning when my first boy was a baby everyone had an opinion about how I should parent and I was easily led. Then I found confidence in my own parenting, but still took on board the ideas that seemed to make sense to me. Then when we adopted Blue Bear it was all new again and it was like learning how to parent from the beginning again. Still, I think I've got a handle on this.

Over Christmas when we were away the boys were overexcited and out of sorts being away from home and every day was an endless round of Hubbie getting annoyed with them and me getting fed up with the drama. You see if someone is negative about my children I take personal responsibility for their behaviour. I see it as a reflection of my sub-standard parenting and instead of letting it go I am then too strict with my kids. Hubbie became the boss of how I parented and I lost all confidence in my own skills.

Then yesterday morning when my mother was here I found myself getting impatient with my boys because they weren't behaving to the standard that she expected from me when I was a kid. As soon as my parents are around I suddenly become this strict dickhead of a parent that my kids don't recognise and I like even less. My boys don't react well to 'shouty Mummy' and my mother actually said to me, "don't tell them off too much." I walked away and went to have a shower. I wanted to tell her off for so many things she didn't do well. I said nothing. She's not the boss of me. Any more.

I swam to get the anger out of my system. It sort of worked. I remembered that my boys aren't me and I'm not my parents. We are a family held together by love, not obligation. Loving my boys doesn't, however, mean being a pushover.

I'm not the boss of my boys.  They're not the boss of me.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

A year of love, laughter and memories

A year ago today was a very special day for my family. I took the phone call that told me the judge had formalised the adoption and Blue Bear was officially part of the family. I called Hubbie to tell him the news. Brown Bear was at school and Blue Bear was at nursery so I pretty much got on with my day. Then we waited to be invited for the celebration day.

The sun came out that morning and it was beautiful. We all got dressed in nice clothes and travelled to meet Nanny, Granny and my sister at the court. The boys played in the sunshine and when they spotted the social workers they ran over for big hugs. Once we were all there we went in and were led to the court room to wait for the judge, who came in and congratulated me and Hubbie. She gave Blue Bear a teddy and us a certificate. We all posed for photos and it was done. We thanked the social workers for joining us, cut a cake and everyone hugged the newest family member.

Since Blue Bear came to live with us we've known he was meant to be in this family. He loves his brother. He adores his aunties and uncles and he's best friends with Neo. He's experienced so many new things with us too:

His first snow day. Making footsteps in the deep snow and building a snowman with Daddy. When he looked out of the window and saw it had melted he burst into tears.

Having watched Brown Bear on his scooter Blue Bear has been desperate to learn how to ride one too. We took him to a local park recently and he finally worked up the courage to give it a go and he loved it.

Like a lot of 3 year olds Blue Bear loves anything to do with pirates so it was heartwarming to see him having a swashbuckling adventure with Neo. Every pirate captain should have a cat first mate on board.

Blue Bear has really enjoyed the changing seasons and really loved taking autumnal walks in the crunchy leaves. I've spent months with pockets full of leaves, conkers and pinecones. 

Both boys love dressing up to play and Blue Bear especially enjoyed being a dinosaur / dragon. He's pretty ferocious isn't he ?

Taking a leaf out of his older brother's book he decided to relax with the tablet. I'm not sure why he's watching a tractor though.

We drive past the fire station every day on the way to nursery and he always counts them to see if any have gone out. We were out walking one day and just happened to spot this engine and he was delighted. Nothing beats a surprise fire engine !

We love Cornwall and it is so wonderful to take him to the beach and see him running around enjoying the sand, the sea and the ice cream.

I remember the first time he stood at the door when Hubbie was leaving for work and he said, "Bye Daddy. Later. Love oo." I laughed and my heart melted. 

Not all firsts have been successful. He tried broccoli, but decided that it's not for him really. We attempted to get him to put his face in the water at swimming and he was adamant that it just wasn't going to happen. He's taken to stamping his foot down and saying, "NO !" which is new and not entirely welcome. 

When the boys have gone to bed I go to check on them and silently watch them sleeping. Brown Bear surrounded by bears so I almost can't see him. Blue Bear lying on his back with his mouth open. I kiss them both and whisper, "I love you." Brown Bear smiles in his sleep, and sometimes Blue Bear sleepily replies, "love oo Mummy." 

We might not have been his first family, but we are his forever family. He belongs with us and we belong to him. 

Monday, 16 January 2017

Happiness is making time for some hygge

One of my Christmas presents from Hubbie was a book about Hygge - you know the nordic concept of cosiness and relaxation that involves candles and is credited with the reported high levels of happiness in the danish populationf. Well I liked the sound of it and in conjunction with my KonMari tidying project I've been thinking about how make 'cosy time'.

So the other evening I lit some candles and put them either side of a lovely plant. We don't have a fireplace so I wanted to create a soothing atmosphere with what we do have. When Brown Bear saw the candles he asked if we could we sit together in candlelight while Blue Bear was being put to bed. I was a bit surprised, but he really enjoyed the closeness and we have made it a regular thing. It's our bit of special time before he goes to bed and it helps calm him down after a tiring school day.

I'm no expert, but I'm finding ways to bring Hygge into our lives. I thought I'd share some of the ways we experience hygge in our home.

Hygge with candles. We have so many candles and tealights it's lovely to get to use them. They don't have to be scented - in fact the danes prefer unscented candles.

My hygge buddies, Brown Bear and Neo. They love to sit together in contemplation and stillness (well the cat does). It's their own form of hygge. 

My personal hygge with Neo and a brew to keep me and my fluffy dressing gown company. This doesn't happen often, but when it does it's just wonderful.

The best hygge we've had recently - looking outside at the snow falling while being all cosy inside. The boys were just delighted and watched for ages.

I'm really enjoying this special time we make for each other - it's nice and comforting and stops me from sitting looking at my phone all evening. I'm not saying we can practise Hygge every day, but I hope we can make time for each other and be close. I've already noticed Brown Bear is calmer and happier. I'm working on Hubbie too - he's not really a candles and fireplace sort of bloke, but you never know he might succumb to the cuddles.

Give it a go - you never know you might find it fun.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Easter eggs already ?

January is usually a pretty low-mood month. It's cold, it's dark, there's the post Christmas downer and it feels like a long month before you get paid. Then there's the deprivation, dry January, new year diets, the new regime of fitness and realising that there are already easter eggs in the shops, but because sugar is the enemy you can't actually buy any.

Except this year I haven't had the blues. I've felt energetic, I've been spending time with my boys and I've been going through the house like a buzzsaw tidying and sorting. I put this down to a few things. The last few years I've given up chocolate and puddings in the new year, so this year I had a head start as I was unwell at Christmas so it made sense to just cut out the 'baddies' early on. I didn't indulge on New Year's Eve so I woke up with a clear head and a resolve to get out and do something active. I started off the year not having bread or alcohol or sugar and will be slowly reintroducing them in minimal amounts. The exception is my lovely friend's birthday next Friday when I will have all of the above.

I'm taking part in the Moonwalk in May this year so I've been increasing my everyday fitness. Walking, swimming, clubbercise and this week I started bootcamp too. All of this is my way of ensuring that I am as fit as I can be to take part and I'm determined to do it in a personal best time.

Making myself go to bed earlier has enabled me to do things like read a book and to settle into bed before I fall asleep. Blue Bear isn't a great sleeper so we often get woken in the night and more than once so the more sleep the better really. I haven't quite mastered the art of waking up early yet, but I'm working on that next.

I've set myself the goal of cooking more meals from scratch and encouraging the boys to try new foods as much as possible. Brown Bear came home from school yesterday having eaten a chicken burger for lunch and I asked what he had with it. "It had tomato and salad on it, but I took all that off and ate it." Small victories I guess. Blue Bear tried some broccoli at the weekend. He's always pushed it away before, but he tried tiny pieces and declared it wasn't so bad after all.

Finally I want to earn again. It doesn't have to be a lot, but I do want to have some money coming in. The difficult bit is I want to enjoy what I'm doing and it has to fit round my family. The holy grail basically. So to that end I'm keeping myself busy and saying "yes" to opportunities that arise. Who knows, it might just work out.

Well, I'll keep you posted on my progress as the year goes on. Wish me luck.

Monday, 9 January 2017

The best things in life are these

I treated myself to this cuff from lovely Pippa at Story of Mum. I don't wear much jewellery and I don't have tattoos so sometimes it's good to double up. It goes under my sleeve and when I'm feeling like I'm not doing so well it reminds me that I am enough.

My gift for me - because I'm worth it

It wasn't until we got home from Cornwall that we were able to build this table for the boys. When it was done they couldn't wait to get started - I've just realised that Blue Bear is just the right height to get poked in the face by the rods. Not my best plan !

Table football for my boys 

Hubbie bought me some lovely things - including a gorgeous handbag. He also bought me this book and I wasn't sure at first if it was a comment on my housekeeping skills or intended to assist with my ongoing declutter. Either way I have just finished reading it so it's the first book I've finished reading in years and I'm already noticing the change in my attitude to tidying. I'm not sure about sparking joy, but I can definitely see the changes in our home.

Yep I've actually finished a book !  

This was a gift from my lovely friend and beauty therapist Yasmin. I hung it on the handle of the cupboard where we store Neo's food and I didn't really appreciate until today how accurate a depiction it is of him.

They know Neo so well 

I felt terribly guilty at Christmas when despite all my planning and packing and preordering of shopping I managed to forget to take anything for Hubbie to open on the day itself. He was very good about it, but I really wish I had got him something to unwrap. I bought him tickets for some great gigs that are coming up this year so hopefully the thought counts. 

I couldn't wrap Gedge 

Thursday, 5 January 2017

It's not about you

When anyone asks me about adoption it's usually about why we chose to do it, how hard was it for us, is it what we had expected. I understand why these are the questions that get asked, but what I want to say to anyone who is thinking about adoption is pretty simple. "It's not about you." I'm sorry to be blunt, but that is the honest truth. When it comes to a child being placed with a family it's entirely about what is best for the child. Whether your home is the most suited to them, your family equipped to manage whatever challenges they may bring. The process is to ensure that the child's needs will be met by you. It's not about you choosing a child who 'fits' with you.

As friends of ours are in the process of meeting their new child and getting to know her I thought I'd share some of the things that we've learned in getting to know Blue Bear.

Even though we have a son already we don't compare the two boys and at what age they do things.

We are taking it at his pace and listen when he tells us he's not ready. Then we work with him on what he can do.

Allowing him to tell us when he feels he wants to try means he doesn't feel frustrated or like a failure. 

We encourage him to help feed Neo. In return Neo lies with him and keeps him company sometimes. They are learning to care for each other and have become great friends

Nurturing his love of animals both at home and when we are away. He has learned to be kind, caring and gentle with animals.  

Trust - in everything. It's a lot to ask of a small child to trust you when he doesn't know you, but with time it does come.                                                 

Trying new foods and finding out which ones he doesn't like has been a learning experience. His firsts aren't always successful, but that's ok.

Repeating things he likes. From parks he likes, to programmes he loves and foods he enjoys. 

The basics are pretty universal though. The stuff you know about parenting, but that can seem so loaded and difficult with a child who is new and not entirely sure about you. Before you really feel like his family to him.

Being there when he cries at night. Every time, even when it seems it won't ever stop. He still needs to know that someone is there. 

Hugging him. At first he didn't want to be hugged and didn't hug back either. Again, it takes time and it's something he loves to do now. 

Putting on a plaster. Maybe there is nothing there, but the simple act of doing this shows we notice he's hurt and that we care.  

Holding his hand. His tiny little hand - and knowing when to let it go.  

Letting him try things - mostly because his big brother is doing them - all the while keeping him safe. 

Letting him be angry. Even when it's hard to witness and even harder to be on the receiving end. 

Not taking things personally. This is big. It isn't easy and as he gets older I suspect this is one I'll have to engrave somewhere so I don't forget it.

Showing him how to love (and be loved). By us, by his brother, by Neo by our parents.

After all that's what it comes down to isn't it ?