Strange times are upon us and as a result of the recent Covid 19 lockdown it feels as if I’m currently trapped in some very bizarre government initiated social experiment. One which has unexpectedly seen me and hubby working from home, home schooling our children, and not to mention manically clapping on our doorstep for weeks on end now.
It’s all still a bit surreal really and admittedly some of the days have blurred into one, however with three little brains to educate a support role to continue from the confines of our shed and not to mention a newly placed crazy toddler to keep alive I haven’t had much time to dwell on things for long. Night time however is a different matter and it’s during these quieter moments as the darkness enshrouds me that my thoughts finally sneak up on me.
I’ve never really considered the differences in my famalam’s genetic makeup, they are all very similar visually (and even sound the same) that it rarely crosses my mind. Here’s a funny recollection for you – picture me having a lengthy conversation with the optician about mine and hubbies optical history (years ago when our eldest daughter was newly placed) there I was banging on about how blind hubster is and not to mention the glaucoma that has snuck up on the older generation in my family whilst she listened intently and scribbled notes. Until of course it suddenly dawned on me mid flow that the answer to her question bore no relevance to our daughter at all! It’s actually quite funny when I think about it now however in the moment I was mortified when I had to embarrassingly confess this mid appointment. It’s only been in more recent weeks since the pandemic has taken a grip of the nation (and one by one the casualties have hit the media) that I’ve started to consider and fear how our genetics may play a part in the current Corona virus outbreak.
When I took the time to try and rationalise this I came to the conclusion that as an adoptive family we’ve been living with medical uncertainty for years now (as this is one of the biggest risks you take when you adopt a child). A few years back it became an all too scary reality when our eldest daughter was rushed into hospital with abdominal pain (which turned out to be appendicitis). Stood in a medical bay at the local hospital it became very apparent to both myself and my teen that we were missing huge chunks of her birth families medical history when I struggled to answer any of the questions I was presented with in the moment. For some adoptive families letter box contact with birth family is a good opportunity to be able to gain some insight with regards to this missing information however in other circumstances (such as our youngest son’s) this is not always possible and as a result he just has a big question mark to replace his.
Despite my recent night time anxieties I try to remain positive and I count my blessings every day that we were able to bring our newest addition home just before everything kicked off. My thoughts go out to all of the prospective adopters around the country who were matched prior to lockdown and are now having to wait until it’s safe enough to bring their child/ren home as this truly is a devastating concept. Not to mention the ever struggling care system which will undoubtedly crack under the strain of these unprecedented and challenging times where children are unable to move. Spare a thought for the country’s Foster carer’s (who are often the forgotten key workers of our society) most of whom will be continuing to work harder taking in additional placements and not to mention having to homeschool children with some very complex needs.
So it’s during these times I describe that our baby girl has come home and we are currently parenting with attachment in mind. This means that we have been social distancing for a little longer than most. Social distancing is actually a very useful analogy to describe what is expected of adoptive parents during the early stages of placement. Some people refer to this process as ‘funnelling’ and it’s the initial settling in period at home which requires parents leading a very quiet life, establishing a routine and responding to their child’s primary care needs with limited interruption from others. Gradually after a few weeks you can introduce close family and friends however it’s still really important to spend lots of quality time together bonding as a family and continuing to grow an attachment with your newly placed child. In the current climate we have of course not been able to introduce anyone else and as a result our toddler now calls the phone ‘Nana’!
One positive thing to come out of all of this extra unexpected time together is the strong attachment that we have managed to grow with our little one in such a short space of time. I must admit, this time around (due to the lockdown) it has required a level of creativity on our part when it comes to some of the activities we have been able to do together. You’ll be pleased to hear however that our little one has experienced her very first ‘staycation’. Just like all of our previous holidays there was sand, a pool, palm trees (courtesy of my artistic eldest daughter) and even sun thanks to the good old British weather. Whilst I’m creatively gifted when it comes to my ideas not all of them pan out how I expect them to – take our staycation pool party for instance and picture the younger children dancing around in the water as we blew bubbles at them when suddenly my youngest son pipes up with ‘Mum the water is changing colour’, if only I could have captured the look of sheer horror on my face when I spotted the bit of sweetcorn bobbing around – Note to self (and others) do NOT improvise when it comes to swimming nappies during these times where shopping is hard to come by!
Oh and dare I mention the Easter egg hunt in the garden – who knew that it was going to be so hot that the eggs would be a sticky melted mess before the children actually found them!! When it comes to recreating some of my hare brained ideas I would describe myself as one of ‘life’s triers’ however every now and then one of them turns out to be truly magical (and for our little one this was our teddy bears picnic). One afternoon whilst she was napping I enlisted the help of the older children and we filled our front room with every teddy bear we could possibly lay our hands on in the house (and let me just tell you there are a few!) Leading her into the front room (post nap) to the teddy bear picnic song her face was priceless (for everything else there’s MasterCard) and within seconds I knew that we were on to a winner.
Initially when our baby moved in we concentrated on establishing a routine – which btw turned out to be nothing like the one we learnt at the Foster carer’s on introductions! No matter how smooth the transition is from the carer to yourself your little one will experience a level of trauma from the move and this is likely to cause some disruption. Our eldest daughter shut down and slept a lot however our newest addition has displayed a level of hyperactivity and has decided to join ‘he who shall not be named’ in the limited sleep department (despite her sleeping in until 9am when we first met her). She has even tried to ditch her afternoon nap…..although I think this is related to FOMO more than anything else!!
So my top tips for growing and attachment (during lockdown or otherwise) are….. don’t be afraid to let your little one regress in order to complete some of those attachment building blocks you’ve missed out on. For example our baby has gone from a cup back to using a bottle intermittently and every now and then I make the most of the moments where she crawls on to my lap and allows me to feed her. In addition to this, at meal times I bring two spoons to the table to allow her to continue to feed herself however where possible the big choo choo train comes along and I feed her a spoonful too. After a few weeks (when she was more settled) I incorporated a baby massage / Theraplay type activity which allows for some skin on skin touch. Every night this sees me rubbing baby lotion into our little ones skin whilst singing to her – for her tummy I sing ‘Round and Round the garden’ and for her feet and hands we do ‘This little piggy went to Market’…..you get the drift. When parenting with PACE in mind the most important letter in the early stages of attachment building is ‘playfulness’ – the rest will hopefully follow as you build a connection.
Whilst there have been some magical moments such as outdoor camping, indoor spa days and a bake off with the next door neighbours, not everything has been a bed of roses. Lockdown will have its ups and downs for us all and home schooling is our number one down. I know that there will be many parents (adoptive and otherwise) who will be able to identify with this. Every day we learn how not to do it and every day we try again.
The other day I actually found myself drowning out the squeals of enjoyment of the families who surround us with my best fish wife impression yet and needless to say I wasn’t shelling fish!! You’ll be pleased to hear that I’ve since given myself a detention and am taking onboard the learning of ‘I must do better’. I’ll hold my hands up and say we are not perfect and we don’t always get things right however we both possess the ability to be reflective and learn from our mistakes. As a result we have called a code red (yes there will be wine) Covid 19 home educating meeting this weekend where hubby and I will discuss the way forward for our younger children and their education. I’m very much of the opinion that digging, planting and nurturing our veggies in our allotment (which no longer looks abandoned) is totally educational and that there are other positive lessons that could be learnt during this time like……how to stop bickering with your brother!
My final thought goes out to the Adoptive families who were already in crisis (prior to lockdown). I know that things will be tough for you guys right now so I’d like to leave you all with a quote that was given to me by a student whilst I’ve been working from home.
‘It’s ok to be a glow stick, sometimes we need to break before we shine’.