Why the heck are you adopting?

That’s a polite way of expressing the ( occasionally mild, but sometimes not ) incredulity which meets our declaration of intent to begin the adoption process. Not that every response is that negative. In fact, most of our friends and family have been incredibly supportive and interested ( at least to our faces!! ). But I guess in our circumstances, time of life etc, it’s a perfectly valid question. I mean let’s face it, we’re already a family of six with four beautiful children, busy work lives with a hectic family life to match; nine hens, five cats, two rabbits and probably a partridge in a pear tree if we could locate him under all the piles of homework, ironing, dirty clothes, odd socks, toys, DVDs, toilet rolls, assorted assemblages of cardboard artistic creations ( blame the current creative phase of the youngest daughter ), Xbox games, controllers, old VHS cassettes, games kits, spare shoes, old bicycles , riding gear, discarded wine bottles ( a result of the Hubsters home-brewing efforts, not in any way related to the travails of being a parent I swear! No, I really do! I’m tee-total!! For real!! ), books, souvenirs, fitness apparatus, and so on and so forth. You’ll get the picture I’m sure. Think the usual BBC1 situation drama mixture of My Family and Outnumbered with a smattering of ( it’s a fantasy which exists purely in my own head ) Alex Polizzi’s plush London pad!

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I imagine it’s the same for most people but deciding to adopt isn’t something we arrived at instantaneously during a rare moment of peace. And not simply because we never have any of those. Moments of peace, I mean. Hubster and I have always recognised the importance of taking time out from the usual everyday pressures of family life. We seem to have this tacit understanding and inkling when one or other of us is reaching crisis point and in desperate need of a break, and we’re both pretty good at taking the reins for the requisite number of hours in which the other person can find their inner peace again. The Hubster runs, brews his wine/beer and talks to people about cars to wind down. I’m of the ‘ cranky brigade ‘ if I don’t get to exercise/meditate/read/watch box sets etc. Neither one of us is lucky enough to have parents willing to turn up and ‘ give us a break from the kids ‘.

NOTE: why is this a ‘ thing ‘? The concept of grandparents stepping in and babysitting, often overnight, even for the WHOLE WEEKEND (!!!) is totally alien to us. Frankly I find it hard to grasp. A few hours away from your children, with partner taking over seems fair. After all, you brought them into the world ( or elected to adopt them ), so parenting them is something you’re quite likely to want to do, yes? But to regularly expect that grandparental intervention seems a tad over the top. I’m not disregarding the loving grandparents who want and actively seek to spend time with their grand kids, but I am taking issue with those parents who do expect regular time out from their own children. I’m probably speaking from a slightly envious viewpoint here, my own parents having baby sat a grand total of once in over 20 years, but hey! Whoever said our opinions weren’t shaped by personal experience?

The desire to adopt has been simmering away on the back burner for some considerable time now. Probably ever since I became a parent in fact. Having been brought up in a cold and unloving environment, by a self-confessed non-maternal mother and an emotionally distant father, it was something of a revelation to discover that I was a hugely maternal person. Who knew??! Certainly I didn’t.

Never having had any contact with babies or young children whilst growing up, effectively an only child due to my severely disabled older brother’s banishment to a residential home – my parents, in particular my mother, were unable to cope with his condition, I was a naturally shy and timid child. I spent a large part of my childhood on my own, except when I was at school. I’d had friends, of course, none of whom who’d had younger siblings. My younger cousins I’d hardly seen whilst growing up. The consequence of all this was that I’d never spent any time around babies or small children. Instead, I’d while away many a long, happy day looking after animals. In hindsight, the signs were there. I’d regularly rescue wild chicks and stray cats. I’d spend whole summers obsessing over butterflies and my ladybird collection. We had cats, dogs and rabbits as pets and I was lucky enough to have two ponies of my own. I lavished my attention on all of them, spending hours upon hours at the local stables, mucking out and grooming the horses for free pony rides, just for the love of it all. This love of all animals I see now on reflection, was a substitute for the lack of affection and love I felt at home. Dogs, cats and ponies were my constant companions and I’m grateful for that now because I’ve been instilled with a lifelong affection for animals of all kinds.

I was a naturally quiet and ‘ good ‘ child, studious in my teens, and I secured a place at a prestigious University to study law after taking my A levels in one year, when I was sixteen. I traversed my way through the academic process and qualified as a solicitor, still making sure I had time for my animals but factoring in time for quite a riotous social life and boyfriends of course. The Hubster-to-be and I discussed our desire for children during our engagement and I remember thinking at the time ‘ yep, I could quite go for the whole working mother of two perfect children thing ‘, providing my salary provides for adequate child care and knowing full well that my parents would never dream of fulfilling any child caring role themselves, citing ill-health as a reason. More on that in future posts I’m sure, because I’ve always felt their health issues were always on the rather convenient side to be frank…

Just stopping to read through the above and OH MY GIDDY AUNT, WHAT A HUMONGOUS MOANING MINNIE I’M SOUNDING right there!

I’m going to have to stop myself from a) going off on a needlessly irrelevant tangent and b) I really do dislike feeling sorry for myself and sounding off like that. Not only is it a complete waste of time – how does it change anything? In what way is it constructive? We can’t change the past, only learn from it and move on into the future taking the lessons with us, with a grateful heart. But also, and very importantly, it makes me appear as if I have bitterness & resentment deep down in my soul for my parents and really, I don’t. I accept they did the best they could in the circumstances, given their own upbringings, priorities and demons etc.  I know they both had family issues to deal with whilst growing up and having a disabled child at any time, let alone over forty years ago when attitudes and resources  weren’t as they are now, must have been hellish.

Im going to steer my thoughts quite deliberately now, back to pleasant memories, and try to explain a bit more fully, why we came to a firm decision last year to begin our enquiries into the adoption process. Think positive!

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The bottom line on making that life-changing decision to adopt is this: we love being parents. And we’d like to keep doing it. And get better at it.

Not that you stop doing it as your kids grow up. When they eventually flee –  in my case!  or, fly the nest -hopefully our children’s case, your still going to be parenting, in new and challenging ways.

Your kids are always going to be in need of your support: practical, emotional, FINANCIAL!!!

At present, in truth, things are a little bit quieter at home than they have been, since our eldest is midway into a three year university course. Number Two son ( UGH!! Must NOT get into the habit of referring to him in that way!! ), is progressing towards a Uni place in September. Next down the sibling line comes 15 yr old daughter, about to sit her GCSEs this summer, and bringing up the rear is youngest daughter aged a fantastic 8 years of age.

I’m going to say it big and bold, and loud and proud: I LOVE BEING A MUM!

I love the idea of a big family unit, a house teeming with kids, sharing our lives with one another. I love helping to guide and support them through life’s ups and downs. In recent years I’ve discovered on a deeply personal level, the power of positivity and gratitude and the importance of finding our own unique purpose in life and I want to help my children in their journey to discover what their purpose might be. I love being their very own number one fan! I love being around children and young people, feeling their energy and vibrancy. I want to champion them as they discover the world about them in all it’s glory.

Adoption for me, is about taking this forward to help a child who might otherwise miss out on what life can offer. It’s also – I THINK at least at this stage – perhaps going to help me become a better parent. With anything you’re passionate about, you should, I believe, always be seeking to improve on what you can do, and even at this early stage ( we’ve just completed Stage One of the process and are about to commence Stage Two), I’ve already found I’m learning new things and implementing them in my current ‘ parenting strategy ‘.

If that last sentence is anything to go by, I’m also already absorbing the Social Worker lingo on a subliminal level.

Yep that really is it. Being a mum is the best job in the world, certainly for me. I’m not saying I’m gong to practice being a BETTER mum on a looked-after child, but caring for, getting to know and loving a potentially damaged and traumatised child, negotiating a way through the emotional turmoil of a child grieving for the loss of their birth family, and providing that child with a loving and supportive family network seems to me a natural progression of my love for children, parenting and caring for others.

I believe in leaving the world a better place when we shuffle off this mortal coil, and adopting a child who needs love and the close bonds of a family, is one way I feel I can make that contribution; to that child, to our society and to humanity as a whole.

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