Wow what a crappy year 2020 was!!! Started on a high following our first family Christmas and New Year, we were looking forward to having our first family summer vacation with the in-laws but COVID had other plans!!!
But a positive of 2020 I actually accepted and finally opened up to those close to me about my mental health struggles which had come to a full on crisis last month to the point where I was drinking more, not eating properly (whether not eating at all or bingeing), going to very dark places, feeling that it might be better for those around me if I wasn’t around anymore. I held on to a lot of guilt and self hatred for the family separation during the initial part of the coronavirus pandemic.
It all came to a peak when I developed a ‘exit plan’, this is when I scared me I knew I needed to speak to my Gp and get some help, I spoke with my work and decided to get signed off sick. I knew it wasn’t safe for me to be there and I needed to actually take some to focus on myself and my family. After talking to my immediate family on how I was feeling, speaking with my therapist and the community psych nurse as well as starting a new medication I started to feel a tad better. I’m still not feeling back to myself but I am in such a better place than that I was say at the end of November.
But there is something about being a dad that makes this so much harder. Society dictates that as a Dad your not allowed to feel certain ways, and dads are often overlooked. For me there’s also the explanation that I’m a gay dad which is either responded to with raised eyebrows or that’s amazing….which I find patronising. Adoption as well just adds a lot more stress and pressure, adopted children come with a traumatised history, emotionally they are not the same age so when they have an emotional meltdown and you handle it in a therapeutic manner those around you tend to not understand and label it just ‘naughty behaviour’. This is also a parenting technique which isn’t associated as a norm for a dad. Modern day dads are hands on with parenting (regardless of parenting technique), housework, involved in their education and it’s still not deemed normal in society.
But thanks to the wonders of the online adoption community, LGBT community and the online dads community (namely the Dad AF app) have been amazing. There’s a world of support out there, and we dads have to be that pillar of support for each other as not many others get it.
So on Saturday just gone, it had been a year since squidge had moved in with us. It has been a year of just having our dream son, and a whole year of constantly hearing “Daaaaaaaaad”. I cant believe where this year has gone already its completely mind-blowing. Also so scary because it really hurts to see him growing so quickly, he’s not the little squidge that he was when he moved in just over a year ago.
The one consistent thing that has been going on on, and probably will be an ongoing thing, is that I have learnt so much. There has been a super amount of self reflection, lack of sleep because of this. I have realised that all of the learning and prep work that you go through during the adoption process is the tip of the iceberg and until your parenting a child who has gone through psychological trauma (no matter how bad it is) will you realise how tough it actually will be. We have been through the mill lately with behaviour problems, generally not listening to us, feeling like absolute shit parents at times. Countless times I have felt like a complete failure, and to be completely honest I still do, but its a two way street, he needs to feel like we will be there for him. After many discussions with our social worker and our lovely psychologist who is working with us, I’m starting to remind myself that he is testing me and that he still does love me. I think that since this is all within the last few months its partly because he is now so settled and comfortable with us as his parents that he feels able to act out. Also, I was that constant figure in his life, for around 8months I never left his side, unless he was at school or if Ricky was with him, I was present for the good, the bad and the downright ugly moments in his life. But now I have returned back to work his life has changed again and his security barriers have now risen. He is still adjusting to that. Unfortunately, my job is not a 9-5 Monday to Friday job, I work 12.5hr shifts, days and nights as well as weekends so its a major adjustment for him and for me I am bearing the brunt of it. And it’s bloody difficult.
But I am super proud of this little guy, he has adjusted amazingly to his new life and all the changes that he has had to endure, change of house, change of parents and extended family, change of school and a change of his environment. He has taken it in his stride, and done so well. Academically he is acing it, he’s made a great circle of friends at school and is wanting to have some playdates with his friends. So proud of him for this.
Despite being told by many social workers that we will not get our dream child and that we wont have our dream family, we did. And I wouldn’t change a thing about him, he is truly the son I dreamt of.
Hey guys sorry its been a while since I last posted. General life things getting in the way and I’m having to manage my time much more effectively since retuning to work, and making sure I’m spending as much quality time with the little man as I possibly can.
So some people have asked me how we talk about adoption with L considering his age etc. To be honest, we don’t hide that we have adopted him. We talk openly about his mum and his nan whenever he wants to, and only when he brings it up. The way I see it is that he has a mum and other family members out there so he has every right to talk about them. To be honest we will only bring it up when it’s close to the time to send the contact letter which is now every year, we sent a settling in letter shortly after he moved in. At the moment he has asked whether he is moving to a new home soon and he has even asked his social worker the same question, which naturally makes me feel for him and just end up giving him a huge cuddle. We did go through a phase a few months ago where he appeared to be settled and talking/worrying about moving to a new home didn’t come up, but recently it has. I can only think to put this down to my recent return to work, another change which he will have to overcome. We did prep him and he still has an item of mine to look after (its still a magnet from the fridge – which hasn’t changed if you read my last blog post!!). But after speaking with our social worker it is very common for children to take one step forward and 4 steps back, so it will take time for L to remember and believe that this is now his forever home and not another placement.
When we have spoken about his past and things like his previous foster placements we have used his toy car mat to talk about it (something which was suggested by our social worker). On his car mat we used different areas to show where he had been, so his mum and nan’s before ‘driving’ over to his first foster carers (his emergency placement) then ‘driving’ over to his second and last foster placement before ‘driving’ over to his forever home (ours). He often uses another car to talk about his brother as they were separated in their last placement. This allows him to understand his past and his previous placements, but also allows him to talk about it in a more relaxed nature and to talk as much or as little as he wants to. But this is just one of many other methods out there but its what works for us!
With L having two dads we obviously want to talk and teach to him about other types of families to teach him about diversity. He has always been open and shows understanding about difference. He has previously asked questions about different religions but not really on him having two dads or other children having a mum and a dad etc. But we have come across some great resources that teach children about difference, I thought that it would be helpful if I listed them below. These are all ones which we have read to L or utilised them when talking to L about difference, and he has taken them all in with no issues.
1) Olly Pike. This guy is a genius, he takes a new twist on old bedtime stories such as the princess and the frog etc. Olly has 5 books of which we have 3 that we read to L (Kenny loves with Erica and Martina, The Prince and the Frog, Prince Henry) . The talk about diversity from race and LGTBQ+ themes. L loves these books especially Kenny Lives with Erica and Martina as well as The Prince and the Frog, these stories really connect with him which is amazing. Olly focuses his books on teaching children about love, relationships, diversity and equality. With each book there is also the option of checking out his youtube channel for more education, or as he calls it edutainment!. Definitely worth checking out.
2) Two Dads. This is a cute little colourful book about two dads. It is written from the perspective of their adopted child. This is a super cute little book, perfect for bedtime reading.
3) And Tango Makes Three. This is another cute little book, which little man loves. its about two gay penguins in Central Park zoo who, want to start their own family, with the help of a zookeeper their dream comes true. A super sweet little book.
4) Daddy, Pappa and me. A lovely bedtime story book focussed on the life of a toddler and his two gay dads.
These books have really helped with teaching L that difference exists and that’s what makes people special. Hopefully these will work for you too.