We adopted our children during the pandemic
‘Mummy, where do you buy a ball?’
‘Err, is this question or a joke?’
‘Right. I don’t know, where do you buy a ball?’
Have you ever tried teaching a 5-year-old the intricacies of a joke? Sometimes it feels like we sit at a table talking to two Alice Tinkers from The Vicar of Dibley. At some point, I hope, a joke worthy of the Funniest Joke of The Fringe may occur but, on the other hand, one indisputable point is that this year has been unprecedented, and I don’t just mean that big pandemic thing that everyone seems to be talking about.
The day before the first lockdown due to the pandemic we brought two children into our home who we had adopted through St Andrew’s Children’s Society.
I feel that is a standalone paragraph for, despite the amazing support we received on the lead up to meeting our new family, we were suddenly locked in our house with a 4-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy. Thank goodness for zoom and our wonderful social worker!
Humour was our superpower
All of a sudden we realised what all the lead up to being approved to become adopters was about; why the questions about how we cope individually and as a couple, our ideas of being parents, support networks, general ideals and the reason for prep groups on separation and trauma. What we, as a couple, realised through the process was that we have a sense of humour. As we welcomed our family into our home our sense of humour turned into our superpower (yes, we even gave it a theme tune).
We were told by the lovely folk at St Andrews Children’s Society that ‘the first year will be hard’ and ‘there will be a honeymoon period and then the children will try and push boundaries’. Yes, they were right. It was tough and every day seemed a challenge. But with that, every day was just a wee bit easier. We had not had time to learn our children’s likes, dislikes and routines in their foster home, as the introduction period had needed to be reduced, in order to get the kids to us before the national lockdown. Everything was new to them. Everything was new to us. Routine (and humour) was our saving grace. We even wrote a daily schedule. Colour coded. It was fancy.
The lack of school hit the kids hard
In the introduction books we had sent them, there were pictures of the primary and nursery schools they would have been attending but it was months before they could go, by which time nursery was off the cards. We would drive to the school car park and sit and look at it, sharing an apple, talking about the things they would do and friends they would meet.
Instead of the larger things we focused on the small. My husband is a vet. He really likes cows. Every hour, on the hour we set up an alarm; an alarm that went ‘moo. This became our hug alarm. That meant every hour, on the hour, we all stopped what we were doing and had a nice big hug. It helped to structure our day and kept us on that fancy colour coded schedule.
It’s OK to get some things wrong when you adopt
There are some things the kids got wrong. There are some things the adults got wrong. Main thing is to learn from the mistake and remember tomorrow is a new day. In the immortal words of Kelly Clarkson ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’.
‘Don’t forget wee ones, it doesn’t matter what they look like so long as they are kind.’
‘Wow, that’s an old tractor! What make is it?’
Boy: ‘Massey Ferguson!’
Girl: ‘It doesn’t matter what is looks like so long as it’s a tractor.’
We were all learning
Watching the wee ones grow as little people has been truly amazing. Watching how they slowly learned to trust us. Our son has found it easy to express his needs and fears. Working with his school, social workers and Rita, the Adoption Support Manager at St Andrew’s Children’s Society (who provided Theraplay TM via zoom in the early days) meant that we could get his needs met quickly; that the school could understand where certain behaviours came from. We were all learning, only he knew what was going on in his head, and we just had to remind him how well he was doing and how loved he is.
How songs helped us
Family songs? Yes, we have them too. I have a playlist that is, at best, eclectic. The current favourite is High Enough by Marvin Gaye – ‘Ain’t no mountain high enough, Ain’t no valley low enough, Ain’t no river wide enough, To keep me from getting to you, baby.’ Funny how a song can help a child understand just how much you would do for them.
Life Story Work
It is amazing how life story work can be fitted into every day. We took on three ex-battery hens; they went from their birth family (farm) into foster (the trust that saved them) and to their forever family (our home). We have seen dogs in the park on leads that are hackles up and this has let us discuss how we might show we are scared, feeling the need to hit out, run away or climb high. I have ‘cried’ over dead woodlice to help show empathy, we have read books about ‘how we wished for you’ (then I actually did cry). I’ve even explained in great detail how my tummy feels stretched to help the children understand how a full stomach feels.
‘The Report Card’
We often fell back on our superpower. In fact, my husband and I started a notebook, which we named ‘The Report
Card’. Everything that was funny, done or said, went into it. That way we had a good laugh at the end of every day.
When your adopted child says those three little words
Adopting kids is not easy. No one ever said it would be. I would not change anything for the world. Well , maybe the pandemic could have been at a more convenient time. I have heard that when a mum first looks at the face of her newborn baby her world changes. Well, the first time you hear your adopted child say, and mean, ‘I love you’ there is nothing in the world you wouldn’t do for them.
‘That’s a bit loud wee man!’
‘It had to be loud mummy.’
‘It was a sonic boom of love.’
This blog post was written by a couple who adopted two children through St Andrew’s Children’s Society the day before the first lockdown in 2020.