Should I take our adopted kids to see ‘Finding Dory’?
The long awaited sequel to ‘Finding Nemo’ is out. Our kids, both adopted, are lapping up the barrage of publicity around ‘Finding Dory’, Disney/Pixar’s animated release of choice this Summer Holiday. They’re excited to see it. Hooked by the marketing. The film’s memes are ubiquitous throughout their world.
‘What harm in taking them?’ I thought when planning the Summer holidays.
Until I saw a message that has itself become a trend on both social media and the message boards of fostering and adoption websites.
Entitled ‘WARNING! Before seeing Finding Dory, all foster/adoptive parents should preview the movie first!’ it goes on to describe the experience of a family who took their adopted son to see the film.
We’ve just celebrated our Family Day. The day upon which we celebrate our becoming a family. It coincides with our writing Contact letters to our children’s birth families.
That concentration on the past. On birth families. On bringing our children home. On a shared experience of history and rebirth. Inevitably it leads us all to think about the past. To consider heritage.
Today, it led to our daughter asking to see her Life Story Book.
Given that it would be some time before we could meet our son, it was suggested that we should be allowed to have, what our social worker called, a 'viewing' of the little boy who would become our son.
"You sound like an estate agent!" I joked when she first suggested it. That quip was met with stoney silence from the social work team in the room.
Transition week always gets better. Beyond the awkwardness of the first few days spent as interlopers in the foster parents' home, there is the period of orientation with the child in your own home as they become familiarised to their new surroundings.
The prospect of a week of transition was, for us and I suspect most adoptive parents, one of the more daunting parts of the process of adopting our son.
Usually, the prospective adopters are thrown in to their transition only a relatively short period after their match with a child, or children, is approved. That was the case when we adopted our daughter, but not so when we adopted our son.
If there's one thing that I know we were both concerned about prior to adopting our children it was to ensure that their adoption by a same sex couple should in no way be a hindrance to their happiness and recovery from what went before.
From the point at which he came to stay with us, we had been consistent and clear with our son that he was living with his Forever Family. We were a family together, we would be that for ever and that his home was, and would be for as long as he wanted it, with us.
Questions of the possibility of being sent away or fears of change had surfaced in the early months of his living with us. He held a terror of being sent back to the first of his two foster carers, the one with whom his relationship had broken down. Our son also dwelled often in that first year on what would happen if either of us were to die.
We reassured him as best we could. Made sure he was absolutely clear that neither he, nor we, were going anywhere and that the family was his for ever.
When we ran our son's bath on the first night he stayed with us we hit our first real trauma with him. He recoiled from the bath, clearly terrified of the water. We couldn't work out why and it took a little time to calm him enough to obtain an explanation.
He was frightened of the temperature. At some point he clearly had been put in a very hot bath, which whilst not scalding him had frightened him enormously.
Disciplining children. That's always a tricky one, isn't it?
We try not to shout. Really. We do.
But just sometimes you need to. When our three year old is about to stab seven year old in the ear with a chopstick AGAIN. Or that time when you enter the kitchen to find either of the children balanced precariously, on one foot, on the back of a dining chair trying to reach the chocolate biscuit tin on the top shelf of the cupboard.
As usual, when I put our daughter to bed this evening, I told her a story. The story changes,a little, but its tenets remain the same. It confirms her security, it calms her and most of all it affirms our adoration of her. All of us.
In the early days after adoption, our son found supermarkets incredibly stressful. The noise, the people, the colours and shapes were all stimuli that seemed to send him in to either a frenzy of hyperactivity or the total opposite, a meltdown of fear and tears.
J is an exceptionally kind, calm and decent man. I wish often I was more like him. He would become very distressed himself at these situations and very quickly developed a strategy to deal with them.
When our son was pummelling his forehead J would kneel in front of him. "We don't do this," J would say, copying the forehead punching action, "we do this," and he would open his arms to hug our son, holding him until he calmed down.