The 'viewing' - and a few Quavers
I've mentioned before, here, that when we were 'matched' with our son there was a fairly considerable, and unusual, delay before we began the process of transition, moving him from his foster home to our own.
We had seen photographs and had been given a short DVD of our little boy playing. Otherwise, beyond the very comprehensive, but professionally clinical, social work reports that detailed his background and the really awful life our son had been subjected to.
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.
"Anyway," our social worker said, studiously ignoring my flippancy, "we thought you might like to see your little boy in the flesh." This sounded a good idea, although we were a little concerned at how we might be introduced to him.
It had been agreed, for various reasons, that our son should not be told about his move to an adoptive family until about ten days before the date agreed for his transition to our home to start. That was still a month away and therefore telling the little boy who we really were was an impossibility.
"We weren't thinking of you being introduced to him." My thought process had taken me away to the strategies we could adopt to explain away our presence, so it therefore took a few moments for me to understand fully the implication of what our social worker had just said.
As usual, J was ahead of me. "What do you mean? How will we get to meet him?" He asked.
"We thought the best thing would be for his social worker to take him to a children's play area," here she named an undercover play centre, of the type I described on my blog about children's parties here. "We thought you could have a cup of coffee while you observed him playing with his social worker."
I was incredulous, and I think my face showed it. "Is that a good idea?" Again J was ahead of me.
The location suggested was one half way between our home and the foster parent's. It was also slap bang in the middle of the constituency for which I was, at that time, standing for parliament. Anyone within ten miles of that spot had, for the last three years, been receiving a leaflet with my face on it through their door every couple of months.
"I'm sorry, but I think it's a very bad idea," I said.
Our social worker looked hurt. "Why?" She asked.
"Well, if you think about it, two men, arriving at a children's play centre, sitting drinking coffee, watching a little boy intently. I can think of no better way for us to get ourselves arrested in a very short period of time. Add to that my face is pretty well known around there and I can see the headline now: 'Peeping Tom MP Candidate arrested watching little boys at play centre'.
Our social worker had the good grace to laugh. "When you put it that way, maybe it's not the best location."
We talked through a number of different ideas and agreed that the best idea would be to meet at a local wildlife centre. There we were less likely to appear out of place as we visited at the same time as our little boy and his social worker.
We therefore met ten days later at the wildlife centre, arriving as agreed slightly before our son and two social workers. His social worker approached us alone as we waited at the entrance to the centre. "We've been chatting about how we handle this," she said. "I think it's unrealistic for you to follow us closely, he's going to realise you're there. We therefore thought I would introduce you as friends of mine, is that OK?"
This was quite a change from what we had been expecting, a very pleasant one but one that was very different to the plan we had in our heads. We had little time to prepare ourselves as the little boy who would become our son and the other social worker approached.
We were introduced as his social worker's friends and spent a lovely hour walking around the animal exhibits together.
"Shall we have a coffee?" Our son's social worker asked as we reached the end of the tour. We sat in the otherwise empty wildlife centre coffee shop together and I bought us all drinks and snacks.
Our son chose a fruit drink and a packet of Quavers.
Now, I love Quavers, they don't taste that great, but they are so versatile as a comic instrument.
As J chatted with the social workers I kept our little boy entertained using the curly Quavers as different props. First an ear ring, then a nose ring (don't worry, I ate that one myself). Our three year old son laughed heartily. "These aren't crisps, they're jewellery," I joked.
"Do it again, put another ear-ring on," he giggled.
We spent another half an hour in the coffee shop. I took our son out to an outside park area for a little while, where we played until we became too cold.
Later that afternoon our son's social worker called, "he wants to know when he can see my friends again," she laughed. "I told him we'd try and arrange that very soon."
So a few weeks later his social worker and our son's foster mother introduced the idea of moving to a new Forever Family to him. They had a number of tools to help him understand what was happening and prepare him for the move. Amongst these were various photos of us.
When he saw the photos for the first time our little boy apparently looked for a while, scrutinising them. Eventually he said: "That's the man with the Quavers," he said.
So, throughout our transition week, as we got to know him better and moved him to be part of our family, I made sure I had a packet of Quavers with me each day. Not to use as a snack, rather to wear as an ear-ring or nose ring whenever our son needed entertaining.
Quaver jokes never die. Five years later our son still asks me to wear Quavers as ear-rings whenever we have them.