Nick King's Blog

I've done some pretty cool things, but nothing's as cool as creating our family

Cars!

"ROOOAAARRRR, I'm Lighting McQueen!"  The little boy who was to become our son was running down the hall of his foster home towards the front door where we were standing on the morning we were to take him home for good.

The night before our son had been to dinner with his extended foster family.  They had bought him a going away present, which he was now pushing towards us.  A model of a red racing car, named Lightning McQueen, from the Pixar film Cars.

 

Cars was to form an important part of our life in the early months of our son's adoption. It was our son's favourite film.  The simple story of a flashy racing car, humbled and finding resurrection of sorts after being stranded in a small desert town, attracted our son.  

The racing, the primary colours, the simple storyline and some slapstick humour all seemed designed to capture our three year old son's attention.

When we needed something to distract our little boy, to calm him or to sooth him, we soon learnt that putting the DVD of Cars on the TV did the trick.  He would sit, happily, covered in a blanket, losing himself in the snippets of the film.

Toys associated with the film topped the list of our son's hoped for presents for his fourth birthday, his first spent with us.  When he finally settled, for the first time, to watch a film from start to finish, Cars was that film.  

When we went to the cinema for the first time, it was to see the sequel to Cars, aptly named Cars 2. In fact, we went to the cinema to see Cars 2 five times in all.

The adoration of the young child for a single, simple story, perfectly displayed.

 

Our car looms large in our memories of the first months of our son's adoption.

It was in our car that we learnt of some of his more shocking memories from his life prior to being taken into care.

In the confines of the car, enclosed and safe with our full attention our son would chat happily.  When one of us was alone with him though, his banter could take a more serious tone. With individual attention and without the need to make eye contact as he sat in back seat, he would often talk about the past.

Often it was J who was driving our little boy at these moments.  J himself will admit that he isn't the most confident driver in the world.  Disliking heavy traffic I have, perhaps unkindly, compared him to my granny driving in the past.  I never drove with my granny and in fact she never had a driving licence and never owned a car.  But if she had ever driven, I suspect it would have been in the style of Dr J.

In heavy Christmas traffic, J was chatting with our son about the decorations on display in the houses they were passing.

"They have nice lights," our son told J.

"I like the Christmas Trees in the windows," J replied.

"Hmm, K (his birth mother) stabbed me in the face with a pencil once," our son said.

J swerved, shocked at the comment.  So shocked was he in fact that J had to pull over.  "Are we stopping to look at the lights?" Asked our son.  

 

We have found over time that the car also provides an opportunity to raise questions with our son.  If he appears stressed, if he's unhappy, if he's been naughty and we need to get to the bottom of the cause, then we take him out in the car where we can talk to him.  

There, we're safe, enclosed, private and needn't worry about eye contact.  There we very often get the answers we need and find the solutions that allow all of us to move forward.

 

Travelling in the car provided us with one of our greatest early challenges with our little boy.

About a week after he had moved to live with us we took our son shopping, late one afternoon.  It had been a busy day and he fell asleep in the back of the car as we drove home.

Arriving on our drive we took the shopping into the house and returned to collect our soundly sleeping son.  He awoke as we lifted him from the car.  And began to scream.  Not just unhappy at being woken up screaming, but hugely distressed, terrified screaming.

As we carried our son into the house he began to flail, fighting us to be let go.  Disorientated, he didn't know where he was or why he should need to get away, it was blind terrified instinct.

We settled him on the sofa, covered him in a blanket and did what we could to comfort him until he had calmed down and became aware of, and happy with, his surroundings.  It took almost half an hour to do so.

Our son was unable to tell us why he was so distressed.  He just knew he was really unhappy and frightened at waking up in the back of the car.

This situation repeated itself over the next few weeks.  Our son would fall asleep in the back of the car, we would lift him from the back seat and carry him inside.  We would try to get him to the sofa and cover him over without waking him.  He could then wake at his own pace, becoming aware of his surroundings slowly.

It never happened that way of course.  Our son would awake either as we pulled on to the drive or as we carried him into the sitting room.  His distress and disorientation showing itself through incoherent, inconsolable screaming.

We began to resort to desperate measures whenever we took our little boy out.  We'd race the sunset home, trying to make sure we were back on the drive before it became dark.  If we saw our son's head nodding we'd lower the windows, allowing the cold air to flow in, turning the music up.  I have even been known to poke him every time his head dropped towards his chest.

 

Why did this happen?  Our son's never been able to tell us.  We assume it must be linked to life with his birth parents.  We know he was removed from them at night.  We additionally know that they never had their own vehicle.  

There are, and always will be, aspects of our children's experience and character that we are unable to rationalise.  The best we can do is help them deal with their fears, comfort them when they are upset and provide them with an environment in which they can find the courage to face their demons.