'And the owls called out to one another at night to make sure the beautiful princess was safe'
Our three year old daughter has been allowed to stay up late this evening. We do this with the children on occasion, mainly as a treat, but also because we are very lucky that our children sleep for approximately 10 hours from the point at which they go to bed. Therefore, want a lie in? Keep the kids up a little later.
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.
We adopted our daughter when she was eighteen months old. Her story was, in common with so many adopted children, a sad one. One that included drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, neglect and her own abuse.
She had lived in an urban environment throughout her short life. Firstly with her birth mother and then in foster care. We are very lucky to live in a very rural location, so coming to live with us not only included all of the challenges you can imagine from a change of family, but also included coming to terms with a very different environment.
Here, at night, owls hoot, foxes screech and the only light is provided by the stars and the moon.
For both of our children this different environment has been a challenge.
So therefore, for both of the children, I have developed a story I tell them at night which provides context for where they are and, hopefully, reassurance for the night time hours. It has taken slightly different forms, but is essentially the same as the one I told our daughter this evening:
Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess. She lived with her Mum who loved her, but was unable to keep her safe, to feed her enough and to look after her properly.
So, the princess' Fairy Godmother N (the name of her foster mother) decided that she should be taken away and that a new family should be found who would love her as much as she deserved.
The Fairy Godmother found a new family who wanted a little girl to join them very very much. That family were Dad, Daddy and <7yo>. Fairy Godmother N decided that the beautiful princess should go to live with her new family.
Dad, Daddy and <7yo> lived in a big house in the Country. The house had a high hedge that was magic and kept all of the bad things and bad people away from the family.
At night, in the woods around the house, there were owls. Do you know what they said? "Twit twoo." An do you know what that means in owl language? It means they are talking to one another and saying "Is the beautiful princess safe? We're looking after her."
And there were also foxes who barked to one another, and they were saying "don't worry owls, the princess is safe, her family loves her very much and they will keep her safe and happy always."
So the beautiful princess lived with her new family, who loved her more than anything else, who kept her safe and who promised to love her for ever and ever. And the owls called out to one another every night to make sure that the beautiful princess was happy and safe.
We now carry a toy owl with us on holiday, so that it can look over our daughter at night. It used to look after our son too, but he needs it less these days.
Making our bedtime stories personal, pertinent, has helped our children come to terms with their new home and, in both their cases, the very different surroundings in which they find themselves.
It's not been difficult, in fact it has been a lot of fun, creating the stories. Their benefit however has been immeasurable.