The sound of silence
There are time when I think I'll never hear true silence again. Ever.
Then, when things are truly quiet, I miss the noise. The cacophony that's entered my life and now is a marker, for me, of its completeness.
We talk as a family. We talk a lot. We talk perhaps more than we should. We chat continuously.
There are moments of silence though. Moments of contemplation. Moments when we, ideally, turn inwards to contemplate our own thoughts.
If our children are around we are rarely allowed to do so.
When we were first approached about adopting our son the situation, and fear, expressed by the social workers was very different.
In that artificial, false conversation where possibilities are hinted at. The language entirely in the conditional tense. Identifying information deliberately avoided. We were warned there was a fear the little boy who would become our son might have speech delay.
"What does that mean?" I remember asking his social worker.
She replied that the reports of both social workers and foster parents concurred. He spoke little. Remained silent for long periods.
As a consequence there was a fear he was already behind his peers with his oral communication. Speech therapy was mentioned. Sources of additional help were we to adopt him considered.
We met our son briefly some weeks before we began his transition. The full story is here.
Introduced as friends of his social worker he seemed to warm to us immediately. He was lively. Smiled. Laughed. And chatted.
We went through the week of transition. He was similar. He chatted. He laughed. He shouted. He squealed with delight as we played snowballs during that cold January week.
As the weeks went on our son grew even more talkative. A constant stream spilling from his lips. He described whatever he was doing. When we were there this would often take the form of a questioning commentary about the world around him.
When we were not he still provided a monologue. A lonely, engaged, charming soliloquy.
Sometimes he provided himself with instruction. Sometimes the discourse was confirmatory. And occasionally, at its most heartrending it provided vocal reassurance.
"I'm with my new family forever. They will love me forever. They'll take care of me and make sure I'm safe."
Coming from the lips of a three year old, unaware we were a hidden audience, these words provided both reassurance our messages of permanence and attachment had been heard and a heartbreaking reminder of past terrors.
Over the intervening years I have been lucky enough to come across many of the professionals who have helped our children through their journey to adoption.
I've sought information from these people. Asking their opinion. Probing their memories. Obtaining a first hand impression that will, I hope,, enable me to place flesh on the stark, factual bones of our children's pre adoption lives as described in the reports put before the Courts and Adoption Panel.
I want to be able to add texture to those reports when, inevitably, the children ask about those days.
And so, some time ago, I came across one of the professionals who had been present in those final days when our son's birth family imploded. When the decision to remove him was enacted. When anger and violence spilled forth around him with such vehemence he was removed to safety as an emergency measure.
This person described a child who was utterly silent. Silent, in their opinion, through fear. Fear that to make a sound would bring the brutality and cruelty he witnessed to bear on himself.
So we encourage our children to talk. We want them to chat.
As I sit writing this our daughter is in the kitchen with me, conducting a lesson for her dolls and teddy bear. Providing not only instruction for her toys, but also her own audio description of her actions.
Long may that continue. Long may sounds and speech spill forth. We might be a noisy family.
But we are one where no one will never, ever, be frightened to make a sound.