A Room of One’s Own

In Virginia Woolf’s famous quote, she argues, “A woman must have money and a room of her own”. She says this is a prerequisite “if she is to write fiction.” I agree. But I think it is also a condition for sound mental health.

Currently, I’m lacking both and feeling the effect. It will be tricky to find a solution to the money problem, but it is something we will tackle soon. With some careful consideration and a whole lot of Pinterest, we realised that we could improve the room situation now.

I’m getting desperate for my own space. Somewhere to sit and scribble. To ponder and produce. To just be. I’ve even considered rehoming the tumble dryer so I can enjoy the tiniest of nooks under the stairs. Ultimately, we realised that this was not even a medium-term solution and we would soon need to rethink. The only possible solution (that didn’t require planning permission) was to swap around the upstairs room. Again.

To be clear, Little Chick has not lost out in this arrangement. He has a different set-up but just as much, if not, more usable space. But while things are in flux the house is chaotic and messy. And he really cannot cope with that. I’m not a big fan of it either and find it a trying time. But I am privy to and able to see the big picture. I can envisage the result and sense the satisfaction of completion. Little Chick, understandably, cannot. And it is affecting him and his behaviour greatly.

We have undertaken a lot of DIY and reorganising in the past eighteen months, simply because as our daily lives have found a rhythm and routine, we have needed to make changes to ensure safety, efficiency, and calm. But the transition time is hellish. Little Chick is clearly disorientated. Whether he thinks that he is as dispensable as our belongings and furniture I don’t know. We have tried to reassure him that this is not the case, that this is his forever home with his forever family. But words aren’t enough sometimes. We try to show him, hoping that our actions will affirm our good (and long-term) intentions. He has returned to his original bedroom, though the toys that cluttered it have been rehomed in a downstairs playroom. It is a room fit for sleeping, dressing, and reading. And that’s it. This clarity helps him. The blurred lines of mixed purposes and multiple users confuses him. His name is on the door; he has staked ownership. We have added wall stickers of Hey Duggee to match his bedding and create a loose theme. Slowly, it is becoming clear that this room is his. That the playroom is principally his. That the many changes (and, boy, there have been many) have all been made to make it better for him. This is the only change to date that hasn’t been directly for him, though his needs have firmly underpinned all ideas.

To me, a room of one’s own feels decadent, outrageously luxurious. But it is necessary self-care. I need to remember that to be the best parent for Little Chick, I need to feel happy, safe, and well too. It might take me some time to reconcile the heart and head but, like everything we do, hopefully I, and Little Chick, will see that it has been done in the belief that it is ultimately the best thing for him.

Introducing Herbert and Rose

I am super excited to announce a new collaboration with the extremely talented Ali Scothern. Trading as Herbert and Rose, Ali is a Derbyshire based artist and creates gorgeous paintings and illustrations, some of which will be gracing my website in the coming weeks.

Additionally, Ali and I are working together to create a range of resources for adoptive parents and their families. These will include books, life story aids and prompts, as well as greeting cards and prints. Our primary audience will be adopters, but everything will be designed and made with adoptees in mind. The tools and resources will be aimed at supporting them through issues such as identity and life story work as well as difficult emotions, particularly recognising their early years and ongoing trauma.

Ali will be illustrating my website pages and I couldn’t be happier. I have always known that I needed to add photos or artwork but couldn’t find the right style. Because I always had Ali’s work in mind, and I was delighted when she agreed to work with me.

I will let you know when our collaborative work is ready; in the meantime, you can pop over to www.herbertandrose.com to see more of Ali’s work, follow her on social media, or even commission her yourself.

Adieu, but not goodbye

Now that our Adoption Order is through and several months have passed, we are no longer assigned our social worker. We will still receive support through the East Midlands Adoption Agency, but it will be more ad hoc. It is time for us to move on. We will be just like other parents. Kind of.

I’ve appreciated the accountability of having regular appointments and checks. On occasions they have felt a tad intrusive or unnecessary, but I fully understood that they were intended to safeguard the child and help us. Moreover, we have a great relationship with our social worker, so it’s never felt burdensome. It has been a genuine pleasure and I will miss seeing and speaking to her regularly.

However, it is a case of adieu but not goodbye. We are keen to continue supporting the adopter training, which she regularly runs. Having benefitted from this we want to give back, sharing our experiences and knowledge, in the hope that they will help someone. Should we consider adopting again in the future, she will likely be our supervising social worker once again, a factor which may sway our decision.

I know that I have praised our social worker before and I’m probably getting a bit repetitive, but I think it is worth saying. Social workers get a lot of stick, sometimes rightly, and as a profession they can be derided. But M is one of the good ones. We honestly wouldn’t be a family now without her. She guided us gently and never tried to manipulate or change our opinions. She always let us make our own decisions, then gave a huge sigh of relief when we selected what she believed would be the best for us. And often she knew us better than we knew ourselves. Her insight is remarkable. I will miss her wisdom, warmth, and wit. I will always be grateful that she helped forge our forever family.

B is for biting

Since returning from our holiday, Little Chick has continued to be unsettled. There could be so many reasons for this and often it is a matter of guesswork as he isn’t fully able to communicate his emotions to us. I’m assuming that staying in another house in another country has been a large contributor to his dysregulation. We emphasised the temporariness of our vacation by constantly calling it his holiday house and never using the word home, but maybe this overcomplicated matters. Home is a building, but it is also when he is with us, or at least that is what we have tried to show him over the past year or so.

His dysregulation is, unsurprisingly, more apparent when he is tired and is mostly taking the form of biting. And it bloody hurts. Little Chick has clean strong teeth, sparkling white and in good condition. This can be unusual for care experienced children, so I take it as a double blessing, though not when those pearly whites are gnashing on my flabby bits, of which there are many. My backside is his favourite target. I realise that this is a sizeable target, but it also means he avoids eye contact. Little Chick is full of shame. I am not always clear whether he knows what he is doing or is in control of his actions, but on the occasions he is, I can see a mix of anger, sadness, fear, and remorse in his eyes. That is what I need to remember as my buttocks throb. Anger is a secondary emotion; it has been labelled the bodyguard of fear. And as his teeth sink into my wobbling flesh, I need to remember that he is afraid. Of course, there are better ways of expressing this. Hopefully, we can help him with those, develop them over time. I’m not suggesting we grin and bear it for now, but we do have to have some understanding of the thought processes flying around his synapses.

It is easy to get lost in the thought that A is for aggression, B is for biting, C is for controlling, etc. Rather, I need to remember that A is for anxiety, B is for bewilderment, and C is for cowering. Little Chick is a gorgeous wee boy who has experienced things no one should have to. That’s not an excuse, but it is an explanation and that should give me pause for thought, to remember that under the anger, frustration, and aggression is a small scared boy who is trying his best. B is for beautiful, brilliant, bold. And that’s what Little Chick is.