Catch

When Little Chick was first placed with us there were a few question marks over his mobility. These have since been clarified by the local authority medical examiner. Still, his movements were slow and unsteady: often his bearing resembled a weary pensioner rather than an energetic toddler. Over time, he has grown more secure with us and this has been reflected in his physical actions. He now appears more comfortable in his body.

Now that he is happier and more settled, he is filling in gaps in his development. He is hopping and jumping regularly, not brilliantly, but better and certainly with more confidence. Noticeably, he is running more and encouraging us to catch him. His shrieks of delight make me smile and my heart almost hurts with pride. We are also encouraging him to catch items, throwing them gently to him. He has a great arm and throws well, but, as a glasses wearer, his ability to catch is compromised by his peripheral vision.

He is filling in the gaps in other areas of development too, more willingly engaging in games of peekaboo and developing an interest in hide and seek. While we find these games somewhat tedious (I am not great at feigning surprise when he reveals himself, having been in plain sight the whole time). they encourage us that he is building more secure object permanence (the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be perceived). It is especially important that he knows we still exist when we cannot be seen, heard, or felt. He can be reassured that we are there for him even if we are not physically present.

Little Chick tries so hard to improve and is desperate to be bigger and better after a tricky start to life. He is playing catch up, but his attitude reassures us that he can meet his potential.

Any questions?

I have found – and still find – that the most valuable information and advice came from other adopters. These are the people that have been there and done that, trod the path before me. When my local authority asked me to speak to prospective adopters as part of their official training, I was nervous but immediately agreed. The afternoon session talking to adoptive parents had been the highlight of the five days’ training. Everything suddenly felt real, not just theoretical.

I prepared some notes, double checked some facts with my wife, grabbed a few recent family photos, and borrowed Little Chick’s introductions book from his bedroom.

The photos and introductions book were useful props, but I didn’t need the notes to prompt conversation. Once mid flow, the details and the dates all came flooding back to me. As the afternoon wore on, my nerves waned, and my confidence grew. Heck, by the end I even enjoyed it.

Afterwards, some kind people thanked me and a few even chatted a little longer.

As a prospective adopter, I found Twitter a great place for asking questions. And I still rely on the community there for ongoing support. But I appreciate that it won’t suit everyone.

If you have questions about adoption that you would like answered from an adopter’s perspective, then I will help as much as I am able to. I will answer as candidly and fully as I can, but you must remember that at the heart of my story is a little boy with his own story to tell and it is not my right or place to share too much about him.

Now!

I am continually impressed by how much Little Chick can express in just a few words. The economy of his language is astonishing and further highlights my own verbosity. So, I shouldn’t be surprised that in one word – a single syllable – and one oh-so-important punctuation mark he can say so much.

“Now!”

The exclamation mark is essential. It shows the ferocity with which Little Chick uses this word. It is a demand, a threat, a call to arms. But, frankly, it’s becoming a pain in the arse.

Motherhood can be amazing. Some days I wonder how I got so lucky. But other days it feels like utter drudgery and I find myself daydreaming about sleep and daytime TV (that isn’t pitched at under-fives). I feel like a servant to the tiny tyrant who has taken over our lives and our home. “Now!” is synonymous with this. “Now!” makes me feel shit.

As an adoptive parent, I think it makes me feel ungrateful too. Yes, motherhood can be mind-numbing and dreary, but I wanted it. I worked hard for years to get to this point, consciously prioritising it above everything else. It was no accident. But my sacrifices – minimal as they were – are nothing compared to what others in the ‘process’ have lost. Little Chick. His birth family. His foster family. And more besides.

Somehow Little Chick’s cry of “now!” has also become synonymous with loss. My instinct is to give him what he craves to compensate for the other intangible losses. But my head and heart know better. More often than not, “now!” is met with a “no”, “not yet”, “later.” Because that is the answer he needs to hear now, even if it is not the one he wants to hear.

Rosie

We have two dogs. Little Chick loves dogs.

We have two dogs. I love them, but I am anxious around them. I am not brave. My anxiety means that I worry about how the dogs will behave around Little Chick. Ironically, my anxiety makes everything worse.

My parents have a dog, Rosie. Little Chick loves Rosie.

My parents have a dog, Rosie. I love Rosie. I have not infected Rosie with my anxiety. Rosie offers so much to Little Chick.

  • She offers cuddles when he needs one, often without being asked
  • She shows limitless patience
  • She shares her adventures with him and sometimes even sticks
  • She encourages him to be kind and to share, but doesn’t make a big deal of it
  • She makes him happy simply by being in his life

I try not to have regrets; they seldom help anyone. But I regret not being better for the dogs and in turn helping them help Little Chick. I wish I could be braver, let them affect me less. The anxiety they cause me can be almost crippling, second only to the guilt I feel because I am not a good owner. I want to be better for them, for Little Chick, for myself, but I don’t know where to start. In the meantime, Rosie helps fill this emotional vacuum that I have caused and brings Little Chick such joy.

Thank you, Rosie.

Forever

Mummy. Mama. Little Chick. Family. Forever.

We have been saying this to Little Chick every day since we applied for the adoption order. But we didn’t want it to just be a trite phrase Little Chick repeats, with no regard or understanding of its meaning. So, we have continued to show him his introductions book, which presented the idea of us as a family. We have used other books – including The Family Book by Todd Parr – to familiarise Little Chick with different types of families – all equal, all special – and introduce the idea of adoption. We are beginning to build on Parr’s simple text by using examples specific to us as a family, including “Some families look the same… like Little Chick and Mummy have the same colour hair and Little Chick and Mama both wear glasses” and “Some families adopt children… like Mummy and Mama adopted Little Chick and will be a forever family.”

Now when we say “Mummy; Mama; Little Chick; Family…” we leave a pause. Little Chick completes the sentence with a very sweet and excitable “forever!”. Importantly, he says it with some understanding of its meaning. Time is an abstract concept for a three-year-old, but he understands that ‘forever’ means safety and reliability.

The phrase now has even greater meaning – the adoption order has been granted. Our forever family is now official.