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.

Dominoes

Little Chick flits between activities and interests. But every now and then he really gets into something. Almost obsessively. His latest passion is dominoes. I’m happy with this. I enjoy watching YouTube videos and share his admiration for Hevesh5. We even bought a second-hand domino set to build our own amazing creations.

This has not been a great success. The lorry that lays out the dominoes at set intervals to allow a smooth run doesn’t work (partly explaining the ridiculously low price we paid). Or rather, it works intermittently but the frustration we both experienced at the stop start nature was enough for me to declare it officially broken. Unfortunately, placing dominoes by hand is a much trickier endeavour than I anticipated. It tests me, a relatively calm, steady handed adult. For an overexcited fidgety three-year-old it is a disaster waiting to happen. Even when we leave the safety gap (we learned this from the pros) we aren’t guaranteed to keep them upright, in place, secure.

And that’s how it feels with Little Chick right now. Precarious. Dangerous. One false move and it will all come crashing down.

There’s a lot going on in this wee fella’s head.

Toilet training; starting school; being a big boy; being a baby; being a puppy; mummies; daddies; babies; happy; sad; angry; fed up; listening; not listening; glasses; no glasses; see better; not see; friends; not friends; hospital; safe; not safe.

And that’s just today. I’m finding it exhausting, so no wonder Little Chick is absolutely spinning. I’m just disappointed, for him, that he found his routine hospital trip so challenging today. Previously, he has been very compliant, and staff have commented on how easy he has been. With hindsight, he was in Freeze mode. Since it proved helpful for those around him, I overlooked the possible reasons why, for which I am sorry. Today – as has regularly happened lately – he flitted between Fight and Flight mode.

It’s tricky. Freeze mode was likely just as difficult for him to manage, but people (often myself included) are content to see a compliant child who is making life easier for everyone. Fight and Flight draws attention. Draws look of pity and judgement. Draws tuts and sighs of disbelief. Mostly, I can focus on Little Chick’s needs and ignore public comments, but sometimes my skin and patience aren’t thick enough. Recently, on holiday, Little Chick struggled significantly with the new. New location, new food, new sensations. Daily meltdowns were witnessed by other holidaymakers. Since the time and location (and triggers) varied they usually received new audiences who, assuming it was a one-off smiled patiently and apologetically. However, mealtimes, for reasons we need to explore further, were the worst times and often the same guests would witness his meltdowns several times, from breakfast through to the evening meal. Well-meaning people would try to intervene and calm the situation; invariably causing Little Chick more distress and making a bad situation worse.

His behaviour is the physical manifestation of his early years trauma. I wish we could ignore it, but that’s neither helpful nor kind. We need to acknowledge it. And help Little Chick. We made that promise to him. But sometimes I just feel so helpless and inadequate. It’s so frustrating that, like the domino rallies he enjoys building, one false move and it all falls down, then we have to start all over again. The safety space that pro builders use isn’t available to us. We must become that safety space. But it’s so much harder than I thought.

Home from holidays

When I first started making notes for this post, I considered naming it “The Aftermath”, since that’s what it initially felt like. I felt shell-shocked and the least rested I have ever felt after a holiday. However, I soon realised that “Lessons Learned” was more appropriate. As tricky as the holiday was at times, we are determined to learn from it and try again.

Preparation was key. I knew we couldn’t prepare for every eventuality but considering possible obstacles and thinking about how we could help Little Chick to overcome them was vital. Without doing this the holiday would have been much tougher.

Checking in and the time spent at the airport in the UK was relatively straightforward. The busyness and noise were difficult – for all of us – at times, but we coped. We were some of the first people onto the plane, which helped Little Chick to settle, but the additional time on the tarmac unsettled him. By the time we took off, he had been in his seat for an hour and was keen to take off.

He loved taking off. He looked so chilled and took it all in his stride. But he was also excited and amazed by the experience. Once we levelled off and the seatbelt signs came on the trouble began. We kept our belts on to encourage him to stay still, but he wanted to explore. I should have foreseen this as he always performs a full inspection when we visit somewhere new and there was no reason why he would see this as being any different. The lengthy delay added to the feeling that the flight was not just long but too long, for all of us. The toys and distractions worked reasonably well, and the snacks were happily devoured, but the Kindle barely left the bag. With hindsight, Little Chick displayed signs of hypervigilance, aroused as he was by the unfamiliar setting, all the new sights, smells, and sounds, not to mention the vast number of people in such proximity.

We arrived at our destination airport late in the evening, though the lack of lighting in the terminals made it feel considerably later. This also made everything feel slightly more chaotic. One thing I hadn’t considered was the different language. The staff in the resorts all speak excellent English but I had forgotten that it would be a much greater mix of nationalities and languages in the airport. At times the noise was deafening and the words were indecipherable. I think this was probably the hardest part of the day for Little Chick and I will need to consider how we can ease this pressure should we fly abroad again.

In some ways the travelling was as tiring as the entire holiday, especially when he didn’t sleep on the way home, even though it was a night flight and he was beyond shattered. Any future holidays may need to involve less travelling and waiting time. Though, like most things, I also anticipate that the more we do it the easier it will become. The fear of the unknown is hard for Little Chick, but my own anxiety can also make things harder than they need to be. I need to consider my own self care in order to make it easier for him.

Our time abroad was definitely a mixed bag. Undoubtedly, the biggest issue was food and mealtimes. Little Chick is a good eater and will try most things, which he did. But he struggled with the number of people and the necessity of staying still. We have experienced this a little when having meals out in the UK, but those occasions are few and far between. Since we had an all-inclusive package, mealtimes were plentiful and painful. The sheer abundance and availability of food was too much for Little Chick. By the end of our holiday we were taking shifts and the five of us were unable to eat together. But we all ate well and mostly enjoyed the occasion.

As we had an open plan apartment Little Chick essentially shared a room with us. This disrupted his sleep, even though we made allowances, such as putting him to bed much later than usual, so that we were all on similar timetables. His lack of rest equally disrupted us and the combined tiredness was not pleasant. Having grandparents in the adjoining apartment was a blessing and he had a couple of sleepovers to allow us to restore our energy and refresh ourselves for lots of time in the pool.

Little Chick is such a water baby, but the public baths are too hot, too noisy, and too crowded for him to enjoy. The openness of the outdoor pool suited him much better and his confidence and ability in the water improved incredibly over our stay.

Undoubtedly, the best outcome from the holiday was Little Chick’s progress with toilet training. About a week before leaving he had announced he wanted big boy pants. We happily obliged and encouraged this. Our previous attempts to get him dry for school in September had been futile: this was the moment we had been waiting for. He did brilliantly well at home and at nursery, so we decided to run with the momentum of his success and try it on holiday. He was a superstar. The good weather, the regular toilet breaks, and the child sized toilets all contributed to major progress. Admittedly, I wouldn’t want to put my head in the pool as I think that may have been used as a giant toilet but… This leap forward is a relief for us. We suspected that he might not be toilet trained by September and, while we appreciate that it must be in his own time, we didn’t want him to stand out from his peers. More importantly, Little Chick has grown in confidence and takes such pride in his newfound skills. Though we did make more than a dozen trips to the toilet on the flight home just in case he really did need to go. We didn’t want to do anything that would dent his confidence.

To be honest, if you had offered me the improvements in toilet training and confidence in the pool for the cost of the holiday, I would have snapped your hand off. So, anything else – the day trips, the sun, the unlimited ice cream and cocktails – was a bonus.

So, would we do it again? Probably. But not yet. It was entirely different to the holidays the Other Mrs Reed Warbler and I have enjoyed in the past. It was often tense and the lack of sleep made us more tired upon our return than before we left. But we spent quality time with Little Chick (and my parents) and we saw his joy. Yes, there were bleak moments where I think we all considered thumbing a lift back to the airport, but overall it was filled with memories. And that’s what holidays and family are all about. And, hopefully, Little Chick will learn that one of the best things about going away is coming home again.


Edit (July 2019): When you’re in the midst of things it is hard to see clearly. Similarly, it is easy to remember only the stress and disappointment rather than the successes and moments of joy. Looking back, it was tricky, but it could have been much trickier. We have paid for the holiday in the form of dysregulation and other fallout, but we have also gained a much more confident little boy who can (occasionally) show pride in his achievements. Ultimately, it’s about whether Little Chick managed it and enjoyed it. He says he did and wants to go again. I doubt that we will go abroad again next year (not least for financial reasons) but it is encouraging to know that it has not been ruled out entirely. As I’ve said before, we love travelling and have gained so much from our experiences. We want to share that with Little Chick, but only if it is helpful and beneficial.

Holiday preparations

Later this month we will have our first foreign holiday as a family. There will be lots of firsts for Little Chick, including going on a plane, staying somewhere all inclusive, and access to several swimming pools. Potentially all very exciting; potentially completely overwhelming and dysregulating. Whenever we try something new as a family, we are mindful that Little Chick thrives on routine, likes to know what to expect, and needs to know that he is safe. This holiday could be brilliant or just plain bonkers. We know that we can’t always legislate for how he feels, and he has often surprised us by coping far better than expected or even thriving in situations we thought might be tough. But we have made some preparations to ensure that we make it as straightforward for him as possible.

We have been drip-feeding information about the airport and flight for some time now. We have taken a trip to the East Midlands Aeropark so that we could watch planes land and take off, while playing with cousins and enjoying a picnic. Little Chick can be especially sensitive to noise so we wanted him to hear just how loud it could be so that it isn’t a shock.

Little Chick enjoys role play toys and we managed to pick up some Playmobil bargains, which can be incorporated with his existing play sets. The check-in desk is darn cute and he loves playing with the ticket machine. However, I fear we might have a little disappointment on the day when he isn’t allowed to work the computer. We also purchased a private jet. It’s not the most realistic example (with only two passengers), but it does allow us to run through several possible scenarios with him. One tip though: always read the product details before bagging a bargain. I anticipated that the plane would be small enough to slip into hand luggage and be played with inflight. When it arrived with a wingspan of almost 50cm I quickly realised it would be staying at home!

We have bought an I-Spy Airport book, primarily to prepare him for what he will see in and around the airport. The I-Spy element may be too tricky on the day – due to the age appropriateness of the book and the logistics of checking in and boarding – but it should familiarise him with some of the sights and sounds he will likely encounter.

My biggest concern is the flight itself. A four-hour journey is a lot for any first flyer, let alone a busy, fidgety three-year-old. I have sacrificed my hand luggage allowance to ensure he has enough storage for the books, toys, etc. we have compiled. For the past few months, I have been scouring pound shops and charity shops for small toys and blind bags. Bling bags are great because you never know what you might get, though it may be disappointing if you get duplicates. Where possible, I try to buy small toys I know he will like and wrap them in tissue paper. He loves the sensory quality of the paper and unwrapping them can last longer than the time he plays with the contents. We have several activity books, mostly with stickers, so he has a variety of quick activities to flit between. However, I am fully expecting that his Kindle will be our lifesaver. He loves his Kindle, perhaps a little too much, and we have agreed that he can use it freely on the days we travel if it keeps him happy and us sane. We have also prepared a streamlined version of his calm kit – a collection of sensory toys that he uses when he is overwhelmed and/or dysregulated. Oh, and snacks. Lots and lots of snacks.

Probably the best weapon in our entertainment arsenal is Grandma. She and Grandpa are holidaying with us, in an adjacent apartment, and will be on hand for babysitting and fun. Within reason. It is their holiday too. But I’m hoping that Grandma’s presence will help and somebody else to do a toilet run will be appreciated.

We have tried to explain that the flight is long because we are traveling a long way, making clear that we will all be coming home again. Using his inflatable globe, we have shown him where we live and where we will be going, using stickers to show both. Additionally, we have shown him videos online of the resort, so he knows where he is going. We have printed off photos for a small scrapbook, which will work as a prompt before we leave and as a souvenir upon our return (it will go in his memory box, along with any other bits and pieces he takes a shine to while we are away).

As I said, this could be brilliant or bonkers and all the preparation in the world doesn’t allow for the response of a three-year-old, much less one with a tricky start in life. We hope he will enjoy it as we have always loved travelling and hope to share that with him. But we appreciate that if he is not ready yet (or ever) then we will find other ways for the Other Mrs Reed Warbler and I to get our travel fix. The main thing is we have assured Little Chick that we will keep him happy safe and well wherever we are – and we intend to keep that promise.


NB. I will not be blogging while we are away, to ensure that my focus is fully on my family and our holiday. We have been looking forward to this time together for some time and I want to make sure I am ‘present’ throughout our time away.

Happy birthday to me…

It was my birthday this week. And it sucked. Partly because I’m creeping closer to 40 and I had a mini existential crisis (perhaps a forerunner to the impending midlife crisis). Mostly because Little Chick did not like me having a birthday.

Several times on Twitter I’ve seen adopters comment on how celebrations were ruined, plans spoiled, and that they had learned not to mark such occasions with their children. To date, we have all had a birthday since Little Chick has lived here and all have passed without a problem. In fact, he’s been non-plussed by it all, his birthday and Christmas included.

But something has changed. Instead of laughter, cake, and balloons, there is anger, frustration, and violence. And I don’t really understand why. Well, I have my suspicions.

Lately, we’ve noticed changes in Little Chick’s fight, flight, or freeze responses. When faced with perceived danger, his default mode was freeze. Over time, this had morphed into flight mode, with Little Chick darting off when confronted. Alongside this, fight mode has appeared. At the heart of these responses is fear.

A seemingly enjoyable outing with his cousins to a venue of their choice ended with hitting, kicking, general defiance, and running away – both publicly and dangerously. Whether he couldn’t cope with it being my birthday or was overwhelmed by other aspects is unclear. But he was clearly frightened. When you’re excited by your birthday and your plans get scuppered it’s difficult to (immediately) separate the behaviour from the child. To see it as fear rather than wilful or mischievous hijinks. When you’re the kind of person who still appreciates your parents’ acknowledge of your half birthday it’s hard not to take it personally.

But it’s not personal. It’s not about me.

And that’s adoption, really. It’s scary, it’s confusing, and it’s not about me.

School readiness

Unsurprisingly, Little Chick received a place at his first choice school. As a previously looked after child, he is entitled to this. All the same, it is a huge relief to know that come September he will be heading to the big school that seems best for him. It also seems prudent to at least consider school readiness. Part of me thinks that it is the school that should be ready for him, but this is probably not the time for that discussion. Similarly, I find that compiled lists of necessary skills can be arbitrary and unhelpful, making you focus on what they should be able to do rather than what they can do. However, like most local authorities, Derbyshire provide such a list, 10 keys to unlocking school readiness, which we will help Little Chick work towards. Come September, I don’t want him to find the front door to big school locked and firmly bolted.

Taken from the Derbyshire County Council website, and shared with parents through early years settings, The 10 keys for unlocking school readiness are:

  • I can settle happily without my parent or carer
  • I can tell friends and grown-ups what I need
  • I can take turns and share when I am playing
  • I can go to the toilet on my own and wash my hands
  • I can put on my own coat and shoes and feed myself
  • I can tell a grown up if I am happy, sad or cross
  • I know that what I do and say can make others happy or unhappy
  • I am curious and want to learn and play
  • I can stop what I am doing, listen and follow simple instructions
  • I enjoy sharing books with grown-ups

At first glance, this seems OK. Nothing too daunting, no major alarm bells ringing. Picking it apart, there are some areas to bear in mind for September. His time at nursery has given him the opportunity to settle without us. Some mornings he can be clingy, but a promise of breakfast is normally enough to entice him away. Waiting isn’t a strong point for Little Chick, but he is getting better. He can take turns reasonably well and will share when prompted, and sometimes without encouragement.

He is good at verbalising his needs, to adults certainly, and is gaining in confidence with his peers. This will improve with time and hopefully some of the Early Years Pupil Premium funding will aid this. Similarly, his emotional awareness is good, but will progress with more 1:1 intervention from his key worker at nursery, alongside what we are doing at home. Books can help with this too; Little Chick loves book, especially bedtime stories. This is when we have some of our most meaningful conversations. I try to keep it light, not wanting to worry him before bed; equally though, it is a chance to reassure him and perhaps fathom what has been troubling him that day.

Little Chick has a gorgeous sense of wonder. ‘Wow!’ is commonly uttered, but his surprise is never lessened or faked. He is full of curiosity, always wanting to know how things work. He wants to learn and wants to play. Currently, I can’t picture him in big school, a wee dot in that busy environment, but I sense that he will rise to the challenge.

Listening. This could be a stumbling block. When he does listen, he can follow instructions incredibly well, but he can be stubborn. If he’s not engaged you’ve got no chance. I’m not sure how to remedy this, or whether it will simply come with age and maturity, but this probably needs some consideration.

Self-care is probably the other area for improvement; I went to type ‘concern’, then realised that I am projecting unnecessary expectations and pressures on him. We have started to encourage him to dress himself and choose his clothes for nursery (from a small selection) and this has extended to coats and shoes. Velcro shoes are just about manageable. Zips, therefore coats, are still some way off. But, again, there is time.

He has made progress with toilet training, though perhaps not as much as we would have hoped or expected. But then, considering his past experiences, it is amazing that he is even considering anything other than sitting in full, soiled nappies. He will do it in his own time and school will just have to appreciate that. If we are still facing reluctance and issues in September then a conversation needs to be had with school, perhaps bearing in mind how his Pupil Premium Plus funding may be best spent. But my anxiety will not help him progress any faster. On the up side, he is a pro at washing his hands; just so long as school monitor how often he does this, for the sake of his skin and their floors.

Above all, I know that Little Chick is a kind, curious, brave wee boy. Everyone who meets him likes him. He is by no means perfect, but he has immense potential. He needs to be championed and that is our job. It is also school’s job, but it is our responsibility to hold them to that.

Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP)

A new financial year is dawning, and a new pot of money has become available to Little Chick’s nursery. I speak of the much-fabled Early Years Pupil Premium. Nursery have experience of Pupil Premium payments – the government scheme introduced in 2011 to help children on free school meals and those with parents serving in the forces close the attainment gap between them and their peers – and have successfully administered the fund in the past. This is their first instance of Pupil Premium Plus, though that distinction is not made at this age: all payments are EYPP. Rather, this is the first time a child has been eligible based on this criterion. Pupil Premium Plus is allocated only to looked after or previously look after children. Rather than focus solely on attainment, the Department for Education’s acknowledges the enduring impact of trauma and loss in children’s lives and the key role of schools in supporting children who have had a difficult start in life. At this level, the payment is the same for both groups, but school aged children who qualify for Pupil Premium Plus will receive a larger payment than those issued Pupil Premium payments.

Payment is made directly to the education provider (in our case, nursery) and they have a legal responsibility to determine how this money will be spent, show proof of spending, and demonstrate how the intervention has succeeded. Little Chick’s nursery was happy to involve us in the process and our suggestions alongside their knowledge informed how the money was spent. I understand that not all settings involve parents like this. I also understand that while this money must be accounted for it is not necessarily ringfenced. As the only recipient of Pupil Premium Plus, his allocation was spent entirely on him, meeting his needs, though we were keen that if we could ‘piggyback’ other children we would.

Following PAC-UK’s advice (you can read their excellent summary document here), we considered Little Chick’s needs as a previously looked after child and recognised that permanently placed children can struggle with the following:

  • Attachment relationships with adults
  • Managing their peer relationships
  • Managing their feelings and behaviour
  • Coping with transitions
  • Developing their executive functioning skills

We grouped our existing ideas under these headings and used them as starting points to consider new ones. Some ideas were able to build on more than one category at a time. For example, using some of the money on staffing would allow more 1:1 time with his key worker, which would enforce his attachment relationships with adults. Using that time to play with resources and read books (bought with the allowance) would help him manage his feelings and behaviours. Some of these books would help him understand peer relationships better and purchases of outdoor toys (especially for messy play, his favourite) and activities, included seeds and composting for growing, would allow opportunities to build better peer relationships. Having identified other children that would be moving to the same school as him and/or had similar needs, he would be encouraged to spend time with them and when he needed a buddy for special activities they would be chosen as partners. Growing vegetables together would help develop executive functioning skills, such as planning and prioritising, impulse control, and self-monitoring. Additionally, they would learn about how things grow and the importance of eating healthily. This and other activities would also prepare Little Chick for coping with the inevitable transitions of the next few months, most notably leaving nursery and starting school.

Little Chick’s speech has developed, but he remains under the instruction of the speech and language therapist, until at least the end of the month, so this did not need to be prioritised. His social care skills are still behind his peers, so this would be one of the topics his key worker might approach in the 1:1 sessions.


Update (July 2019): We have been pleased with how the EYPP money was spent and the impact it has had. Most, if not all, of the initiatives have been a success. Additionally, his speech and language therapist is pleased with his progress. She will seem him again when he is in school so that she can observe him in the new setting but doesn’t expect any problems. She also suggested some flashcards for nursery to purchase to aid conversations and work specifically on some of the areas where he could improve.

It is a little frustrating that the money wasn’t paid earlier in the academic year, so that he could have gained greater benefit, but that is beyond our control. The resources will continue to help other children, so that’s something. That little library of big feelings books is Little Chick’s legacy. Similarly, it seems a shame that the amount paid to three- and four-year olds is significantly less than school aged children. Surely, more could be achieved with younger children, warranting a larger rather than smaller investment. But that is a political debate and one I am not prepared or capable of arguing today. Ultimately, I’m grateful for any provision that helps Little Chick meet his potential and help overcome the effects of early years trauma. However, I’m deeply saddened that it is needed.

Instagram

Lately, I’ve been questioning my decision to have social media accounts associated with adoption. Initially, I used Twitter as a prospective adopter so there were no moral quandaries about sharing a child’s story. But Twitter has – for me, at least – become a bit of a toxic environment lately and I’ve turned to Instagram to connect with fellow adopters.

Like on Twitter, I have a locked account, meaning I must approve any followers. Obviously, this doesn’t guarantee security – it is important to remember that all social media platforms carry risks – but it does make my content more private. It also means that I am more discerning about who I follow, choosing accounts that edify or educate, rather than just building an unmanageable horde of random people to follow.

I try to ensure that I only share photos of Little Chick from the side, behind, etc. and not face on. Partly, it’s a security measure; partly, it’s respecting that he might not appreciate me sharing some of his story. I hope that he – and others – can see and understand my intentions. He is an amazing little boy who deserves to be championed and celebrated. Our life is generally happy, but mostly mundane. And I think it’s helpful for others, especially prospective adopters, to see that.

My biggest concern with Instagram remains the same, the reason why I’m so late to the party. It’s a bit false. All social media can be fake but on Instagram it is especially easy to view things through a lens (terrible pun intended). When I started posting I vowed, to myself anyway, that I would be realistic, posting candid shots rather than staged shoots. And for the most part I have succeeded. Ultimately though, it is just a snapshot, a tiny glimpse into a life. I try to use the text to give a balanced view, explain that the angelic smile captured in that instant was followed by a frustrated fist coming my way. I don’t lie but I guess I’m not entirely truthful. It’s not that I’m fibbing, more that I’m misleading (mostly unintentionally) by omission. I want to give a true representation, but I also want to be fair to Little Chick. I need to be cautious in not oversharing his story. But equally I don’t want people to think I’m a pompous, egotistical bore. It’s a tricky balance.

If you’re an adopter, adoptee, foster carer, or birth family on Instagram and want to share your account please message me your details. I want to use Instagram, as I have done Twitter, to learn from others and broaden my understanding of adoption. If you have any suggestions for other accounts or hashtags to follow please also share.

Got the pox!

It’s official: we’re in quarantine. Little Chick has got the pox!

My experience of chicken pox in children is very limited. Aged four, my sister contracted the illness. As did our neighbour’s children. As did their friends. Somehow it missed me. I carried on attending school and missed out on the communal scratching, TV watching, and ice lolly sucking. Naively, I thought it looked fun, enviously observing the camaraderie of dabbing one another with calamine lotion. Eventually, I got my time off school – though it was in my first year of teaching, so not such a treat.

As a seven-year-old, I recall thinking that it seemed a lot of fuss over nothing. That the children were hardly spotty at all. I’m not sure whether age alters perception, the mind plays tricks on you, or little Chick is just unlucky. But he is covered. His beautiful porcelain skin is barely visible between the scarlet beacons.

Unfortunately, his illness has coincided with the Other Mrs Reed Warbler’s absence. Though he was poorly before she left, the pox only took hold once she was 35,000 feet in the sky. I’ve played down his symptoms for her, but I have been worried. Especially at his loss of appetite. Little Chick will happily eat and eat and eat, but only rocket lollies have passed through those lips over the last three days. But he’s well enough and she needs the break. I can’t give her peace of mind, but I can try to ease any unnecessary guilt.

He is so vulnerable. He is limp, physically and emotionally. This is how I imagine he could have been as a tiny baby. This time, I will ensure his needs are met.

Seeing him in such a fragile state is shocking. My strong robust little bruiser looks so small and delicate. He clings to me in a way he never has before. I didn’t think it possible, but I think I love him more. I feel like I’ve glimpsed his life before us, before foster care, and I’ve seen him. Exposed. The protective armour he has donned since his arrival has suddenly fallen to the ground. In a perverse way, his illness has been a blessing for me, accelerating the building of the bond between us, deepening the attachment.

We are cocooned, the two of us. The highs and lows of parenting juxtapose. The love grows.