We’re fast approaching our second anniversary as a family. We’ve shared almost 2 of everything, The girls have all had 2 birthdays, we’ve had 2 Christmases, 2 Easters (after tomorrow), 2 Bonfire nights, 2 Mothers Days, we just have Daddy’s birthday and Fathers day to go before our second cycle is complete.
I feel I should be able to offer prospective adopters some words of wisdom, some insight, or in the least some advice. I don’t really feel ‘accomplished’ or ‘experienced’ or ‘confident’ but I’m not sure any parent, birth or adoptive ever feels like they’ve reached that level of knowledge. We’re all still learning each and every day. So instead I’m going to offer you some of my tips. They may or may not work for you, some are after thoughts, things we wished we’d done, some are things we did and benefited from or learnt from. I’m not going to prepare you for all the great and gushy stuff, you’ll have dreamed about that for a long time already.
So here goes…………………….
Be realistic, don’t feel that you have to say ‘yes’ to every child your presented with by your social worker. You will not be frowned upon because you feel your unable to cope with a particular child’s need. If your not sure then your not the right family for them, you’ll find your family and they’ll find theirs
Larger sibling groups are so much harder. I wish i’d listened when we decided that 3 would be OK and the social workers said ‘3’s hard work, are you sure’. How naive was I! Its incredibly hard, I have 2 hands to hold, 2 sides to sit beside, most imaginative games have 2 roles so there’s always one that gets left out. For me, equal numbers or larger numbers would make the dynamics easier, so 2 or 4 or 4+ etc something to consider, every ones views are different remember, these are just mine. There is benefits to a large sibling group, the achievements and proud moments are tripled too 🙂
Once you are matched try and find out as much as possible about the child/ren. Their food likes/dislikes. Clothing sizes so you can get a few bits in like pajama’s, underwear, couple of outfits so you don’t have to worry about unpacking straight away. Favorite toy themes. Bedtimes, wake times. Toileting needs. Feeding needs. But also don’t rely on everything your told. Foster carer’s will tell you about the amazing child they care for and how well behaved they are and how much work, time and effort they’ve put in to get them there. Sometimes, this just isn’t true. Our baby girl was described as being totally independent in her toileting needs, this was not the case, not even close. Not all foster carer’s are bad though, most foster carer’s do an amazing job with the children and prepare them for that transition to their forever family, but be prepared by knowing that they’re not all good either.
Prepare to feel under the spot light, everyone will be watching your every move, or it will at least feel that way. Some adopters talk of instantly falling in love with their child/ren when they first see them. For me this wasn’t the case, for my husband it was. In fact I felt overwhelmed and wanted to escape, that first meeting at the foster carers house couldn’t have gone quick enough for me, which was a feeling i was not prepared for, I expected to instantly bond and love being called Mummy, I didn’t. (I’d spent years looking forward to having someone call me Mummy and these days I’m tempted to change my name, I’m thinking Daddy is a good name to have, lets see how he likes hearing it every second of every day ha ha ha) I also found it hard watching the girls with my husband those first few weeks, I felt jealous, I felt they were taking him from me. So be prepared for strange feelings and reactions that you may not have expected from yourself or your partner, if you have one.
For those intro weeks we had to travel quite some distance so we were away from home for 2 weeks. We took with us a small box of toys/activities such as a few easy puzzles, nice story books, blowing bubbles and some of those easy craft sets with self adhesive bits in them that are mess free, mess free is the important part, you’ll learn that 🙂
We had a difficult foster carer, she wasn’t the most helpful when it came to preparing the girls for our days with them. So shoes that didn’t fit, and lack of sun cream and sun hats was something we hadn’t expected. Luckily there was a supermarket close by so we were able to pick up a few essentials and of course some medicinal chocolate. Wet wipes are a must for any parent in my opinion, regardless of the child’s age. We get through them in truck loads so having a pack (or 10) with you would be useful.
We’d brought the girls each a personalised rag doll that had featured on the photo’s of us and our home that was used to prepare the girls for their meeting with us. I was so excited to give them their beautiful dolls that i’d spent so long searching for and had envisaged it being their most treasured possession, for life. I don’t think they’ve been picked up since placement day when they unloaded them from the car to take to their new bedrooms. Don’t expect them to cherish the things you think they should.
Pay close attention to them and their behaviour in foster care. Our girls foster carer fed them pasta and sandwiches for the 2 weeks of introductions, we later discovered that this was because they were unable to use a knife and fork. If you have any concerns or worries during intro’s, speak to your social worker, that’s what they’re there for. Our intro’s were cut short because the foster carer was making life difficult for us. Stand your ground, these are important days for your new family.
Brace yourself for a full life invasion! During those early days time will fly, you’ll feel exhausted and bewildered and shell shocked and a whole lot more. Try to prepare for this in advance by preparing meals and freezing them, something I wish we’d done. Also if you don’t have any one to prepare your home for your return (if your away for intro’s) by getting in some food essentials then before you go prepare an online shop to be delivered late one evening a day or so after your scheduled return. Knowing where your local 24hr chemist is is useful, a few bottles of Calpol in the fridge wouldn’t go a miss either. Stock up on takeaway menu’s, and be sure you know the quickest and most effective route to McDonald’s! Speaking of which, they do fruit bags and carrot sticks so ease your guilty conscience with those instead of chips with their Happy Meal 🙂
Its so important in those early days that you take time to relax, even if its just after they’ve gone to bed, take some time with your partner, enjoy a film, takeaway or just a cuddle on the sofa. If your a lone parent invite a friend over one evening for wine,chocolate and chats. Ring friends and family, talk about and share your thoughts and feelings. Its good to talk!
Most importantly (aside from the McDonald’s route), don’t be so hard on yourself. New parents aren’t expected to get dressed in those early weeks/months let alone clean the house and cook nutritious meals.
Just enjoy what you can and survive the rest!