Staying in touch: highs and lows

So, in my previous blog post “A bittersweet occasion: The boy is ours” I promised that we’d maintain regular letterbox contact with our kids birth parents – let them know what wonderful men their kids were growing into. In return we agreed we’d share their letterbox contact with our kids. An opportunity to update them on their birth parents live’s. After all we’re never going to keep from them where they’ve come from, the journey they, and us, have gone on and the reasons behind it. When the time comes, if appropriate and if our kids wish to, we fully intend to support them to form relationships with their birth parents.

The problem is that we’re struggling to uphold this promise for boy 3.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re doing everything we can to try, and will continue to do so. We’re gutted though. In nearly 5 years of promised letter box contact from us we’ve not had one reply from boy 3’s birth parents. Not one letter, one card or even one bloody acknowledgement that they’re getting them. And it really fucks us off.

Maintaining contact with our two adopted kids birth parents couldn’t be polar opposites….the initial agreement was the same for both sets of parents. We agreed with them, face to face, and in agreement with social services, that we would maintain twice yearly letterbox contact with them; once after Christmas and once after the summer. They agreed to maintain the same level of letterbox. Letterbox is where we send a letter to the birth parents via social services. We update them on what’s been going on since the last contact, news, achievements, funny moments, sad moments. Anything that we think we’d want to know as parents. It is so important to us that we have done everything we can to maintain that vital link between them. We thought the birth parents thought the same too, would want to update their child on how they are, what they’ve been up to. To ask questions. After all, we need to maintain that link so that they’re not strangers….they’re part of each other’s make up, they’re history….probably their future. Part of their life. Who knows whether they’ll want to meet in the future? That’s not our decision. We’ll damn well make sure though, if they do, that they’ll know what’s happened in each other’s life over the previous years. Well at least from our end they will.

Sadly not both parents seem to see the importance of this and we find it really sad.

Boy two, our middle child but first adopted, gets regular letterbox contact from his birth parents….letters, cards, gifts….all which we share with him as promised. He loves it and talks openly about them…he can mention things he knows about them. As planned they’re not complete strangers.

Boy 3, our youngest and last adopted, gets nothing. As I mentioned before, in almost 5 years we’ve not had one reply to our regular contact. We’ve double checked with social services and they are definitely getting them. So why are they not fucking replying? It tears our hearts out to know that one son is getting regular contact and updates and our other is getting nothing. Zilch. Fuck all. What are we supposed to say to him? How do we shield him from the inevitable realisation that they appear to not be interested? Especially given the obvious contrast to his brothers experience?

Can’t they be bothered? Too busy? Have they moved on? Don’t care? To be honest we can only guess. And I really don’t want to be harsh or unkind. Maybe it’s the only way they can cope with their ‘loss’. To not think about things, not acknowledge it. Bury their heads in the sand. But even that is alien to us. As a parent our kids needs come first, theirs before ours. Even if it’s difficult for us, if it’s in their best interest, that’s what happens. After all, we’re parents. That’s what we do.

In the meantime however we have to plan to deal with the fallout. Protect boy 3 from the inevitable heartbreak. Dilute and distract as much as possible. Whatever we can to shield and absorb for him. That’s our job. That’s what loving someone so much is about.

We’re trying to work around things. We’ve managed to find a maternal grandparent that is desperate for contact…And who hasn’t received a single update from her own child regarding boy 3’s development…We’re currently working with social services to arrange this letterbox. Also he has a half sister who we visit and maintain contact with…she’s currently with an amazing foster family….so he will always know and love her.

Birth parents may not want or be able to maintain contact. But we will make damn well sure that boy 3 has the connections he needs to understand himself, his journey and to build relationships with his birth family if he desires in the future.

After all. We love him to the ends of the earth and his needs come first.

Much love, S xx

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Parental anxiety: Even Superheroes suffer

I felt compelled to write this after reading a post by the talented and incredibly open actor Stephen Amell, aka The Arrow. In short, Stephen describes suffering a panic attack after being left behind on an ariel wire course. He says it left him physically trembling, weak, sweating and to the point of tears. Interestingly this has only started happening to Stephen following him becoming a parent…

…I completey get this. I too have felt this panic. Usually when I’m with my kids but not always. I am overjoyed to realise that one of my television heros isn’t immune from it too. Bloody hell! If the Arrow can be open about it so can I!

I suffer from what I have always named parental anxiety…I’m not a therapist and so don’t know the technical terms it’s just how I’ve rationalised things in my head. I’ve never sought help or advice as I manage things independently. It affects me daily and in various ways.

I wonder how many of you suffer from it too?

Ever since I have become a parent I have had regular moments of complete and utter irrational (or not) panic when it comes to my kids. It started when our eldest, Wil, was born. I would have to constantly check he was breathing…convinced he would suddenly stop. As the kids have grown up it’s continued. Things like they’ll be running ahead of me on the pavement, completely safe, and I’ll panic that they’re going to trip and fall into the path of an oncoming vehicle. Or they go for a sleep over and I panic that something may happen whilst they’re not with me. Sometimes they ask to go out on their own down to the village and my stomach churns that something will happen to them…My usually sensible self creates all sorts of monsters that are going to hurt or maim my children! Water, that’s a big one. If my kids are walking with me by water I have a constant, physical, state of fear that they’re going to fall in.

It also effects me in terms of my own safety…I became a nervous horse rider….developed a new fear of heights. And I don’t think it’s just a product of growing up. It’s a real fear of not being there for my kids.

I think it came to the surface for me really when we were on holiday in Portugal a couple of years ago. We visited an amazing castle and went up to the top of the castle wall to explore…to do so you had to climb a set of stone steps that were against the wall and completely open to one side….no hand rail or safety guard. I felt a mild panic when we went up..but as soon as we got to the top and the kids started exploring it developed into full blown panic. I started shaking, I felt dizzy and my legs were like jelly. My head was in turmoil and I had an overwhelming dread that the kids were going to plummet to their deaths right there and then. I managed to take some deep breaths, had a very strong word with myself and somehow managed to pull myself together…but it was so strong and so real. I called the kids to me and I let them explore but with a firm element of controlling their movement. I honestly thought we were not going to get off the castle wall though. Trying to get down the same stairs we’d just walked up was a bloody nightmare. We got to the top and the kids were all set to merrily trot down them, but whenever I tried to start the descent I turned to jelly again. In the end I made the kids sit on their bums and together we shuffled down.. one humiliating step at a time.

This was the point for me that I realised I needed to get a grip or I would really start affecting the kids.

I had an amazing childhood filled with care free dangers that no-one stopped me from experiencing or learning from. My parents got the balance spot on. Now I know that the dangers I fear now are very real and capable of happening.. which of course is the issue…but it’s managing the irrational fear of something happening, when it’s incredibly unlikely, that I am constantly struggling with.

I don’t want to be that parent that can’t let my children run free. To let them learn from life as I was able to. I don’t want to stop them being kids. I won’t to wrap them up in the proverbial cotton wall…and I never for one second thought I would be that type of parent. But the fear is so real, so strong, and it takes all my will power not to let that take over.

Usually I’m able to rationalise things and let them get on with what they’re doing, but occasionally the anxiety is too much and I have to call them back to me. The fear is too powerful. My head is saying they’re fine, safe, let them run and learn…but I can’t always fight that fear. What if they do trip, what if they get shoved out in front of a car accidentally, what if they get hurt? Not healthy right?! But I’m guessing I’m not the only one? Do you experience it too?

For me I think it boils down to a control issue. If I can’t control what my children are doing then something bad will happen to them. But I will NOT be that person. I believe that I have found the right balance between arming our children to be able to manage and reduce risks rather than avoiding them. I do allow them exposure to all sorts of risks to learn and grow but have also provided tools to reduce it. My fears will not be my children’s weakness. They are mine to manage, to own and to control.

I realise from speaking to people about this that it is entirely normal and most people have varying levels of the same thing. I never realised however that it would be such a life-long confliction of head over heart!! Love bloody hurts Sometimes!!

Much love, S x x