Monday, 7 January 2013

Slugs and snails and puppy dogs tails.

What are my little boys made of? What makes them the way they are?

  I know my history has shaped my character behaviour and expectations from life. Obviously with my boys it's the same. To the best of my knowledge they've not been abused or neglected since they were born. They had excellent foster carers. But something about their view of the worlds is not the same as mine. At least at an unconscious level.  Being taken from your birth mother immediately after birth, swapping parents yet again as a toddler... it must do something to you at a really deep level. They see us as 'Mum and Dad', but - do they have any deep anxieties about the permanence of their stay with us? We have always stressed to them that they live with us forever or until they want to leave as grown-ups, and that even when they leave they can always come home. We've explained that we want them, that they belong, we've told them why they couldn't stay with their previous carers. But is that enough? I don't know. I don't know what could be enough. Both of them really live in the 'now' and don't look ahead too much. Both (especially Pup) put the past behind them very thoroughly. When his key worker left his preschool for a new job she came to us to explain, and warn us that she thought Pup would be upset as he seemed very attached to her. He never mentioned her again, didn't remember her name after a month or two and didn't seem to recognise other preschool helpers even a few weeks after leaving preschool. Is that him ruthlessly 'putting the past behind him', or is it poor memory?

   At the moment they are both going through a phase of "When I was a baby / a toddler / with first mummy I did..... such and such." It seems totally innocuous and I tend to play along, apart from reminding them occasionally that they have never lived with her since they were born. I don't wish to keep correcting them, but I do wonder how many 'false memories' they are building up! Also I forget how much of what we've told them that they do forget. Yesterday Pup took the news that he had another younger sibling with great surprise, despite us talking about the sibling many times in the past, showing him photos etc. He was asking to meet them, and sad that he couldn't - at least until they were both grown up. He hasn't asked to meet any other of his birth family.

  My boys are very similar in many ways. Both extrovert, noisy, hyper, musical, advanced readers (although not keen readers), good with words, demanding, affectionate, loving buttons, levers and any sort of techy stuff. Not artistic, not great lovers of doing things with their hands - e.g. Lego - (but  both terrible 'fiddlers'!). I have to assume that most of these traits come from their birth mother. But their short attention spans, restlessness, chaotic behaviour, Pups hypermobility and other behavioural issues, Tigs anarchic behaviour.....where are these from? When you adopt the 'nature versus nurture' issue is always at the back of your mind. And the fear of how much they have been damaged by their past. I am very happy that Pup always feels he can express his feelings; he tells us if he is happy or sad. This morning he was talking about how he was afraid to go back to school, and how he liked it less this year because he loved his teacher of last year. But what feelings are churning away deep inside him, to come out later? He has insecurites about change and leaving places..... is this him, or is it his past? Tigs anarchism - is it a reaction to all he has experienced?

  They are not the children I expected to have.... But then who ends up with the kids they expect? My birth kids would be introverted, very quiet, artistic, avid readers and model makers, probably nervous and maybe somewhere on the autistic spectrum - if they took after me that is. My husband is similar in many ways. On the other hand they may have turned out totally different to both of us. I am not disappointed that my children are different. It makes me happy to see that they are interested in things I enjoy; but I also love to see them developing their own interests and characters. Of course we are influencing them all the time... but how much??
  Unanswered questions, and most probably never to be answered. Don't need answering. My boys 'am who they am'. But I worry in case any of their behaviour is due to 'damage' and may cause them problems later, in their relationships, school lives, working lives, faith.... The good bit is that I think we are a close family, the boys love each other and us, and we all feel free to say so; we love to be together (mostly!). I hope we can build strong enough walls here to keep them safe.


  1. I really like this blog post - so thoughtful.

    Of course, like you I don't have the answers but often have the same questions.

    We're fairly certain that much of Mini's behaviour is because of his background, and without help, most certainly would affect his future relationships, schooling, career. However, he is who he is, and we love him for who he is. We all love each other dearly...but another question.... Is love enough?

  2. Great post. I'm getting a lot of "When I was a baby ...." from our 5 yr old. She also loves playing hairdressers and always asks me "would you like to have a sleepover at the hairdressers and stay forever". Bless.