Wow, it's really complicated having kids who suddenly want to talk about stuff.
Kids in Britain (and America, I think) live in this really weird space where every story that we tell them is positive and joyful. Their storybooks are full of lions and crocodiles, and in these books those vicious carnivores gambol happily with an assorted cast of prey-animals, with nary a thought of dinner. If they fight, it's not a to-the-death bloodbath, it's an argument about something cute, with a moral, like who is going to help Mr Leopard bake a special birthday cake for Mr Rhino. And in the end, they all help, because they all have different skills and everybody is different and that's just what the world needs. (The biggest exception on our bookshelf- I really want to eat a child.
something lovely by Sam Lloyd).
Anyway. We are still very much in this rainbows and unicorns stage in our house, and I think it's an entirely good thing. Life is going to get hard soon enough - I want them to have a period in their life where the world feels as safe and calm and secure as possible.
We look at their 'special book' a lot at the moment. And they want to hear so many stories about themselves, all the time. Pink, in particular, has a need to hear her adoption story again and again and again. I think a lot of this is just normal little-girl-ness. She's becoming very aware of family relationships and working out her place in the world. She's working out (because duh, I'm telling her) that she was born from another lady's body and so we talk a lot about how we adopted her and how we are a family. Right now, I know this is absolutely the thing that we need to focus on. Security, certainty, family. And the stories always include how we said to the judge 'yes! We want them to be our babies forever!' and she beams and I tell them both how happy we were when they were finally ours. And they are used to hearing this; they know that it's true. I know that their little minds are thinking 'well of course you were happy when I turned up; I am awesome. What was not to be happy about?' (Also, Blue is thinking 'enough with the stories. Can we have cake now?')
But of course, truth is, I wasn't really all that happy to start with. I was totally freaked out. I was practically having kittens. I wonder about this a bit sometimes. I find it hard to know - when we tell them stories about their lives, where is the line between developmentally appropriate and outright lying? Even if I had been outrageously happy, there's a lot about their story that isn't happy. How much of that do we talk about now? There's a lot of adoption loss that we need to talk about, and that we do talk about. There's a fair bit of information out there on how to talk about birth family and the complicated emotions that surround that, but that's not really what's complicating things for as at the moment. As well as skating lightly over Mummy's slight and temporary nervous breakdown, I'm totally stuck on how to talk about where they lived before they came to us. At the moment, a lot of their interest centres around the care home where they lived before they met us. They want to talk a lot about it, and I always say positive things - because they are two- but actually I want to shout that place was horrible! Being in that place nearly killed you! Instead, I'm all oh, look at all these lovely children in the pictures! and hoping my pants don't catch on fire.
There are lots of really good reasons why they needed to be adopted. There are not lots of really good reasons why, for example, their care home was so bad. I still feel angry about it (can you tell???) and I know that some of that anger makes it hard for me to be objective about how we should talk about it. (Just for the record -this place was not like an American agency care home. Believe me when I say it was bad). There aren't really any good reasons why I struggled and struggled during the first few weeks they were with us, either, but that's the way it was, although I don't really think it would do them any good to hear it.
We need to keep their story simple for them at the moment, because they are only tiny. But the story itself is far from simple. I don't want to give them more than they can handle, before they are ready for it. But I also don't want there to be a horrible moment when they realise we've been sugar-coating bits of their life story and the reality was actually pretty different. I'm sure that a lot of this is not just adoption-related. Mothers who had post-natal depression must have similar issues when they look through their children's baby books with them, I guess. Sometimes it's hard to reconcile what my kids need right now with the fact that they also need truth. I don't want to be one of those mothers who keeps things cosy and it's too late to get real. Also - to be honest - Pink has started talking a lot about how she wants to visit Ethiopia (Eee-feee-o-papa, she says - it's adorable). We want to take her - of course - but she keeps talking about how she wants to visit the care home, and I've suddenly realised that when we do that, it's a loooong, long way from the image she has built up in her little baby head and I know it would distress her - both the place itself and the disappointment, the difference, between what she expected and what it really is.
I guess that is what started me really thinking about this whole thing. I was hoping that writing this down would give me some clarity, but it hasn't.