Tuesday 6 May 2014

Icy Family Feud Ends In Court

I'll post about seeing the social worker as soon as I can get my head around the meeting we had - hopefully tomorrow or the day after. Today, a vision of my future, if my children had their way. 


A Berkshire mother of two was today sentenced after losing a landmark hearing regarding her children's access to the film Frozen. 

After sentencing, a  tearful Mrs Chapman told the waiting media, "This has all been a terrible misunderstanding. I didn't realise that it was actually The Law that children had to be allowed to watch Frozen at least once per day. Now that I know this, my behaviour will change. I'm going to go home and put this right."

Her sentence included a commitment to learn all the songs on her ukulele - even the boring ones - and play them for impromptu karaoke sessions whenever her children ask. Judge Menzel, presiding, said that her sentencing specifies that "This really does mean whenever she is asked, even if it is nearly bedtime."  In addition, the family laptop will be repurposed to show the film on an infinite loop, and Claudia, 34, will wear her hair in mandatory braids every day for the next year, 'just like Ana'.

Neighbours reported that tensions had been growing in the Chapman household for some time. When interviewed, Pink Chapman (who asked that we refer to her by her preferred name of Elsa) said "It was obvious to everyone that something wasn't right with how our mother was treating us. It's not like she couldn't show us the film; we could see the DVD on the shelf. The problem was that she was restricting access, and children need to watch this film daily. Everybody knows that. Now that she has signed a contract and her probation officer will be checking the house regularly, I'm hopeful that we can all put this episode behind us".

Her brother Blue agreed. "She was only letting us watch it while we were having our hair done, and that just wasn't enough," he said. "It's true that we did watch it four times in one week when it arrived, but that was while she was learning to do cornrows and there was a lot of inconsistent behaviour relating to that, anyway. Four times in one week turned out to be the best it ever got, and that's why we had to get the authorities involved".

When asked why they had decided to litigate, rather than seek a more informal  resolution, he said "Elsa and I love our mother, but there are some things that need to be taken seriously. We called for help, and I'm just grateful that help came in time."

A spokesperson for Berkshire child services said, "We are very pleased with the outcome of this ruling. Obviously, we are working towards a situation where all children have unrestricted access to Frozen at all times, but until that day comes, we think the current one-viewing-per-day laws are adequate, and we are glad they are being properly enforced."

When asked to comment, the children's father, Jay Chapman, said "I have no opinion to give. This whole situation has nothing to do with me; that's why I go to work."

The family have asked for privacy at this difficult time.

Thursday 1 May 2014

So I Called The Adoption Agency Again

Last Tuesday, I called the adoption agency who did our assessment back in 2008. Was that really six years ago? I suppose it was, and I haven't slept properly since. (And I guess that would explain why I recently got told off by a makeup guy in Selfridges for looking like something he found underneath his shoe. I wanted to buy some foundation, but after 'working' on me for a little while, he sighed and said people come here and they expect that a new foundation is going to work some kind of magic. But really, there's nothing foundation can do for you if you have open pores, and fine lines, and an oily T-zone. You don't need a different foundation, you need to take better care of your skin. I was so shocked by his honesty that I bought the foundation. Now that I have it home, I realise that my skin might be terrible - okay, it is - but his foundation isn't all that either. Never trust a man who wears more bronzer than you do, is probably the moral of that story).

Anyway. I didn't call them to schedule another homestudy. I asked to speak to their post-adoption support team (miraculously, they have a post-adoption support team) and told them, as neutrally as I could please help us. Things are really difficult around here and we need some help. 

What do you mean by difficult? the social worker asked, and I told her about what had happened that day - a huge tantrum out of nowhere that I couldn't do anything - anything - to stop - and about how that had come in the middle of a really good period and I feel like the Jekyll / Hyde thing going on around here means that I'm living in fear of my child, in some awful way, and I told her about the hitting and the mood swings and the attachment stuff. What kind of attachment stuff? she asked, and I thought for a minute and said how, if I want to shower (and I do want to shower) I have to choose between using the TV as a babysitter or having a small child stare at me from his seat on the closed lid of toilet, just making sure I don't climb into the plumbing and escape, even though I have showered every morning for four and a half years and every single time, I've come back out of the bathroom, still there, still me and still his mother.

All of this come out in a rush. And I kept saying this probably sounds silly and she would reply no, don't apologise and every second sentence of mine was I need to say that I love my son so much, I love him so much. I just wish he didn't need to stare at him while I'm soaping. 

I didn't say that some days I do want to climb into the plumbing and escape, although I'm pretty sure she knew.

I do love my son so much. More than words can possibly say.

On Friday, the social worker called me back to schedule a meeting with her and me and Jay. She barely said hello before I start talking, and told her - I realised that I forgot to tell you about the spinning. She said do you mean physically spinning? and I said yes and she said oh. Then she said I think I know the kind of thing you mean which was like a rush of oxygen to me because it wasn't just well, boys are like that which I've heard too many times to count.  

I love my son so much, I told  her again. She didn't say anything, which was a shame, because I wanted her to say he sounds amazing. You are so lucky to have such a wonderful son. Because I am lucky, and everybody should know that. He is hilarious and wonderful and so, so affectionate. I adore him.

I suppose this is the main reason it has taken me so long to call and ask for help. I feel like hitting up post adoption support services is saying our family is falling apart, is saying this adoption was a terrible mistake when the truth is, honestly, I love my son so much. (And my daughter, just for the record).

And who wants to be the family who is calling post-adoption support, four and a half years after placement? Nobody, that's who. It just feels kind of dumb. And I've talked to a few people about some of my concerns, but so many people saying that's what boys are like / he'll grow out of it / he's so good every time I see him that I thought maybe I was going crazy. They convinced me that I shouldn't call. And I feel kind of mad at the people who told me those things, because I probably should have called last year, but the truth is, it wasn't their job to decide whether or not my son (and our family) needed some extra support. We're the parents; it's our job. We should have started ignoring them sooner. I got a big push from my sister - an early childhood teacher - who told me I've seen a lot of kids and what you're describing is not normal. You should definitely go and ask somebody for some help. Of course, that made me kind of mad at her - isn't this just a phase? Aren't all boys like this? Are you saying there's something wrong with my precious boy? How dare you!!

And even after this conversation, I still didn't call.

I talked to a friend who is a nurse. She said yeah, you should probably call somebody. I didn't.

And at that point, I realised the other reasons why I really didn't want to call. It's not just that I don't want to believe there's something wrong with my son (although I don't) it's that what I really feared was that they would tell us - me and Jay - there was something wrong with us. After all, I can list the things that my son struggles with but there's a far, far longer list of things I struggle with, things like the yelling and the inconsistency and the amount of TV that they watch and the amount of pasta that they eat and the fact that I filmed one of them hitting the other one, rather than intervening, just so I could ask Jay's opinion about it later, and the fact that they rarely bathe and the fact that sometimes I do want to crawl into the plumbing and escape and the fact that I never bothered to teach them to draw and the fact that we are always, always late and the fact that I get so angry sometimes when he hits me that my vision blurs and that by the end of each day I know I should be chasing them playfully upstairs but instead I'm checking my phone for a text from my husband to say that he's on his way home and he never is, he never is and that's why we never eat meals together as a family either.

All of this sits inside me, weighing on my stomach like a stone. It sucks all of my oxygen away.

Who wants to be the mother who need to call post-adoption support, four and a half years after placement? I feel like hitting up post-adoption services is like saying our family is falling apart, this adoption was a terrible mistake, you never should have let an awful mother like me get these precious, perfect children. 

This sounds over-dramatic, I know, but believe me - when you have children who are showing, errrrm, challenging behaviours, the world does not make you feel like a good mother. The screaming, falling-down tantrum from a child who is too old to be having a screaming, falling-down tantrum does not garner much public sympathy. Sometimes I can feel the thought bubbles floating above people's heads - why doesn't she just - that child should be - mothers these days - why is she letting that child - I know they are thinking these things, because sometimes they say them to my face. Parenting, for me, is a constant exercise in humility. Before I had kids, if I'd seen children behaving the way mine sometimes do, I would definitely have assumed it was the parents' fault. So I can't really be shocked when people assume it is mine.

Is it mine? I don't think it's mine. And this was the decision I had to reach, honestly, before I could pick up the phone and dial. I had to come to a point where I could say I am a good enough mother to ask for help. Although of course, I still fear that they are going to listen to what we have to say, peer at us over their glasses and say I've diagnosed the problem, Mr and Mrs Chapman, and here it is: you have no parenting skills. 

I think where I got stuck was this: I couldn't see any outcome other than you are defective parents or you have a defective child. 

But I love my son so much. He is wonderful, and I know that what we have together is pretty wonderful too, most of the time. I just want some help in knowing how I can be better at helping him, because honestly, he does need some help, and that means we do too.

Now, I'm hoping for a third outcome, although I have no idea what that might look like.

The first meeting is tomorrow. Please let this be a start.