Monthly Archives: February 2014

A new beginning. Jah joins us in our Leicester home

Our first day out alone with Jah had gone fairly well, but reality was drawing near.  He was very soon going to be our responsibility. We were going to be his new family.

I welcome comments on this blog and I received a comment on my last post, reflecting on the sense of responsibility we must have felt.  Yes.  That is very true, but I suppose we had been prepared as well as possible by everybody and now we just had to get on with this vital next stage.  It was what we had been working towards.

(Once somebody remarked to me that our other children must have been “very tolerant” as we added to the family.  I hadn’t thought about it that way, but they certainly were great – and they still are!  Maybe I’ll write a post about this one day. )

I do not remember a sense of mounting tension on the morning of our departure.  Jah’s foster mother said that she remembers feeling tense and stressed as she waited for all the paper work to be completed by the social worker.  It was extra-hard for her, as they had all grown very fond of Jah. He had been with them over eighteen months. She said they were entirely happy about him coming to live with us. She knew that he needed a ‘forever family’. They themselves already had four children and they could not look after him ‘forever’.  However it was still going to be a wrench letting him go.

My memories centre more round his little red suitcase that held all, or most of his belongings – clothes and toys.

red-suitcase-200It was more like a toy than a travel case.  It served its purpose, but it was rather touching that these were the only possessions he brought with him. Obviously, one cannot see or measure – or put into a suitcase – the value of his past eighteen months’ experience of love within the foster family but we knew that it was invaluable for his sense of self-worth.

The children of the foster family were all going to draw Jah lovely pictures and would send him other things as time went by.  As regards clothes, however, it had been decided that it would be best for us to go shopping for the new clothes he would need as he grew.  For this reason he did not travel with a whole lot of clothes “to grow into”.  We saw this as an example of their sensitivity and good preparation for the handover.

Another thing I remember was the “mystery” present for us that Jah was very pleased about.  It was wrapped in a big tube of newspaper.  He would not let us discover what it was until the car drew up outside our house in Leicester.

We had bought a present to divert Jah’s attention as we drove away from the foster home. It was a toy monkey.  It had an appealing face and he took to it immediately.  He  played with it on that long car journey and also for quite a few years.

monkey like Jairo  For some reason it was christened ‘Jairo’ and he loved it.

 I have a photo of the family walking up our garden path in Leicester.

Arriving Leicester

(A badly taken photo. My apologies to D. and Lucy for cutting off their heads.)

Here you can see Sam carrying Jah’s mystery present for us.  He had unveiled it with a slightly shy smile and entrusted it to Sam.  It was a little sunflower plant. We watched it grow and flourish during the summer, as indeed did Jah.

 When we opened the front door of our house  Jah looked all round him quite solemnly, perhaps to see if everything looked as he remembered from his initial visit. He seemed satisfied and took his little red suitcase upstairs to the bedroom he would be sharing with Sam.

red-suitcase-200I do not pretend that all was “sweetness and light” from that moment on, but it was a great feeling to realise that at last we had begun this new phase in our family life.

 

Our first day out alone with Jah.

We were camping in the garden of Jah’s short-term foster parents, so that we could get to know each other better before he moved in to join our family.

The whole area of our camper van was taken up at night with a double bed.  There were hammock-type beds above, one on each side.  On the first two mornings Jah came and peered through the windows.  He did not ask to come in.  On the third morning, however, he tapped on the van window and said

“Can I come in?”

We were glad that he was beginning to feel more at ease with us and of course we let him in.

Sam was still in the hammock above our bed.  Jah laughed a lot as we helped him to clamber up into the other hammock.  Once installed, he looked very pleased with himself.

We had enjoyed the excitement of the big day out with both families.  Today’s outing was going to be far more low key.  We were edging our way to reality – our life with Jah. I don’t know whether he felt apprehensive but I did.

Our plan for the day was to go for a picnic lunch and then to drive on to a place where we could all do pond-dipping.  Nets were provided.

Anna was always excellent at organising younger children and before we had our picnic, she organised running races.  Sam had a shock.  I think he deliberately ran slowly, so that Jah would not be discouraged.  However, Jah was such a good and keen runner, that Sam had to speed up!

Running_Stick_Man_clip_art_medium

The pond dipping was a fairly low-key activity.

Pond dipping 2

You could see that Jah was desperate to find something big and unusual in his net.  He searched anxiously through the bowl that was provided, where the children could examine their catch.  Being anxious to succeed was going to be a feature of his life. That was evident and understandable.

Pond dipping 1

  We tried to play down any competitive aspect of the activity. I think we were aiming for as calm an atmosphere as possible.  The days ahead would surely be dramatic enough.  I tried to make him laugh when describing my father’s ponds.  I talked about the wonderful insects that skim across the surface of pond water.  And I spoke about dragonflies.  His eyes opened so wide when I mentioned that word, so we had to assure him that they were only small – nothing like a ‘real’ dragon.

Now what lay ahead of us was the day we would all drive back to Leicester, to start our new life as a family of six.

 

“Getting to know you” – before Jah moves in.

So far Jah had made one visit to our house and met all the family.  The next time he would be moving in as the little brother we had been waiting for and we would be his ‘forever family’.

D. and I discussed the handover from the foster family to ours.  We all decided that the Half Term holiday would be the best time. We would be able to spend a few days together.  We hoped that would give enough time for this little three-year-old to get more used to us.

We would camp in the foster family’s garden in our small camper van with Lucy and Anna sleeping in an adjoining tent.

Fiat camper van

After spending the first couple of days getting to know each other, both families would go out together on an outing.

On the next day, D. Sam, Lucy, Anna and I would take Jah out with us.  This would be our first time with him alone.  We hoped everything would go well and that we could drive back home with Jah on the following day.

The joint outing to an adventure park was a great success.  Jah’s eyes lit up at a giant helter-skelter.  The other children climbed the steps with alacrity and to my surprise he saw no reason why he shouldn’t do the same. I went down with him on the first occasion.  After that he went up and down several times on his own, dragging the mat up the steps each time.  He was triumphant!

Helter skelter

One can just see him in the middle of the picture.

 Another attraction was a bathing pool.  When he began to feel cold, we encouraged him to come out of the water and something very touching happened.  He allowed me, rather than his foster mother, to wrap him up in a soft dry towel and give him a hug.  It was a moving moment for me.  It was the very first time I had been able to do anything for him.

drying with towel

Things seemed to be going well and so we made plans for our first day out together as a family with four children.   (See next blog post.)