Monthly Archives: March 2014

Introducing Jah to our wider family ‘Down South’. The long summer holiday.

The long summer holiday is a time when children can be free from formal school learning.  If they are fortunate, they can learn about the world around them, as they visit the countryside, as they follow their interests, as they meet people and spend time in summer sunshine and in the open air.

Jah had a lot to learn about all aspects of his new life.

Before we went away, a very dear life-long friend came to visit.  Someone took a photo of her playing bubbles with Jah.  It is embarrassing to note that once again a person’s head was ‘cut off’ in a photo.  (Sorry S!)

S and JThe point about mentioning this is, that many years later this same friend reflected. “Jah is no longer attention-seeking like he was at first”.  That surprised me because I did not remember so much ‘attention-seeking’.  It is probably because I expected it.  These were days of re-adjustment for all of us, but of course especially for him. I suppose it would have been more worrying if he had been passive.

Following the discovery that Jah was still a bit confused about many things, we told him carefully about the family members we were going to visit.

D’s mother and sister lived in Surrey – quite a long way from Leicester.  We went on outings together with the Surrey cousins.  We let the children play in their gardens and enjoyed outdoor picnics.

My parents and grandmother lived in Somerset. The children enjoyed themselves very much.  My grandmother commented, ‘Jah has merry eyes.  He looks as if he might lead you a merry dance’.  We thought of those words a few years later . . . .

ScotlandOur next trip was to go camping in Scotland.  I have heard it said that many people of ethnic minorities do not travel widely in the English countryside.  I myself know of many people of Caribbean origin who truly appreciate and love visiting parts of Britain, so I am not sure how true that is.

Anyway.  We went camping in the North West Highlands of Scotland.  As far as I could see, we were the only multiracial family around.  This did not matter to us.  We all enjoyed a restful time together by the sea and in beautiful countryside.

beside the sea As we had hoped, the holiday had indeed given us time to renew our batteries, before returning to home and school and the inevitable challenges that lay ahead.

 

Sam asks Jah “What does it mean to be 4?”

Jah’s fourth birthday was due three weeks after he came to live with us.  He had a lot of fun with his brother.

Tug of warHe enjoyed the Playgroup.  His big sisters were lovely and spent time with him.  In fact he had so many things to get used to that his birthday did not appear to feature much in his consciousness.  However, we talked to him about our plans.  They were fairly low key.

The main thing was that Pat his social worker would be coming.  She was going to bring presents from herself and the foster family.

She was also going to bring the Life Story she had been working on.  It wasn’t quite finished, as she had more photos to obtain.  She had, however, managed to track down his birth mother and obtained her permission to include a photo of her in the book.

His birth father had been most obliging and had listened with great attention to everything Pat reported about Jah’s life and how he was settling down with us.  His photo shows him with a beaming smile.  He wrote the words “to Jah. With love from Daddy” at the bottom of the photo.  However, it was a Polaroid photo and the paper was shiny so the words could only just be deciphered.

Jah and hobby horseOur present to Jah was a hobby horse. He loved it, which was fortunate.

At the Playgroup he was allowed to pass round the plate of fruit before the singing-in-a-circle time.  Every child did that on their birthday and then the whole group sang “Happy Birthday”.  Jah looked both surprised and shy, but I think he quite enjoyed being the centre of attention.

When Pat came, she brought an amusing book where you could interchange the head, shorts and feet of ‘Goofy’.  He loved making crazy combinations!  (“Because his shorts fell down” being the most popular.  It usually featured in all his combinations.)

Goofy

Fortunately the weather was fine. We had made a sandpit in the back garden.  Jah enjoyed playing with the sand and with Pat before the others came back from school.  All together we felt that everything had gone well.

Imagine our surprise, when Sam reported at breakfast the following morning that Jah had whispered to him at bedtime. “Sam. What does it meant to be 4?”

We felt guilty.  We thought we had covered as many aspects as possible of this small boy’s life and the changes he faced.  How come we had not adequately explained the passage of time? There are plenty of ways that we could have done this, for example we could have asked him whether he remembered his third birthday with the foster family.

At least this feeling of failure had the positive result of reminding us to be as clear as possible in future.

The next thing that lay ahead of us was the summer break.  We explained carefully to Jah where we were going and which members of the family we would be visiting.  I am sure that he could sense how much this meant to us, but of course we were slightly apprehensive about all the travelling and the visiting.  We would just have to hope that all would go well.

Jah settles in. “He ain’t heavy. He’s my brother”.

So now, after about eight months of waiting, Jah had come to live in our family.  He was considered as a foster child, with a view to adoption.

Sam was extra delighted. He played a lot with his new little brother.  They certainly had a lot of fun and games together.  It was heart-warming to witness.

Piggy backLucy and Anna were both helpful in their own ways.  Jah needed a lot of attention and there were a few of us around to give it at different times. I know that D. and I were very busy!

Below are two photos of Jah setting out for the Playgroup.  On looking back, I realise again how fortunate I was to have found a job that I could do where I could take him along.

O & J off to playgroup        Off to Playgroup

Getting on with daily life

 We were very touched when Sam said to us “I  do my work quicker now at school because I’m thinking of getting home and seeing Jah!”  On another occasion he said “I feel more triumphant now I have a little brother who looks like me.”

At the playgroup Jah managed pretty well considering I was one of the leaders.  I sat next to him during the circle time when we all sang action songs.  He did not know them at first, but soon picked them up.  He loved “Mr Fat and Mr Small” and made himself look bloated for “Mr Fat” and extremely tiny for “Mr Small”.  One child stared with incomprehension at Jah’s brown, matted Rasta locks and wondered aloud whether the new boy was actually a ‘scarecrow’.  I was pretty sure that Jah had not heard that comment and was very relieved.

Jah’s hair was quite an issue.  Strictly speaking we could have had it cut, but his social worker was in touch with Jah’s birth father and had said that we would keep the Rasta locks if he wanted.  Once Jah became legally ours, the father would no longer have a say in this matter.  He was going to hand over the responsibility to us.  However, this was bound to take a long time.  (We had no idea how long.)

We had regular visits from both our social workers and Jah was happy to see them, especially Pat, whom he had known most of his life.  She told us that she was busy compiling his Life Story.  I know that these Life Story books are quite common nowadays but we had not heard of that idea before. (We had nothing  like that for baby Sam when he came to us.)  It is a wonderful idea and provides an adopted or fostered child with a back history, so that they can begin to have an understanding of why and how they have moved from house to house and family to family.  Pat was gathering photos of his birth parents and other people who had played key parts in his early life.

After Jah had been with us for one week, we had to start planning his fourth birthday party.

Pat was going to be with us.  It was good to observe that she seemed to be genuinely fond of him.  This continued link with her was very important, especially in those early days.  Together we planned his day of celebration very carefully.  I shall tell you about it in my next blog post.