Monthly Archives: November 2014

The helpful big sisters/’home-grown” daughters (continued)

Quite a while ago a friend commented on our family.  As I mentioned in this blog a few months ago, she said “The sisters must have been very generous-hearted”. I wrote a blog post about the “home-grown helpful sisters”. Naturally I mentioned how our two adoptive sons enriched their lives, as well as where I saw the big sisters were being helpful. Now  I have just thought of more occasions when our daughters/the big sisters were so helpful.

By the time Jah came to join our family, Lucy was already 16 years old. She read up about the effects of deprivation in the early years of a child’s development and I was able to have many interesting conversations with her. We tried to understand the way Jah might be feeling and why he behaved in certain ways. Obviously D. and I talked a lot, but sometimes we came to different conclusions and it definitely helped me to talk things through with Lucy.

books on adoptionShe was also very observant and helpful with Jah. One day she came to us with a very worried look on her face.

“I caught Jah scrubbing his arms. I asked him why and he said ‘I want to be white’. “

We were distressed. Since Sam was brown and he looked up to him so much, why would Jah want to be ‘white’?

It reminded me of a little Chinese boy I looked after at a nursery I ran in Malaysia. As far as I could see, his skin was white anyway, but I caught him scrubbing his little arms ferociously. I knew that the Chinese women usually carried a parasol, to avoid getting suntanned but I was very surprised to see that a small boy would ever think about that. It was of course, more worrying to me that Jah was going through a similar exercise.

We went through the usual attempts at positive affirmation and I also went to his school teacher and suggested books that she could read to the whole class – books that featured black and mixed race children. I think this helped. In actual fact, Jah was usually quite a cheerful boy.

Sam played wonderfully with Jah, but sometimes he was out with friends and the big sisters were around to keep him company.  They played games with Jah and read him stories.

Jah loved cricket as well as football. Lucy and Anna sometimes played cricket with him. It wasn’t one of their favourite games, but Jah was so happy when they played with him. I rigged up a couple of polystyrene ‘shin pads’. He thought he looked great!

Jah playing cricketThe sisters didn’t only help when Jah was very young. When he was much older, Anna gave him one of his favourite books. It was “Black Magic. England’s Black footballers”.

Black FootballersThat certainly put a big smile on his face!

Jah feeling vulnerable. The lost tooth.

As I have mentioned before, I have spent quite some time writing a memoir, entitled “A Rock for Jah”. This has not been published and I doubt whether it ever will be.

D. thought that I have been consulting the Memoir when writing the blog, but so far I have not even looked at it. All the facts and information are imprinted in my memory.

When bringing up a child from babyhood, there are many things that one mentions and teaches a child about life as the days go by.

It seems that when taking on an older child, there are bits of information that one expects a child to have absorbed before they joined the family. However, sometimes there are unexpected  gaps in a child’s knowledge.

One thing that we may not have told Jah was about losing ‘baby teeth’. One day when I fetched him from his early days at school, an adorable, motherly little girl presented him to me. She looked very concerned.concerned girlImage courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“He’s upset”, she said. “Our teacher said that I had to stay with him and look after him during Assembly. He won’t tell anyone what is wrong.  Then he got better, but now he’s upset again”.

I  knew that this girl was from a Jehovah Witness’s family. They did not celebrate birthdays, or attend Assembly. She had a few smaller brothers and sisters and was clearly used to being like a little mother.

I asked  Jah what was wrong, I noticed that not only was he tearful, but he was speaking in a funny way. His mouth looked strange.lost toothImage courtesy of arztsamui at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“My hooth”, he said in a muffled manner. “My hooth.” I looked into his mouth.  Then I saw what was wrong and he dissolved into floods of tears.sad face + tearIt turned out that his tooth had become loose and fallen out early in the school day. He had kept it in his mouth all day and it was still in there!  He must have feared that this was a great failing on his part. He presumably did not know that this happens to all children. We had neglected to tell him, and he had not mentioned having a loose tooth.  Perhaps I should have noticed. He must still have been feeling vulnerable, even though he had been with us for over a year.  Doubtless his cheery demeanour and amusing attempts at attention-seeking had hidden a deep-seated feeling of insecurity

Fortunately, the problem about the lost tooth was quite an easy one to solve. Once the little girl and I discovered what was wrong, we told him that this happens to all children and is perfectly normal. I am sure that the teacher would have been able to reassure him right at the beginning of the school day, but Jah had been too fearful to explain his dilemma to her.

Adopting an older child is different from adopting a baby.  However,  this is  National Adoption Month and I would like to mention that there is a very great need for adopters of older children. I heard recently something disturbing on the news.  Apparently during this last year, only about half the usual number of adoptions have taken place. This means that many children who should be placed for adoption, are being let down.  This is a serious matter.

There is an interesting website for anyone interested in adoption. It is the website of BAAF (British Adoption and Fostering) www.baaf.org.uk.

It was in its early days when we adopted, but today the organisation has developed and the staff offer a wealth of information for adopters. Please pass this on to any people you know who are contemplating adoption.

I suppose I felt that I had let Jah down by not preparing him for losing teeth. However, with the benefit of hindsight, I can say that it is hard for parents to get everything right all the time and fortunately most of us survive!

The story so far. The story will be continued.

We have now arrived at the moment where Jah has been officially adopted. Unsurprisingly, this is not the end of the story. It is simply a new beginning. Adoption is for life.

Jah himself has asked me not to write much about his teenage years. I don’t think many of us would want much written about ours either, so naturally I shall respect that. ( I hope he will allow me to write about one of his best memories – the School Journeys. We’ll see.)

My next blog post will return to our everyday life.

In the meantime, I have just realised via Twitter that this is National Adoption week. There are so many interesting and inspiring life-stories mentioned on the website of BAAF (British Adoption and Fostering), that I would encourage people to have a read. See http://www.baaf.org.uk/blog

The pictures I can offer this week are of a little red case and a sunflower – and then an image of carrying on to face the future. red-suitcase-200

THE SUITCASE looks exactly like the tiny one Jah brought with him when he moved into our house, our family and our life. As I have mentioned before, it contained just a few clothes. His foster family had thoughtfully decided that it would be better for us to get him his new clothes as he grew. He didn’t need to bring many with him. Life would move on.

sunflower A SUNFLOWER. When Jah moved into our family, aged 3 years and 11 months, he brought with him a little present for us. It was a rather straggly sunflower seedling. He watered it and tended it and by the end of the summer, it had grown stronger and produced a healthy flower. I like the image.

Running_Stick_Man_clip_art_medium

FACING THE FUTURE. Now that Jah officially shared the family surname we faced the future together. To be continued.