So we survived the Easter holidays - and actually I’d go as far to say we did pretty well, the secret being (I think) that we kept the whole holiday pretty low key.
The first week was filled with visits to familiar places with familiar people (Kew Gardens, Bushy Park, and Brighton to name a few). Thankfully the weather was all right (dry if not warm) which meant we were able to stay out and about, which both kids need. We stuck to our usual routines with dinner, bath and bedtime so it didn’t feel too weird for Duckling & Gosling, and I had stocked up on craft activities from Tiger which kept the kids occupied at home when they looked like they were getting antsy.
Three mornings in the first week were also filled with swimming lessons. Both Duckling & Gosling love the water and they did really well. Their swimming has come on so much in a really short space of time.
The middle weekend was where it really could have fallen apart but was miraculously brilliant. We took the kids to Center Parcs. They swam, cycled, swung from rope ladders, pedaloed, went bowling, built sand castles, decorated Easter eggs, stayed up late (8pm) and totally knackered themselves out. We all had an amazing time. They were really relaxed and enjoying themselves, which was so lovely to see. It also felt like Tom and I had a holiday as well. At one point we were sitting in the sunshine drinking a beer while the kids played BY THEMSELVES for half an hour. It was bliss.
We did some really good prep with them about the holiday, making it clear we were going away for three nights and then we were coming home. We avoided referring to our cabin as ‘home’ as we wanted the places to be differentiated. We also showed them videos and pictures of the cabin, swimming pool and activities before we left. We did all of this two days before we went; any sooner and they would have hyped themselves up into a mania and any later wouldn’t have given them enough time to process it.
The second week was much the same as the first to begin with, but it all started to go downhill after we had a picnic with some of Duckling’s school friends. I thought it would be good for her to spend some time with her friends as it would help her feel more part of the social aspect of the school. It was going so well, with all the kids playing brilliantly (including older and younger siblings), but as I should have expected when the end came all hell broke loose. Duckling was inconsolable when I told her we had to go. This was despite being given a countdown, a little extra time, and having been there for five hours! She screamed and cried for about twenty minutes, which set Gosling off. I stayed calm for ages trying to soothe them both but my God it was hard work. I sometimes wish I could put a sign up saying “It’s OK, they’re traumatised and I’m trying to be therapeutic” to try and stop all the looks and sneers from other parents (thankfully not those from school who know our situation). The following day was calmer in the morning and I took the kids for a bike ride to try and capatalise on their new-found love of cycling. Unfortunately when we got to our local park to finish off, it was filled with kids that Duckling knows from school. And right on cue at the end we have more screaming and crying. This time I didn’t handle it so well and ended up shouting at them and then having to try and fix it with hugs and apologies. The next day was a play-date with a friend and her daughter who is also adopted. Everything was low-key and familiar but once again the ending was horrific.
On each of these occasions Duckling’s angst continued into the evening. One of the things we’re trying to work through with her is being able to let her emotions out throughout the day rather than bottling them up and letting them out in one big catastrophic mess. (Gosling, on the other hand, calms himself quite quickly and gets on with playing.)
By this point we’d got to the weekend and the end was in sight. We had planned to go on a family visit but I was really worried about how Duckling in particular would cope with it all. In the end we decided to go for it and I’m really glad we did. Both Duckling & Gosling are really settling into our wider family and it’s so lovely to see them playing with the cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. Duckling had come up with a new game which involved running after an Easter egg that had been thrown down a hill and then eating some chocolate. We played this alongside an Easter egg hunt in the garden.
We spent Easter Monday just the four of us relaxing at home and getting ourselves ready for going back to school and nursery. And eating a lot of chocolate while watching a film on the sofa. It was the perfect end to what was overall a really good holiday. We’ve learnt some lessons which we’ll put into practice for the summer holiday and we all feel really relaxed. It was just the tonic our family needed. But most importantly, we have made some wonderful memories we can all cherish for years to come.
Twice in the last few weeks I’ve been struck by different thoughts about parental love.
Like many adopters, I’ve been told countless times that all my children need to make them ‘better’ is love and hugs. And while love by itself clearly isn’t enough, there is some truth to this idea.
I love both my children. Obviously it didn’t happen straightaway but my affection and feeling for them grows every day. Unfortunately I don’t love them as equally as I should and/or would like to. Loving Gosling is easy – he’s charming, has a smile that melts your heart, has an infectious and genuine laugh, and is very loving in return. But I’ve had to work really hard with Duckling – and it’s an ongoing struggle.
Parenting therapeutically is so much easier when you really love the child in question, and you can take the hitting, rejection, and anything else that’s thrown at you (metaphorically or physically). But of course it’s a vicious circle because the one child that really needs my unreserved love is the one I struggle to always give it to.
I know it’s early days but I do beat myself up over the fact that I’m not yet the parent I want to be: selfless, generous and always there for their children (the list is exhaustive). One like my dad, for instance – which very neatly brings me to my second thought…
My dad, an eighty-seven year old Irish Catholic, just about coped with my coming out as gay, but six years later was very much the proud ‘father of the groom’ at Tom and my wedding. The thought, however, of his gay son having children was definitely not something he would even entertain as possible, let alone morally acceptable.
Fast forward six months and to see him tickle and cuddle Duckling and Gosling, I can see he has accepted them and loves them unconditionally, as an extension of his love for me. It brought a lump to my throat to see it and made me hope that one day I’ll have the same, fully-fledged unconditional love for Duckling and Gosling that he does for me.
The Good Stuff
My husband and I have adopted two wonderful children. Duckling is 5 and Gosling, her little brother, is 3. I'll be keeping track of our journey here...