A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about the ‘house rules’ I’d like to instigate when our future children move in with us. There was a mix of responses ranging from “good plan, be firm” to “you’re living in dream land”.
I talked at length with @frogotter and @tootingmama, two of the people I follow on Twitter who are much further along the adoption route than Tom and me, about which of these rules were realistic, which ones would be lost in time, and which might be worth abandoning right away. It was very positive and ended with the tweet “I'm looking forward to reading your post on rules for parents now! ;-)”.
I’d been thinking a lot about the type of Dad I want to be when our children arrive so I thought it would be a good idea to come up with the rules I want to abide by. I should also point out that the rules in the previous blog were house rules i.e. for Tom and me as well as the children – indeed as @plainlyamess very beautifully tweeted “respect is caught not taught”.
Tom and I rarely argue. When we do it’s usually because we’re hungry or tired (or God forbid both) or because we haven’t heard (or listened to) what the other one has said. So much conflict around the world would be resolved if people just listened to someone else’s point of view. I want to try and listen to everything my children tell me (both verbally and non-verbally) so I can learn to understand what they need of me. I hate it when you see children trying to get their parents’ attention just to be ignored. I’m not suggesting I should allow them to interrupt every conversation I have but I won’t ignore them.
Not everyone is good at everything, and knowing that is a huge lesson in life. I want my children to know that it’s OK to fail at something. It’s liberating and allows you to keep trying at it if you want to.
I’m rubbish at saying sorry. Tom knows this well enough and will be bowled over by my admitting it here but the ability to say sorry is undervalued. If I do something wrong in the bringing up of my children I have to learn to apologise and make it right.
I want my children to know I love them and I will show them this at every possible opportunity. Whether it is simply saying the words, giving them a hug when they need it or have done something wrong, or in some other way that we discover together over time, I hope they know I do.
If I’m calm and polite in my interactions with my children then hopefully, over time, they’ll learn to be the same.
Every parent I have spoken to (adoptive or otherwise) has talked of the need for clear and firm boundaries. If my children know what I expect of them they will know how they ought to behave.
Consistency is the key to keeping the boundaries in place and working. If one day they can go to bed at 10pm but the next day I insist on 7pm they won’t know where they stand. Similarly, Tom and I have to be a united front, both sending out the same message.
Although my children may be the centre of my world they won’t be of the wider population. Behaviour that is acceptable at home may not be in someone else’s house, on public transport, or in a museum. When I was a waiter whilst at university I would despair of children (actually their parents) who were allowed to run around a restaurant while I was carrying hot food and drinks. There will be times when the needs* of people around me may come before those of my children. If they can’t cope in certain situations we’ll try to avoid them until they can. *I don’t consider running around in front of tray of hot food a ‘need’.
However, I will fight for what they do need until my dying breath. Whether this is accessing support from CAMHS or dealing with another child pushing ahead at the park, I will be there for them.
Without being gushy and sickening, Tom and I are a great team and our relationship is really important to both of us. If we aren’t working well together the whole family will suffer. I have no idea how but I really want to make time for us as a couple.
Similarly, as the stay-at-home parent, I want to be able to make time for me.
I want to teach them the skills that will help them grow into fully rounded adults. From cooking and basic DIY (such as changing a plug) to lighting a fire and putting up a tent.
I want to fill their childhood with us with lots of happy memories. Baking a cake, going camping, watching a film together with popcorn and ice-cream. Both big and small things that they can hopefully look back on fondly in the future.
Honesty is the best policy. I want to be honest and open with my children so they feel able to be the same with me. With everything they have been through in their early years it will be even more important that they are able to do this.
I remember when I was a kid a neighbour of ours always promised to take me horse-riding. Every time I saw her she would mention it again and every time it wouldn’t happen. Unbeknownst to me, my Mum would often ask her not to mention it unless it was actually going to happen – which of course it never did. I don’t even remember her name but I remember those broken promises and I pledge here and now not to break one I make to my children.
So quite a list of rules for me to try and live up to. Like the house rules some of these may be easy to achieve and others almost impossible. All I can do for now though is try to meet them and promise not to beat myself up if I don’t.
What rules do you live by as a parent?
During the approval process Denise, our social worker, asked us to tell her what our ‘house rules’ would be. In the moment of being asked the question we couldn’t think of any and it duly went into our PAR that we would have a house with no rules. That was quickly changed, as that would certainly not be the case! A few weeks later, when we were at panel, one of our questions was about how we would set boundaries and stick to them in a therapeutic way.
I think both Tom and I would naturally be relatively strict parents but we have shifted our thoughts on this through our prep day attendance and discussions with other adopters about therapeutic parenting. And whilst we very much intend to parent therapeutically there are some rules that I think we should at least strive for in order to make our children fully functioning members of society.
Some of these ‘rules’ may not come to fruition until years in the future and that’s OK - if we fail, we fail but surely it’s definitely worth trying…
So nothing too strenuous, but what about when we’re out in public? What’s important out in the big wide world…
All in all, I don’t think any of these are that unreasonable and can be pretty much summed up in one simple statement – ‘be nice’.
Like I say these aren’t things that I’m expecting straightaway, or indeed all of the time, but it’s the point from which Tom and I will start. And of course the children may well have their own ideas about the kind of home they want to live in, and rules that we as a family have created together will hopefully make for a happy and safe place to live.
What house rules do you have? Which rules have you abandoned? Are there are any you didn’t expect?
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...