I’m honored and very excited to be chosen as the guest editor for The Adoption Social this month. The theme for the first #WASO of the month is Survival Strategies. How do you cope with the daily challenges of adoptive parenting? This is what keeps me going….
Let’s be blunt, adoption is not an easy journey. From assessment, to panels, through to matching, introductions, placement, living with, and loving often very traumatised children, adoption brings new challenges on a daily basis. Right from the outset I have relied on several key survival strategies to keep me going. They are, in no particular order:
1. A bottle of Sauvignon most Thursday evenings with a very close friend. We put the world to rights, or if I’m honest, have a mutual moan about our, children, husbands, work, blah, blah, blah…
2. Blogging. I find emptying my head on to a page very therapeutic
3. Family trips to the coast to blow our troubles away
3. Arts and crafts, glitter, glue, paint, beads, sewing, you name it. I’m not sure who enjoys this the most, me or the kids, but it usually helps restore some sort of equilibrium.
4. And finally humour.
It is humour that keeps Eddie and I afloat. Pre-adoption, we were both fairly easy going, light-hearted, I hate to say, sometimes bordering on the shallow, type of people. We didn’t really think too deeply about things, we just ‘did’.
Adoption has changed that. From the word go, adoption makes you think about things you had never ever considered before. We can’t just parent our eight year old Winnie Whirlwind, we have to constantly analyse her behaviour (well I do, Eddie just listens to me bang on), desperately trying to find out why, while at the same time thinking of new ways to manage things. Throw a teenager, a one year old and an increasingly neurotic springer spaniel in to the mix and life is, to put it mildly, exhausting.
But it is also entertaining, rewarding and often very amusing. And it is finding the humour in some of the worst situations that keeps us going. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not belittling the deep rooted trauma behind Winnie Whirlwind’s behaviour, it just helps us to laugh. As the saying goes if you don’t laugh, you cry! I have friends that work in mental health, as carers and as nurses and all of them confess they often laugh inappropriately (in retrospect of course) about the day’s events. If they didn’t they wouldn’t be able to cope with their jobs.
And you couldn’t make up some of the things that happen in our family. The school phoning whilst I was shopping to inform me that my daughter was hanging from the top of the climbing bars during the lunchtime, does become slightly sitcom-esque when retold to friends over dinner.
Winnie’s hypervigilence often results in moments of slapstick, which keep us all entertained. Because she is so busy constantly monitoring everyone else’s moves (or staring as we like to call it) she doesn’t look where she is going. As a result she is very clumsy. One great example happened when we were on holiday. We were sitting on the beach at the edge of the crystal clear, calm water. The kids were running in and out of the sea. Just to our left there was a rather large rock. You could not miss it! Needless to say every time Winnie ran out of the sea she tripped over it. I hasten to add she wasn’t hurt. But I’m sorry to say it was hilarious. And this type of incident happens almost, on a daily basis. Even Winnie finds it funny and often tells people that she “trips over thin air!”
It is this tendency to shallowness that has kept us going. And it seems we have passed this survival strategy on to our children. One of the biggest complements we have received as parents was when our CAMHS therapist of four years told a group of professionals that one of our main strengths is our sense of humour. She said it is great that our children can find humour in life. They don’t take themselves too seriously. Even Winnie, when she has been particularly irrational can look back and laugh at her own behaviour.
So I’m not going to apologise for laughing inappropriately or un-therapeutically because it is my key to survival. And now I’m off to the pub for a glass of wine to regale my friend with tales of this week’s antics, which have involved skateboards (just for a change), Peppa Pig, upturned tables and the wonderful made-up word ‘per-ching’.