adoption is for everyone

Adoption is for me, as I’ve felt the nudge, made the call, navigated the process. Adoption is for me as I redecorate, order curtains and choose furniture. Adoption is for me as I cock my head to one side, screw up my face, and try to work out just how crazy life will be when we adopt. Adoption is for me as I make plans, write lists, add dates to my diary.

Adoption is for my family, as we explore what that means, prepare to expand and get ready to welcome our new members. Adoption is for my kids as they ask questions, make cute remarks, draw pictures, and watch the DVD of their new siblings.

Adoption is for our parents, as they research what it is to be related by adoption, as they get their heads round loving an adopted grandchild like their birth grandchildren. Adoption is for our parents as they initially hold back from the cuddles, the kisses, the care-giving that comes so naturally, yet which is the domain of us parents alone for the first few tentative months.

Adoption is for our siblings, as they read and learn, as they ask questions, as they explain it all to their children. Adoption is for our siblings who never chose to have an adopted niece or nephew, instead having it flung upon them, but who have been excited and interested throughout. Adoption is for our niece and nephews, as they come to terms with having adopted cousins.

Adoption is for our friends, who are organising to make us meals, look after our birth children and help with our housework when we adopt. Adoption is for our friends who are contributing financially towards the costs of welcoming more children into our family. Adoption is for our friends who listen, who learn about the process, who remember key events coming up in our adoption journey, who are learning the language of explaining adoption to their young children, as they prepare to welcome adopted friends into their lives.

Adoption is for the foster carers, who love and nurture and care and then give away. Adoption is for the foster carers who lose a piece of their heart each time they move a child on to an adopted family – but do it so that that child can have every advantage in life.

Adoption is for the social workers, who make difficult decisions, who put the child first, who cope with endless paperwork and bureaucracy, working long hours with little thanks, so that a child can be raised in a loving, stable home.

Adoption is for my children’s school and preschool, who are enthusiastic about the growth of our family, who are interested to know how they can best support us, who give support and stability to our birth children when they’re away from us, and who will one day give this same support and stability to our adopted children.

Adoption is for our church family, who are allowing their vicar a generous amount of paternity leave and flexible working, with people filling gaps on the rota and stepping up their commitment so that we can both focus on our family. Adoption is for our church family, who welcome troubled souls into their community on a regular basis, and who will welcome adopted children, with all their baggage and difficulties.

Adoption is for you, as you read this and remember those you know who have adopted or are in the process of adopting. Adoption is for you, as you write them an encouraging note, drop a meal round, offer to babysit, take them for a coffee or pint, understand the issues their children have as a result of their past, accept that ‘normal’ behaviour strategies might not work with children who have been so badly damaged.

Adoption is for you as you read this, perhaps feeling the same nudge to adopt as we did four years ago – a still, small voice from God which says “I set the lonely in families, I lead the prisoners with singing” (Psalm 68:6).

Adoption is for everyone. We do not all adopt – but we are all called to play our part in adoption. Adoption is for everyone.

 

minion themed 6th birthday party

I’ll be honest and tell you that this wasn’t my son’s first choice for birthday party theme. He’s known for picking quirky themes, and this year he decided he wanted a Home Alone party. Of course. Like I’m going to take on responsibility for all his little eager-eyed friends for a couple of hours and then subject them to a series of booby traps including giving them ice on which to fall over, shattered tree ornaments on which to shred their feet, and hot irons with which to permanently scar their faces.

Or, alternatively, I could come up with a series of risk-assessment-friendly traps like throwing a bucket of pom poms over their heads as they walked through the door, and everyone would think it was the lamest party ever. (Oh, and one mum would complain because her son was allergic to pom poms. Or surprises. Or buckets. Or some such bull.)

No, it was indeed right to steer Mister away from this theme – and he jumped at my suggestion of Minions. Well, I wasn’t going to make this harder than it needed to be – Minion-themed paraphernalia is all over the shops, and Minion-based party ideas are all over t’Internet, so it was never going to be difficult.

The invitations were simple – some yellow card, downloaded Minion printables and a bit of glue. Hey presto:

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Decorations were easy: yellow and blue balloons, and yellow and blue bunting made in the quick and cheap way I did for Missy’s party:

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We chose to hold the party in our church hall, because even three boisterous boys jumping around our lounge is one too many, and the Autumn birthday timing doesn’t guarantee being able to use the garden. So I set up a few activities which the kids could get involved with as everyone was arriving. Face painting and tattoos:

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a Minion photo-booth:

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Minion skittles:

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a make-a-Minion craft table:

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and a penalty shoot-out, because you can always have one of those when you’re 6, Minion-themed or not:

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I have to say that one sterling decision for this year’s party was finding a team of kind friends who wanted nothing more for their Saturday morning than to rock up to a church hall and entertain 20 or so small children. I’m indebted to my friends Izzy (go read her blog here!), Sam, Mike, Bethan, Leanne and Naomi, who did an incredible job of cooking the food, running games, painting faces, and generally encouraging the kids in the right direction.

We played “What’s the time, Mr Gru?”, which everyone was incredibly good at – good thing I’d bought shed-loads of pound-shop prizes because pretty much everyone came in 1st place. Note to self: make this game harder next year. (Hopping?)

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Here’s my grumpy husband as Gru. He makes a good Gru, don’t you think?

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We did a bean-bag toss:

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and pin-the-eye-on-the-Minion:

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We also did a scavenger hunt, putting the kids into teams where they had to find a list of 8 easy-to-read items from around the church hall and outside area:

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The kids played Traybash outside – a fantastic game where you try and knock over your opponent’s tray using a newspaper club, whilst they’re meanwhile trying to knock yours. Here’s the hubbie and a friend demonstrating how violent it can get:

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And here’s Mister having a go:

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Lunch was chips, hot dogs, burgers and corn-on-the-cob (Mister’s favourite) with a chocolate fountain for pudding. They ate fruit and they didn’t even know it. Ha.

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Of course there was a Minion cake – fortunately no biscuit towers for me this time round:

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I struggle with party bags and always have done. I don’t want to spend a fortune, but neither do I want to fill them with plastic rubbish – much as the kids like it. So this time I stuck to sweets, which will rot their teeth but maybe won’t do as much harm to the environment, which will be around a heck of a lot longer (we hope).

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Then everyone got to pick a lucky dip prize as they left – as well as the obligatory slab of cake, any prizes won from the games, and Minion craft.

And now I never want to see another Minion again.

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he turned 6: learning to mourn the past but love the future

Last week, my boy turned 6.

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I’m looking back at the last year and, as well as a huge growth spurt evidenced by the birthday-measuring tradition we completed on Birthday Morning, there are so many ways that he has grown and flourished in this last year, his first at school.

In fact, the simple reality that I spent his birthday child-free, celebrating his birthday with a keyboard and a computer screen, drafting this blog post, while he was celebrating it at school with his friends and teachers, eating Minion cakes and getting sung to by other people, shows how much he is growing up. The independence frightens me and delights me. He doesn’t need me constantly – there is so much he can do – nay, prefers to do – by himself, whether that’s choosing what to wear, making a card for someone else, or walking into his classroom of a morning. (The exception to this is Birthday Morning, when un-cool Mummy is bringing cakes, and therefore becomes an acceptable companion into class.)

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But of course there are still so many situations in which he needs our guidance, mentoring, advice and suggestions. His dad and I are still the greatest influences on his life – for how long, I wonder? He needs us to help him learn to read, add up, and understand the world. He needs us to help him cross the road, to fill in forms, take him to the doctor, make his meals. He needs us to introduce him to different creative expressions: new music, art or literature. He needs us to validate his emotions, give him language to understand them, and help him navigate the tricky ups and downs of life.

And this is the definition of parenting, right? You work hard to bring life into the world – and then, once that life has arrived, your job is to gradually encourage their independence, their moving away from you. In other words, you’re making yourself redundant. Of course, you’re never fully redundant – even grown-ups need the love, support, childcare and financial bail-outs that their parents give – but sometimes, looking at my son, I feel the quickness of the years, and the phases which have passed, and I need to remember to parent in the moment.

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This year, Mister has developed his interest in gymnastics (and can now do some pretty clever things on the bars), learnt to write whole stories, continued with his Lego addiction, rediscovered the fun of Playmobil, and (of course) continued his love of football, now attending a Football Club at school. He’s learnt to sing more-or-less in tune, and sung a solo in his school nativity last Christmas. Just as soon as I’d written this post, about how I throw away my kids’ numerous art creations, and a friend had commented “Just be thankful they’re not in 3D yet”, Mister started to bring home 3D creations. I mean – literally the day after that post was published, we started to amass a collection of shoeboxes with a variety of recyclable items stuck to them.

This year, I need to pay tribute to the teachers who have helped shape Mister’s life these past 12 months – for their unfailing enthusiasm, energy, and professionalism – always striving to give Mister (and his classmates) the best, most personalised education experience, within a communal setting. No easy task. Up until now, it was me and my husband whose influence affected Mister’s existence most strongly – now his life is entwined with all sorts of influential strands from his teachers, and we’re so grateful for all they invest in him.

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Character-wise, while Mister has always been fairly placid, increasingly we’re seeing a steely inner determination. Sometimes this manifests in competitiveness (read: he’s a bad loser), sometimes in carrying out his own ideas, asking for little or no help from anyone else. I’m so proud of him when he makes the right choices at school, free from the Parental Stares which would otherwise communicate which path he should take.

We can’t live our children’s lives for them – we can simply teach them what we know, trusting that God will make up the difference, and then sit back and watch the people they become. This year, although I might mourn the hours we now spend apart from each other, I can’t help but watch and love my boy, delighted in the person he is and is becoming.

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