Saturday, 22 March 2014

Life story work.


I must get back to blogging regularly as my brain is becoming rather like the overflowing basket I keep on top of the filing cabinet of "things to be filed."  I do find writing is an excellent way to organise my thoughts and make sense of them.  I've been doing 100happydays over on Twitter (@twomumstwokids) but have lacked the time, energy or inclination to sit down and write for a little while.  Let's see if I can get back into it again.

We have Squib's life story book now.  It's a bit rubbish.  Which makes me sad.  20 months of her life, in a bit of a rubbish folder, with typos and naff clip art and fun facts.  I'm sure it took her social worker a long time....but there was still obviously cut and paste in there (wrong names.)  I don't cut and paste when I'm writing chemistry reports which in the grand scheme of things are relatively unimportant, and so I do think it's a bit much to cut and paste from other kids' life story books.  If we didn't care (which we do) then this would be the only glimpse of Squib's life before us, and frankly, it's not good enough.  I'll stop moaning in a minute.  The main thing which bugs me (I did my PGCE dissertation on differentiation) is the fact that it's all written in a stupid, hard to read font, and has loads of full pages of text.  Squib just flicks through to get to the naff clip art.... But Birth Mum gave us over 100 photos and we passed them on to SS so they could put them in there....but they couldn't be bothered!  Why would you have a rubbish shutter stock (no offence shutter stock) image of a pregnant belly, when you could include the genuine article?  Because you can't be bothered to look for it I suppose.

Sorry.  Now I will stop moaning!  So I'm rewriting!  I'm rewriting with less text, more pictures and just generally using my teaching know how to try and make it as engaging as possible.  Squib already knows the name of her birth mother and father.  She knows that sperm comes out of a man (!) and will happily regale the story of her conception to anyone who will listen.  Which is nice!  For her, at the moment, it's just her story.  But I was going through the life story book with her and heavily abrading it, and got to the part about why she and her siblings were taken into care, and that's when it got harder.  For a long time now, I have been dropping into our day to day existence, little chats about what Mummys and Mamas should do.  They need to keep you safe....They need to keep you clean, and give you somewhere to sleep and healthy things to eat focusing on the positives of what parents should be.  And then if she asked, I would say something like "because BM couldn't keep you safe" but the life story book hits you with the facts of the matter and it's pretty hard to process and understand without judgement.  At 2 1/2 - 3 she knows that there is good behaviour and there is "not good behaviour!" She's learning to understand that for some people this varies.  Some parents let their kids walk on people's walls, some people don't...and that's OK!  She likes to police her friend's behaviour so I have to say "Squib...whose job is it to tell Fred to wash his hands? Is it your job?  Or is it Fred's Mummy's job?!"  But how can she understand that these people who hurt other people aren't necessarily bad people.  It just whooshes so far beyond her understanding that there's no way to really explain it.  I don't want to demonise her birth family, or make her feel ashamed or scared of where she was born.  So what I have been saying so far is that sometimes grown ups make mistakes and do unkind things, and that means that they couldn't provide a safe place for Squib to grow up.  But I know that she'll be asking for more detail.  Why?  Why?  Why???   And then the last time I spoke to her about it, she said "but Mummy, that's really sad" and I said to her "yes, it is really sad.  It's OK to feel sad.  It makes Mummy feel sad too." And then later that day I had to have a little cry to myself.  It would be so easy to just shut it all away in a cupboard somewhere and keep living our pretty little life pretending that none of it had ever happened.  It would just be so easy.  But the trouble with that is much like the overflowing basket on top of the filing cabinet...I can shut the door but it will still be there.  I just feel so sad for her that she has this story attached to her which is so bloody sad.

I hope that's not too much of a ramble.  I was hoping that the life story book would help.  But it's just made things more confusing as there's a phenomenal volume of information which has to be abridged by me when I read it to her.

I'm going to finish with some positives!  Phew, you all say....that was a bit heavy!  Squib is now absolutely massive.  She's taller than many 4 year olds we know and she's not 3 yet.  She's whoomphed her way up to the 98th centile for height and weight, so much so that we've had to buy a new buggy as she's exceeded the weight limit for hers.  When I was at medical school they said that when kids are in a forever home, they quite literally grow.  I never would have believed it could be so extreme.  She's tall and muscly and healthy and vibrant.  It's just such a powerful indication of how physical and emotional health are so inextricably linked.  And she's starting ballet lessons, and pre-school soon, and our little 9-5 life as Mummy and Squib will be over soon.  And on one hand I'm really looking forward to having a bit of time being teacher me, or blogger me, or just simply me.  And on the other hand I'm really proud to see how far she's come and how confident and grown up she is, and how wonderful is that she can do it on her own.  And on my third (!) hand, I'm going to miss this extra special year and a half which I've been so privileged to have with Squib.  But I think the other two hands outweigh the slightly wimpy third hand, so that's OK.  Every time I slightly mourn the loss of her being small and cute, I think about how awesome she is, and how much more awesome there will be to come as she grows and develops and soaks up all she can from the world around her.

Right...time to stop!

I will aim for a shorter blog next time.

Take care everyone xx


  1. Don't write shorter blogs! I love your newsy, varied, long ones :-) It's so sad that your life story book isn't good enough - I've heard this over and over again. I haven't even received OB's yet, nearly a year after the adoption was finalised. I spoke last night to the adoptive Mummy of a child I fostered last year and she said that her book (from our LA) was no good and she's having to make her own, so I'm not holding out much hope that ours, if it ever arrives, will really be worth having. I think as teachers, we take it for granted that we have the skills to make something attractive, accessible, presentable and appropriate for the age group, but perhaps these skills are not so widespread. At our LA I'm pretty sure that the books are actually created by admin staff who must have so many other things to do as well, so I'm not sure they get the attention they really deserve. Have more than once considered offering myself to the LA as a freelance Life Story Book writer! Of course confidentiality issues would never allow it, although I'm sure it would be cheaper to outsource.

  2. It's really interesting, we were recently looking at photos of our foster son from just before he moved in with us, and he looked so thin, small and pale. You'd never know it nearly 6 months on - he's filled out, muscly and very tall for his age.

    Sadly I'm not surprised that your daughter's life story book is so poor. The one or two that I've seen in person have been severely lacking too - bits of clip art, wonky pasted in photos, random pages printed out from wikipedia about towns of birth etc. These have also been delayed so long you'd think someone had been taking the time to do it properly. It's so sad that adoptive and permanent foster families need to do the work themselves to make something that's presentable and appropriate for the child, when so often they don't even have all the information.