Richard and Lyall moved in during the Easter school holidays aged just four and five. Back then, Tom and I maintained a little green diary to account our experiences. Recently I've felt compelled to return to our diary for the first time in two years to reflect back on those exciting and emotional times. Here I’ll share a few of our memories of the early days and the challenges (positive and negative) that we faced.

March - Sleep over

Mid-way through our two weeks’ introduction programme, Richard and Lyall’s foster carers, Lindsay and Bill dropped them over to our house for a sleep over. The boys found it incredibly exciting, exploring every corner of their new house and digging around in our box of old toy cars. They loved their new bedrooms, too.

April - Bed times

The following Friday, when Rich and Lyall moved in for real, they had already experienced a night in their new house and the first day was deceptively effortless. But never-the-less come bedtime they were both incredibly home-sick. For at least a month when we put the boys to bed they cried for their foster carers and we would take turns to comfort them, telling them that everything was going to be okay, that we loved them dearly and that we were going to be here for them, forever. It was heart-breaking and Tom and I felt a little lost but indeed it got a little easier each night as the new routine bedded in, so to speak. By the third week the boys would say “I love you Dad” and “I love you Daddy” before bed – adorable.

May - Bill's car is bigger than Daddy's

For the first couple of months, Lyall and Richard would routinely talk about their experiences with Lindsay and Bill. It was interesting to hear first-hand about their little lives, as they compared our routines and activities with the fun times they had with their fantastic foster carers. That said, it did get a bit irksome on a few occasions that we planned something unique or special only to hear that “We was ‘ere last year with Lindsay and Bill and they bought us a big ice cream over there and bought us a toy in the shop”. As time went on and our attachment grew stronger, Rich and Lyall would talk about their previous family a little less until finally we were able to enjoy our very own first-times.

June - Regression

Every fortnight since they moved in, Lyall and Richard’s social worker, Adam, would come to our house to interact with the boys, take notes about their progress and talk about routines and strategy. Adam had been assigned to the boys right from birth so he knew them well and they thought of him as a distant relative. However, soon it became clear that they associated him with upheaval from one disrupted foster placement to another.

One afternoon, Adam had mistakenly arrived an hour early for his visit so he was waiting by his car when we arrived home from school. Lyall recognised Adam’s car and burst into tears, sobbing “Are we going to be taken away again Daddy?”. I parked up on the drive and replied calmly “No of course not, you’re with us forever, son.” although it didn’t really help and soon Richard was crying hysterically too. I hadn’t prepared the house for a visit straight after school so there was washing hanging out to dry in the living room and toys all over the place. The visit itself didn’t go too badly once the boys had calmed-down but the crying at bed time started again. Needless-to-say I found the situation pretty traumatic. Thankfully our Adoption Focus social worker, Michelle came to the rescue with well-considered advice and reassurance. Phew.

July - Speech Therapy

Back when the boys were placed with us, Richard’s speech was severely delayed. He wasn’t able to put a sentence together, in fact, we found him almost impossible to understand. Rich couldn’t pronounce simple sounds, for example in place of ‘t’, he would use ‘p’, and instead of ‘m’ he’d say ‘b’, so ‘Where’s my toy’ would sound something like ‘Dere’s by poy’. There was a twelve month waiting list for NHS speech therapy and Richard was due to start school in September so Tom and I decided to take the therapy into our own hands.

Every day we concentrated on a difficult sound, ‘f’ for instance, ‘th’, ‘oo’ or ‘sh’ and we’d ask Richard to repeat words countless times during the day until the correct sounds were achieved, which was met with huge praise. It was extremely hard and frustrating for little Richard and for us; we had to persist through hundreds of tantrums and breakdowns. However, during Richard’s initial assessment with his speech therapist in July, he sat politely at the table and eloquently described every scenario in the therapist’s book of cartoons. The final scenario was particularly complicated and I worried that Richard might stumble, however in the proudest moment of my life so far, Richard confidently said “That’s an old man watching the news on his television from his bed”. The therapist was very impressed and discharged him, noting that Richard’s diction far exceeded many seven or eight year olds’. Result!

August - Adam-gate

During a couple of his (now monthly) visits, Adam caused ripples in the boys’ progress by discussing their transition into adoption too candidly or accidentally referring to ‘triggers’; difficult events from the boys’ past.

One particular afternoon in July, Adam arrived for his visit with a surprise; two large photo albums full of photographs from their previous placements; all wrapped up like huge gifts for the kids. Tom and I had a strategy of subtly referring back nostalgically to past experiences whenever we could, however we weren’t prepared for the photo albums bombshell - our focus with the boys was to develop the attachment with them, rather than to reminisce about past lives so early on. I popped the photo albums away in the cupboard for when the boys are ready.

September - Back to work and back to school

In September Lyall moved up into year one at school and Richard started in the Reception block with a lovely teacher called Mrs Jackie.

Lyall had no problems slipping straight back into the school routine, although the complexity of his school-work ramped up a few notches causing a few minor upsets (imagine a six year old boy standing at the kitchen table, screaming and tearing up a workbook, throwing the resulting home-work confetti into the air), but nothing out-of-the-ordinary. During the second week, Lyall’s year one teacher, Mrs Fetcher beckoned me in to the classroom, presumably I thought to receive a report about Lyall squabbling with someone or messing with scissors. However I was fascinated to discover that Lyall had spontaneously presented, in front of the whole class, a thought provoking account of the adoption process and his journey with Richard through various foster homes before finding his forever family with two dads. It was very interesting apparently. The following afternoon during the school run I was met by various questions from intrigued little friends of Lyall’s such as “Did you and Lyall’s other Dad get married?”, “How come Lyall’s got no mum but he’s got two dads?” and “Do you and Lyall’s Dad and Lyall and Richard all live in the same room?” – not sure where they got that idea. It was actually very reassuring to hear that Lyall had come to terms with everything so well, and showed such maturity for a six year old. By the way, Richard took to his Reception class like a duck to water and made a couple of best friends within the first week. Hurrah!

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