What Are You Asking?

I will preface this rant blog post by saying, I am the most open person I know.  I am more or less happy to tell anybody anything, if I know the person asking, and the question is appropriate…y’know, sometimes even when it’s not, I’ll give people the benefit of the doubt if it seems to be coming from a genuine place.

You want to know about my bizzaro autoimmune thing and the treatment for it?  Just ask! No problem.  You’re thinking of getting house rabbits and not sure how that will work with kids/a dog/a house full of electrical equipment…I’d be delighted to share what (little) wisdom I have to offer.  Birth?  Breastfeeding?  My opinions on local schools (since we looked round pretty much all of them- some twice).  How to go about applying to become a foster carer?  A little about the reality of life as a foster carer?

I will generally chat to anyone about whatever they want to know about.  Maybe, that in fact is my where I’ve gone wrong.  Maybe in being so open, and not drawing any boundaries, I’ve left myself open to people taking THE COMPLETE AND UTTER PISS.

Guess how many times since we were approved as foster carers in January I have been asked if I will adopt a baby…go on- GUESS.  I bet you won’t get anywhere near the actual figure.  In fact, go ahead and take whatever number you came up with and MULTIPLY IT BY INFINITY.  Now you’re getting warm.

Guess how many times I’ve been asked if I’ll be having any more children “of my own” and/or “why not?!”  Don’t be shy!  Take a WILD STAB IN THE DARK.  Is your number in the hundreds?  IT SHOULD BE.

Now for bonus points, can you tell me, WHY IN GOD’S HOLY NAME WOULD YOU ASK ANYBODY THAT?

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Do y’all hear yourselves when you speak?  Do you realise what you’re actually asking?

Because when you ask someone about their plans (or not, as the case may be) to expand their family, this is what they’re likely to hear:

  • Questions about their fertility
  • Questions about their general health and ability to carry a pregnancy to term
  • Reminders of previous pregnancies, births and losses
  • Questions about their relationship
  • Questions about their sex life
  • Questions about their contraception
  • Questions about their parenting skills and current family life
  • Memories of their own childhoods and siblings (if they have them)
  • Questions about their age

And that’s just for starters.  If you’re a parent yourself, then think about the colossal multitude of shit you went through in your head the moment you decided to try for a baby, the things you agonised over, the things you wrangled about, the hoops you jumped through to get to that point.  Or if your pregnancy was unplanned consider all the things that whirled through your mind in the days after you found out.  Now imagine verbalising that to a stranger in the school playground as you’re kissing your five year old goodbye and wishing him a good day.

Last week I had another parent at school who I’ve never spoken to before approach me and strike up a conversation.  Now I like to think I’m pretty friendly (contrary to the vibe this post, and in fact my blog in general may give off!) so I answered her questions, asked my own in reply, and had a bit of a chat.  The parent in question put me on the spot twice, asking me why I wasn’t having anymore children of my own and why I “didn’t want” (her words, absolutely not mine!) to adopt our current foster baby and despite feeling uncomfortable, having not prepared myself emotionally or mentally for that line of questioning at 9am on a Monday morning, I answered as honestly as I could.  She offered some information in exchange and then went on her way.  It was slightly odd but I thought perhaps it could be the beginning of a school playground friendship and maybe now we’d broken the barrier and spoken to each other we’d end up chatting more often.

Well…she hasn’t spoken one word to me since.  Which wouldn’t mean anything I guess if it weren’t for the fact that WE SEE EACH OTHER TWICE A DAY EVERY DAY.

So basically, she saw me suddenly have a baby with me one day, her curiosity got the better of her and she mined me for information, at the expense of my time and emotional wellbeing.

This may shock you all to your very core, since I write some pretty personal stuff on this blog, but just because I don’t burst into tears every time I mention my three miscarriages and molar pregnancy and the fact I have a lifelong debilitating neurological condition doesn’t mean that talking about it doesn’t affect me at all.

When I sit down to write, I get to choose what I want to share (or not) and how I want to phrase it, and if it gets too hard then I can press delete or save it for another day when I’m more ready to delve into that topic.  When someone is bombarding me with question after question after question, like a motherfucking interview, at the school gates, one hour after I’ve woken up and with three small children in my care, it’s not the same thing AT ALL.

So today, at 3.15, as I attempted the epic challenge that is EXITING THE SCHOOL GROUNDS WITHOUT RESORTING TO MURDER OR BEING FATALLY INJURED, yet another parent I have never spoken to before in my life called out to me from behind “Excuse me- but is that your baby?!”

“Yes” I lied said

She looked sceptical

“Really?  When was it born?”

“March” I shrugged and then walked off because I will be damned if I am going to be privy to anybody else’s fucking nosiness disguised as friendliness.

And yes I felt pretty guilty for about 30 full minutes afterwards, because I’m the kind of person who will apologise when someone else steps on my toe, and who tries to see the best in everyone.

But- you want to know me?  Then GET TO KNOW ME.  If all you really want to know is the ins and outs of foster care and what kind of situation Squishlet’s birth parents are in and why I’m suddenly parading around with a baby despite not having been pregnant recently then I may as well be filling in a bloody questionnaire.  Because that aint friendly, there’s no give or take, there’s nothing behind that other than sheer nosiness.

Look I’m as nosy as the next person but I would never EVER, in all my merry fucking days ask anybody other than perhaps a handful of my absolute closest friends whose situations I was intimately acquainted with, if they were thinking of having a baby, or if they could see themselves adopting a child at some point in their life.  For the most part I don’t ask people anything, I find that if people have something they want to share then for the most part they will WITHOUT INTERROGATION.  I know, who would have thought it?!

So please, and I’m asking nicely, before you ask somebody a BIG QUESTION like that, stop and think for a second, what is it that you’re really asking?

Do you know how that question might make that person feel, both in that instant and for the rest of the day?  Are you yourself prepared for the answer?

If you jokingly ask someone if they’re pregnant with twins because they’re so ‘big’ are you prepared for the fact that maybe they were and they lost one?  Or maybe they’re not but there are problems with their pregnancy, like excess fluid that maybe they don’t want to discuss with a total stranger in tesco but might now feel like they have to.

If you’re curious why as a foster carer someone wouldn’t put themselves forward to adopt a child living with them, before you verbalise that maybe have a think if there’s anything you don’t know, that they might not be able to share with you about their situation or the child’s situation that might make it not an option.

Or if you can’t put the brakes on your mouth then at least brace yourself for what might be an emotional reaction, or for receiving information that you then can’t process yourself.

I’m not saying DON’T TALK TO PEOPLE.  I’m not saying don’t attempt pleasant chit-chat or attempt to make new friends, I’m just saying that interrogating people you don’t know very well (or at all) is NOT the way forward.

Ok. I’m done.

**prepares self for no one ever speaking to me ever again after reading this**

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Father’s Day

It doesn’t seem like 2 minutes since I was enduring physics in the name of celebrating father’s day last year, but once again here we are.  A nation celebrating all that is good about Fathers.

And there is a lot that’s good about them, so it’s right that we should, but I also think it’s important to remember that not everyone has one to lavish their attentions and/or a pair of hideous socks or a bottle of cheap red on today, and that even those that DO may have their reasons for not wanting or not being able to.

My Dad hasn’t been around for father’s day for a few years now, on account of he passed away at the ridiculously young age of 49 after a lifetime of alcoholism, and so father’s day for me is now much more about celebrating the wonderful guy who I’ve chosen to build a life and start my own family with.  But today that guy is off to work for an eight hour shift in a place where just yesterday he was assaulted by one of the young people he works with, many of whom also won’t be feeling warm and fuzzies towards their own fathers- if they have them- today.

Fatherhood, and in fact parenthood, and indeed families in general, are so bloody complicated.  It’s like that old adage “Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em”

As parents we don’t need to worry that we won’t have an impact on our childrens’ lives, even absentee parents make an impact- just by the very fact of not being there.  Everything we do and say (and indeed everything we don’t do and don’t say) has an impact on our children, the real worry is whether it’s positive or negative, and what that will mean for their own lives, and relationships, and children (if they choose to have them) moving forward.

It would be wrong to hold my Dad up as an example of what is fantastic about fathers on this day, when his battle (and it was a battle) with alcohol coloured my entire childhood, and is something I carry with me always.  Not to say that everything that has ever happened to me has been his fault- or because of the drink, but that when someone in a family has an addiction, or an illness, be that physical or mental, it is never just them it affects, and it is never really over, even when it is.

But he was my Dad, and as I get older I can appreciate more and more that to be a Dad can mean so many different things.  For me it was having someone teach me calligraphy, and how to play chess, and show me how to make a garden from a pile of dirt.  Incidentally, all things I couldn’t do now if you paid me.  It was a shared loved of pork scratchings and old books and a million broken promises, all forgiven.  My Dad loved me, and I loved him and although that wasn’t always enough, it is enough now.

For my own children- there’s much more.  Their Dad loves them, and he’s here everyday, sometimes they might not see him because he’ll have left for work before they wake up and be back after they’ve gone to bed, but when he’s here he’s HERE.  He plays with them (and is much better at it than I am) and teaches them things I know nothing about, and swings them around and throws them in the air higher than I’d ever dare.  He can put his own worries aside to listen to theirs, and he works hard to make sure they never go without.

He got out of bed at 7 this morning to make a bottle for a baby that isn’t his, and then taught the boys to play snakes and ladders whilst I made breakfast.  Now he’s off to work, and when he gets back tonight I know he’ll ask about our day before he tells me about his.

When it comes to Dads, he’s definitely one of the good ones.  Maybe even the best in fact (but shhh don’t be telling him that, his head is big enough as it is 😉 )

Father’s Day is just always going to be one of those funny days for me, an out-of-the-blue reminder of how things were, what they could have been and what they actually are right now.  I just feel lucky that the latter is such a good place and with such fantastic people around me, that I wouldn’t swap it for anything, no matter what came before.

Happy Father’s Day to all those Dads out there who deserve a bit of recognition and appreciation, and massive hugs to all those who for whatever reason can’t celebrate today- why not buy yourself some socks and a cheap bottle of red and remind yourself just how wonderful YOU are 😉

rebeccaandjonathan

If She Was Mine

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If she was mine

she would have been born in this room, before dawn’s light could creep through the blinds

If she was mine

her name would not be her name, but something else that grew over time, as she did inside

If she was mine

my milk would be hers and hours we’d spend intertwined

If she was mine

we would be inseparable day and night,

and no one could know her mind as I would

If she was mine

her brothers by blood would live here in this house

and they’d call her “my sister”

and it would be fine

If she was mine

But she’s not

so instead, we tiptoe around with our words

“is she your third?”

(No she’s not)

and someone else carried her inside their womb

Not me

and when people ask, I think “can’t they see?”

That she’s not

She’s not mine

so bottles I scrub, and the basket it stands

and I pass her over to her mothers’ hands

twice a week

She is hers

Not mine

and in time, she’ll be someone else’s too

and at first, will they think

“She’s not mine”

as I do?

but over the months and the years she will be

for she never really belonged to me

but to them

and when I see them I hope I’ll know

“Yes she’s yours”

and then I can let her go

but for now we will love her

and try to pretend

because though her time here will finish

the love won’t end

The Tenderness of Wolves

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*Disclaimer: this post was originally written 3 weeks ago but for some reason I saved it as a draft rather than publishing and forgot about it until now- errr, oops*

I bet you thought I’d forgotten about May’s Re-Read, after being so early with all the others…well, I didn’t. But truth be told, it did take me longer than expected to get through it, not because of the book itself (which is brilliant by the way) but just because as soon as I picked it up and opened the cover life got craaaaazy, and with the imminent arrival, and then ACTUAL arrival of our little foster baby aka Squishlet I found that I suddenly had very little time for anything and when I did I wanted to use it for SLEEP!

But, these last few evenings I have read a chapter or two each night after she’s fallen asleep (although the first evening I tried it, Chris found me asleep on the sofa with the book open on my chest, haha!) and today I finally finished it.

I have to say, I wish I’d been able to guzzle it all in one go, or at least 2-3 sittings maximum, like I did the first time I read it, as there’s so much suspense and intrigue (especially towards the end) that it’s a book that lends itself really well to staying up past your bedtime to finish it, but even so, despite having to be a bit more stop/start this time and reading it in more bitesize chunks, I still really loved it.

The story takes place in Canada in 1867, and begins with the death- murder in fact- of a man named Laurent Jammet and the discovery of his body by a woman named Mrs Ross (whose first name is never used). It isn’t really a murder mystery/whodunnit style book though- or rather, it is but it is ALSO the story of the people living in the isolated settlement where the murder takes place and of the events that unfold after it.

The book has some really vivid and beautiful descriptions of the landscape and wilderness but it also vividly depicts people in all their wonderful messy human-ness, and the two things combined really took my breath away when I first read it and again this time.

I think the only difference reading it for a second time, almost a decade later, is a new found appreciation for the sense of loss and sadness I felt after finishing it. Not that the story had changed in any way or somehow become more sad than it was, just that a. it’s been a while (I am guesstimating it was around 8-9 years ago I first bought it) and b. I have changed. So things I thought of as perhaps sad or poignant then I maybe find even more heartbreaking to read about now.

(In other words, yes I am becoming an emotional wreck in my old age!)

Like all my other Re-Reads this year, I obviously think you should all go read it if you haven’t already. It actually won the Costa Book of The Year Award in 2006 and the author Stef Penney was particularly praised for how well she depicted the area at that time, despite having never set foot there due to suffering from agorophobia. I’ve never been to Canada (and certainly not in that time period 😉 ) so couldn’t say how realistic the picture she paints with her words is, but I will say that I do now FEEL as though I’ve been to Canada in 1867 and that’s what counts, to me anyway.

June’s book is The House of Sleep by Jonathan Coe, which I planned to start reading straight away but sort of got distracted by…errr…Twilight (shhhh!) So I’ll be back with another book related post in a few weeks- and possibly some fostering/general life related rants before then 😉