The bit nobody talks about

Parenting is hard. Without question, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Just when you think you’ve overcome one challenge, something new and unexpected comes along to disrupt everything you think you’ve achieved. Family life is like a living, breathing being, that somehow functions independently, at its own pace, and to its own agenda.

We spent a lot of time before the boys came home reading about parenting, in particular attachment theories, and how the boys’ connections to us might develop. We were prepared for the fact that they wouldn’t love us right away, that life would be immensely confusing for them, that they might be angry and scared and confused. We were ready for that, and believed that time, love, patience and stability would give them the right foundation to overcome their challenges. Oh how naive we were! We didn’t for a moment stop and consider how our attachments to them would develop!

We moved into our house about 18 months before the boys came home, and quickly set about preparing it to be a family home. We renovated the whole house – it needed it – so every room was to our taste and fit for purpose. Every room now has finger marks on the walls, I can tell you which patches of the sofa have been scrubbed due to the various bodily fluids that have adorned it I’ve the last 18 months, and no amount of cleaning seems to ever make the place seem clean, with a layer of “small boy grime” everywhere! If anyone has any tips, let me know!

In the early days, I would tuck the boys into bed at night, so grateful at having survived another day. Survival was all it was some days, I used to base my days around what time I could feed them again, 8am, 10am, 12pm, 2:30pm and 5pm were my best friends, small targets to aim for so that the whole day didn’t look so large ahead of me. I would tuck them in and tell them I loved them, all the while never being sure whether I actually did, they were the little whirlwinds who disrupted the relative peace and tranquility that Mrs S and I had managed to secure.

Everything we had read had been true, they were angry and confused and frightened, and we were the punching bags that they took those emotions out on, sometimes quite literally.

Thankfully, those days are mostly behind us now. When I tell them I love them, it’s because it’s true. It was difficult in the early days partly because, whilst most families are left to their own devices to muddle things out and get to know each other and learn how to be, we were under the watchful (“watchful” is a word that, in this context, is very interchangeable with “judgemental”) eye of social services. The pressure to get it right every time was very real to us. We were also trying to work to a family set up that somebody else had designed.

So now we’re 18 months in, and things are still bloody hard. Yesterday in the supermarket Marvin slapped Mrs S whilst screaming and kicking her all the way round. Those days make us cry still. But now the difference is that they’re ours, we love them and we’ll figure it out somehow. I look at pictures and videos of the boys from 18 months ago and the difference in them is enormous. This too shall pass!

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