Time goes by, so slowly….. approval, Activity Day, meeting our dream family.
So we have been in the process for some time now, stage one and two completed and we were approved to become adopters in September 2016. At the same time we were looking at profiles of siblings and we were constantly being drawn back to these two brothers. I don’t know why but there was something that kept drawing us back to them, their cheeky smiles, their story. Something was there, a real connection – but then we kept asking ‘ how can you get all that from just some pictures and a profile?”
One of the key areas I have always been concerned about in this whole process is that you can literally get to the end of the process and be moving towards introductions and you may not have had the chance to meet the children you are going to love and welcome into your lives forever. What if the connection wasn’t there? What if something just didn’t feel right? How would this make the children feel going through this process?
Well,we had the amazing opportunity to meet the boys and from that moment on we were smitten.
One Thursday in late September 2016 we received notification from our social worker that the boys were going to be at an activity day that coming Saturday. Did we want to go? Initially our reaction was one of confusion. We hadn’t even been approved yet and that was the next key milestone in our heads and our process, not meeting our potential future family. How could we even contemplate this huge step when we hadn’t been approved yet? This thought was quickly eradicated by us both and hell yeah! Of course we had to jump at this chance.
Build up to the activity day was strange. A mixed feeling of excitement, fear, anticipation and worrying about how the day would pan out. We had heard and seen so much bad press about activity days and now we were facing one head on.
The day came and we nervously drove to the venue. Trying to keep busy chatting on the way but both thinking really,”what on earth is about to happen?”. We arrived and were taken into the adopter briefing room. Everyone seemed to be nervously smiling, all thinking the same and secretly eyeing each other up, as whether we like it or not, there was sense that we were all in competition with each other. The facilitators gave us the rules; don’t show strong emotion, no questions to the children about where they live or their parents and please don’t monopolise the children. “Some of you may be here to see specific children but please remember everyone is here to interact and play with everyone” This was going to be tough. Rightly or wrongly we already felt a strange sense of entitlement to visit and play with these two boys. I know this is wrong and course we didn’t have any entitlement or right to feel that way on the day. Don’t scorn me for these feelings, we are human after all!
We were taken into the main room and some of the children starting arriving with their foster carers, social workers and other key support staff. There was this nervous pause with everyone being static just watching. Kind of like a party where everyone is waiting for someone to start dancing first.
Then suddenly the doors opened and the boys came in. Our hearts melted. We were suddenly faced with the first of many tough challenges of the day. – how not to cry when you are feeling so emotional. I can’t explain how it felt seeing these two gorgeous boys standing there in their little chino shorts and short-sleeved shirts, looking like a mini version of myself and the husband. Having looked at their profile constantly for the last 6 weeks we were suddenly faced with the reality and boy did it pull at the heart strings.
They quickly got changed into their themed costumes for the day and their social worked a foster carer played with them and took them around the various rooms and play areas. We were in shock. God only knows how they felt.
After what felt like an eternity and a few fake and failed attempts to just play at some of the play stations in the hope that some children would come and play too I said to the husband, “Let’s just go and introduce ourselves to their social worker as she knows we are coming and we are coming to see the boys and other children.” We nervously went over and introduced ourselves and this warm caring smile welcomed us and said ” I am so glad you are here today and have come to meet the boys.” I say warm smile, she was dressed up as a pink leopard with full face paint, as the day was themed, but below it all we could see lovely smile and someone who really cared about the boys.
As the children in the room warmed up, so did the activity level and noise. It started to resemble a party that had now started to get going. After some small talk the social worker introduced us to their foster carer and their life awareness contact, ( I am not sure of her exact title, but she has been with the boys since they went into care and is heavily involved in their care and decisions made for them). All of them were lovely and welcoming. They were totally there for the boys.
We had not yet had a chance to meet the boys, who were currently flying around the room on trikes and bikes. We were invited over to interact with them at the craft table and at this point I found myself thinking ” These boys are amazing little chaps and I can’t wait to learn more about them”. We started stamping pictures and cutting out pictures and I was amazed at how good they both were at this. The younger one was very adept at using scissors and started to interact more after a short period of shyness and naturally being cautious as to who we were, they started to talk. We coloured, cut, stamped and stuck on lots of animal stickers and that was it, I was smitten. I couldn’t believe just how expressive they were and how much fun the day was now going to turn out to be.
That was it, the connection had been made, the boys were there in front of us and wanting to play. I couldn’t believe how this felt. Other people who have adopted and who had the chance to attend one of these activity days also spoke of this connection and I found it hard to understand how you could get that so quickly. Until it happened to us that is! I found myself wanting to play more and wanting to understand every little nuance they had that made them who they were.
The day was AMAZING. No in fact, it was like a dream, one of the best dreams you could ever had. We played in the various rooms, the boys leading us, with the carers permission, inside, outside and constantly looking for interaction and engagement chances.
At one point the carers suggested we went to a more private play room that was in another room and we jumped at the chance. The boys loved it, they had free reign over all of the toys. I found myself using a crocodile hand puppet and talking to them as they flew past on bikes, creating a pretend barrier where they had to pay to pass me. Something reminiscent of games I used to play with my wonderful grandfather when I was little, who is still alive and as wonderful and playful at the age of 92. This tickled the boys and this game went on for a while. It just felt so natural. One of the carers was even tickled by the game and asked my husband ” Has he rehearsed this?” “No” he replied, “He just does this sort of stuff naturally.” Was I looking too staged? Was I looking too desperate? You know what, I didn’t care. It felt great and we were having fun and that was all that counted!
The day progressed and flew by, playing in the various rooms, sensory rooms, ball pits, bikes, trikes an puppets and the boys were really going for it. At times boisterous play was kept in check by the foster carer and I was greatly enthused by the boys respect for her as well as the discipline she had built with them both.
At one point they asked us if we wanted to take the boys on a tractor ride but on our own. It felt strange, humbling and an honour that they felt confident enough to allow us some time with the boys alone. I had the younger boy next to me throughout the ride and the husband the older. We pretended to see animals and made up stories of animals and things living in the forest. His eyes were alive and the expressions and excitement from both really went and resonated deep in our hearts.
Throughout the day when one or both of us were not playing with the boys we had the invaluable chance to talk with the carers and social worker. This was priceless. We talked about how they are, what they like, dislike, and we were able to really gleam some key information about the boys. Of course they were doing the same to us and naturally they were assessing us and our suitability for these little gorgeous brothers. At times it felt like we were being assessed, which of course we were. But never did it feel unnatural . They had a job to do and this was 100% around the boys and that is totally what this is all about.
We tried to do as we were told and to step back from the situation to allow the boys some space but also other adopters to interact an play. The emotional drive and the adrenalin flowing through us also needed these breaks. How much of this could I take without showing some emotion? How were the boys feeling? However, as the day developed more and more when we tried to step back the carers engineered more chances and time to play.
Food time came and they set up a circle of seats. We decided to purposefully step back to allow them all some time together and to do as we were told! “What are you doing sat over there, come and sit with the boys, take them to the buffet and have lunch together” called out one of the carers. We took the boys up to the buffet and the younger one with lights in his eyes and an excited expression asked if he could have two sausages. “Take three I said” with a big grin. This made him chuckle and his face and expressions melted me again. We all sat together and I was awestruck as to how polite they were, how they ate well but not too much and how well the foster carer had worked with them.
We continued to play after this and interact with the carers in between playing. The information we were given was amazing and I was so touched, moved and in awe of the work and development all three had done with the boys. The foster carer was amazing, talking us through the routines and progress she has made with them both.
The preparation and work with the boys before the day had been so impressive. When asked if they knew why they were here, she stated “Yes, we have done some preparation work with them on the day and the different types of families that exist” “Boys come over here” Thy flew over on their bikes. ” Why are we here today?” asked the social worker. “To maybe look for our forever family.” Said the boys.
WOW, just that one sole sentence really meant so much and at the same time boy did it pull at the heart and boy did I have to hold back the tears.
The day came to an end and it was time to say goodbye. What had just happened to those 4.5 hours? It felt like a dream, a moment in time that we would never forget. Before they left the boys could choose one toy and one book from a table. The older brother went right up and picked a Star Wars book. I kid you not! Being a massive Star Wars fan myself, this made me smile and I promise I had zero influence over his book choice.
We said our goodbyes to the carers and social worker and then it came to say goodbye to the boys. Both ran and gave the biggest hugs you could imagine, the older one even took a run and jump at the husband knocking him backwards and the smiles all around were massive. As we left the foster carer said how great the day had been and she was convinced we would see each other again. At this stage the tears and emotions in side of me started to build up. Would we see these boys again? Would we have what they are looking for and could others see that? We shouldn’t read too much into her comments should we?
We left the facilities, waited until we got around the corner, looked at each and just burst into tears. Tears pouring down our faces and the biggest hug was given to each other. What had just happened? What was that dream and how on earth did it happen in such a way? How were were going to cope if we never saw these wonderful, special and gorgeous boys again? I wonder what they are feeling now about the day’? I wonder if they had as much fun as we did ? The emotions were like nothing I had felt before. Excitement, fear, love, empathy, joy combined with a massive question mark and doubt of will we ever see them again?
The feeling was so strong and tears continued to flow throughout most of the evening and next day. Reflecting on the day and what happened and trying to make sense of the situation. The bar had been set. We had met our future family, we had no right nor privilege to feel this way but at the same time that was it. From that moment on they completely took over my thoughts and feelings. I was smitten, we were smitten, and the emotional side of adopting and the process was ready to take one big bite into our hearts.
For anyone thinking about going to an activity day or worried about how it works I would totally encourage you to attend. What have you got to lose but more importantly look how much you have to gain!
Our hearts and minds had been stolen and we quickly started projecting our future life together with these boys.