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  • RulesofDadding

5 things I wish I knew before becoming a parent...

1) Every Transition is different!

When we met Monkey, he was alone in a bare, unfriendly room, behind a child gate containing him like a wild animal. On the wall there was no pictures, just a bed, a set of drawers and a tv up high with Thomas the tank engine playing on repeat. On the floor there was a lonely plastic trainset, which took up no room at all. Monkey was sat playing with the train quietly and calmly. We were both so nervous about meeting our boy that we overlooked everything.

He was what we focussed on, he was something that we had waited for, for three years.

We played with the trains. He loved to make them crash. We took our shoes off and let him try them on. We even tried his on. We laughed and we had fun, what seemed like such a short time went by, in reality it had been a couple of hours, and we had to go and speak to the social worker downstairs.

As we were talking Monkey appeared with a cake clutched in his hand, something we later found out he was addicted to and was his main food source! He ran straight over to us and without hesitation jumped on me and said “Ayo Dadda” he gave me a big cake fisted hug. That’s when I became a dad! In that simplest of moments, my life had changed.

The day he came to us was insane. It was 4 days after we had met him, and we had him at ours for a playday the day before. We received a phone call, at 9am, out of the blue, to tell us he would be coming that day. I remember it so vividly because I was preparing to go to work. Instead, a quick phone call to my boss and my adoption leave had started. We had planned and prepped for this moment for years and it was finally here.

He was here and he was here to stay forever. We were a family! We focussed on him and him alone. We adventured round our house, we opened every drawer, we played with every toy and looked at every item of clothing, we squeezed every teddy. We did everything that he wanted to do we laughed and smiled.

When it was time for tea he asked for “cakie” but we persevered. We knew that if we started with bad habits they would continue. He had rice with peas and sweetcorn (something we were told he ate at nursery) and he ate every last bite, he had to navigate using a cup for the first time. (He only had baby bottles at his previous home, and this has delayed his speech significantly.) which he did with ease.

We had discussed a routine for bedtime, of which he had none before, and we stuck to it. Bath, play and then bed with stories.

It was this time that was the hardest, he’d never stayed here, he never had a routine, he was emotional, tired and overwhelmed, just like us! It took 2 hours for us to get him to sleep with stories and telling him it will be ok and Dad and Dadda loves him.

The first day was over, he was home, we were home, and our family was together!

It’s important to state that this wasn’t the normal way that transition happens, the best-case scenario is normally a period (usually two weeks) that you meet your little one(s) you go to the foster parents house and wake them up, spend your day with them. Some days you’ll go and do their bedtime routine. They will come to your house for playdates, they may sleep over for a night and after that period they will come to stay, forever.

Our case was different for so many complicated reasons, that I won’t go into, Afterall that’s Monkey’s story to tell, not mine.

2) Love comes when it comes

There are no rules for when love will come, it isn’t an instant thing. Everyone is working within a pressure pot of emotions. You are overwhelmed at the new arrival and you second guess everything you do (much like a new parent) you are exhausted beyond belief because not only do you have a new child but your whole life has changed within an instant. I know our transition was quick, but I can imagine this being the same for all adopters when their child comes home.

Take your time, be in the moment, turn your phones off, I know it’s tempting to take thousands of pictures, and you will but for the first few days/ weeks’ bond be each other’s whole world. I know we were lucky as one of us had adoption leave and the other works for himself so we could take that time. But that is what is needed.

When did I know – well I kind of new when he came running up to me and called me Dadda, but really its in the small things like bath times, Storytime, running round like a looney playing hide and seek with someone who thinks covering their eyes means no one can see them, eating a half-chewed chicken nugget without thinking as you’re so tired! Those moments are love!

3) You will never sleep again

Resign yourself to the fact you will be joining the ranks of the undead parents, shuffling round the house throughout the night clutching your seventeenth cup of coffee trying to change bedding and comfort a crying child at the same time. If the night times are ok don’t worry…. From the early hours until bedtime you will not get one ounce of peace, and no you won’t be able to go to the toilet alone- I mean our son is 8 and we still can’t poo in peace as he has timed his bladder and bowel to ours so well that it is almost like we are sharing!

The only glimmer of hope is that you tag team whilst you can, give each other a break, even if it is just going to the toilet once a day, by yourself.

One of the most amazing pieces of advice I got was sleep when they sleep, don’t worry about the mess or the other twenty thousand jobs you should/ could be doing as they can wait. A tired parent does not make a good parent!

4) Routine, Routine, Routine!

Our child had no routine at all! He slept when he wanted to, and he demanded “cakey” and “bot-bot” whenever he was hungry or thirsty. Have a jug of water readily available and healthy snacks too. DO NOT limit food or drink! Haven’t they been through enough?

Plan mealtimes to be a family event. This allows them to see and learn how mealtimes should be, rather than whatever they were.

Construct a decent bedtime routine – we new straight away that our little monkey had trouble in this area as he was generally left to his own devices at bedtime until he eventually fell on the floor because he was too tired/ too young to put himself to bed.

We used bath time – relaxing play (jigsaw, colouring) – bedtime with a story. Granted the latter part of this took hours for a good two weeks as monkey was very emotional, sometimes it felt like wrangling a velociraptor!!!

Be consistent and do not break the routine, that’s how a good routine is set. In fact, we set the routine so well we still have it now. It is obviously a little longer and a little later, but we don’t have any fuss or resistance to it at all.

I will say this, your routines maybe completely different. I know parents that have routine for going out whether it’s a quick nip to the shops or a planned family day out they always stick to it. That is great, It works for them so why not!

5) Don’t stay in your lane, work as a team!

I had a great image of what kind of Dad I would be… did it come true? Absolutely not! We work on a tag team basis playing both parents at once and switching freely between the “authoritarian” and the “mothering” role. Does this work? Absolutely! Monkey knows the boundaries he knows what he can get away and what he can’t. If one of us just can’t handle something as their brain is in the wrong space, or we are just to tired to speak the other steps in. If one of us is struggling, then we help each other out.

On the flip side of this we share in each other’s successes and joyful moments as well. Yes, monkey goes to one of us over the other one if he is emotional, but when he is hurt, he goes to the other one. When he is happy, he comes to both of us. He has been allowed to assess us, as much as we have assessed him, and he knows what we can provide. We are honest and open about how we are feeling, and we are not afraid to say “love, take over please, I need a break”

Our roles aren’t set in stone, and that’s the way we have leant to be the best parents we can be, after all the old saying goes “teamwork makes the dream work” and becoming a family was our dream!


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