When you're being approved for fostering and adoption, the social worker will ask you lots of questions about your childhood and the way you were raised and disciplined or rewarded. They'll also ask you about your own experience of being with children, and what behaviours you find particularly challenging or difficult to manage.

They're trying to get you to think about your 'triggers' - behaviours or situations that are likely to evoke a strong emotional reaction in you. Unfortunately if, like me and many other adopters, you've never experienced actually living with a child permanently in your house then, believe me, you almost certainly don't know what your triggers are. You might think you know, but be prepared to have all of that blown out of the water fairly early on.

For instance, I was pretty confident that I'd be ok with nappy changes, night feeds and tantrums, and I have been. I knew that I hated kids messing around at mealtimes, so I came up with strategies for that which have (mostly) worked. However, in the messy reality of parenting, those things have faded far, far into the background, to be replaced by issues that, in my wildest imaginings, would never have occurred to me:

Incessant Touching

I think of myself as a fairly touchy-feely person, but I just don't have the stamina to withstand OB's constant touching, fiddling, leaning against me, pulling at my clothes, inserting his head up my t-shirts, patting and drumming. It turns out I'm the kind of parent that yells "Look, for goodness sake, just get off my cardigan!" in public places.

Incessant Noise

OB talks a lot. I'm ok with that. I talk a lot too.
OB is loud. I'm ok with that. I'm extremely loud. There's an awful lot of what sounds like yelling as part of our everyday life. We're used to it.
OB likes to fill empty spaces with white noise. I'm not ok with that. I'm not ok with sitting in the car next to a person who can make tuneless robot noises for hours. And when he's particularly distracted or stressed, he sings shouts a little tune of his own devising with the words "Wah wah wa wa" - I've included the notation here for anyone of a musical persuasion. He can keep that up for what seems like eternity. It's like having a woodpecker permanently having a go at the side of your head.

Very Bad Timing

Changing baby's nappy? Arms full of laundry? Crucial stage with the cooking? Forget it. These are all times when OB will have a sudden and urgent need either for the toilet, or for a drink. Yes, it seems as though OB is always one step away from sudden dehydration. And of course we all know that when a toddler says urgently, "Mummy I need a weeeeee!!!" it really means, "Mummy I've already done a bit of wee in my paaaaants!!". I dream of a day in the future where I will actually get to eat a meal while it is still hot.

Aggressive Sharing

"Do you want to taste my ice cream, Mummy?"
"No thank you."
"Just have a taste."
"I don't really like strawberry ice cream."
"Just a little taste! You must taste it!"
Strawberry ice cream shoved into my face for immediate tasting and approval.

These are just four of the most regularly occurring features of our life together but, pretty much every day, I will find myself flummoxed by some new and previously unconsidered trigger. And so far, it seems my main strategy is to deal with it extremely patiently, shoving down my rising feelings of irritation for as long as possible until the point where it all can't be contained any more, and I lose my cool and yell something inarticulate!

Hmmmm.  Still some work to do!


  1. Oh my goodness it's the noise here too! Singing - fine. Talking - fine. Shouting or chanting tuneless nonsense at the top of his voice drives us both bonkers and he can keep it up for hours!

    1. They're staggeringly persistent aren't they? I wonder where they get the stamina to keep it going for so long!

  2. Ha! Can totally relate to so much of this, in particular the white noise, baby girl is a noise hooligan too!


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