Friday, March 27, 2015

Olive Oil

At the moment, I'm finding that the 'olive oil' conversation encapsulates one of the things that I find surprisingly difficult about parenting, and particularly parenting somebody else's child when it seems as though literally everybody is entitled to an opinion.

It's a very simple conversation and it goes like this:

Somebody: Oh dear, Birdy's skin is very dry isn't it?

Me: Yes, she has quite bad eczema on her face. We're seeing the specialist nurse and she's on some serious creams.

Somebody: Oh, you should try olive oil. When my little one was a baby we found that it worked wonders. It would probably fix that cradle cap too.

And that's all. I'm not cross with Somebody. Somebody is being helpful, I can see that. Somebody has found that something worked for them and wants to pass on the tip to me in the hope that it might help me and Birdy too. I appreciate that. It's a kindness.

But what Somebody doesn't know is how unbelievably regularly I have that conversation. Today, alone, I have had it no less than three times. It seems that in just about every social and professional setting there will be at least one person who has discovered the amazing healing properties of olive oil. This includes several social workers, swimming mums, health professionals, Tesco employees and, most awkward of all, Birdy's birth mum.

I've tried, really I have, but we moved past olive oil in about week 5 when skin was flaking off her face and her earlobes were cracking. Since then we have been through a succession of creams, ointments, potions and lotions before a referral to the specialist and a prescription for a very mild steroid to hopefully bring it under control before, as the specialist said, her skin breaks down completely.

The olive oil was lovely in the sense that, unlike some of the other creams, it didn't inflame her skin and irritate it further, but, unfortunately, it just wasn't enough. It didn't actually improve anything. Same goes for pure aloe vera gel, by the way. Been there, done that.

Like many people, I'm not particularly happy to be covering a tiny baby in products that feel far from natural, but I'm the one who has to watch her endlessly rubbing her tiny mitts across her poor red face until her little eyelids are puffy and inflamed and flakes of skin are falling down onto her clothes. It bothers her and so it bothers me and, right now, I'm not going to risk eschewing the advice of the medical professionals on the strength of the anecdotal evidence of swimming mum. My hope is that if the prescription stuff does its job, there may be a time when we can embrace olive oil in the future!

It's probably in the nature of most human beings to pass on good news about tips and tricks that have worked for them and that might help others, whether it's about skin problems, school issues, behaviour or whatever. I'm on a long journey towards learning to accept the advice graciously, well-meaning and kind-hearted as it usually is - after all, I'm not slow to dish out that advice myself on many occasions!

But what I am learning from the olive oil conversation is that before I speak I need to listen and ask questions, even if its only to find out the different ways a person has tried to solve their problems already so I can avoid burdening them with suggestions that have already been tested and abandoned. Behaviour charts, potty training methods, food issues, screen time, sibling rivalry, sleep - all have their own equivalent of the 'olive oil conversation'. So many opportunities to hone my listening skills and give my advising skills a bit of a rest! Or at least, to learn to start with "Have you tried . . . ?" rather than "You should try . . .!"

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Out of the Loop

I suppose it's been about a month since I started my self-imposed absence from Facebook and Twitter. I have nothing earth shattering to report. I haven't been incredibly productive. I haven't particularly felt that I have more free time. I haven't discovered the meaning to the great questions about life, the universe and everything.

No surprises there then.

To be honest, I didn't give up social media for Lent with any particular great expectations. I don't harbour deep feelings of resentment towards social media, in fact I love it. It connects me to friends and family who live too far away to see regularly, meaning that on the rare occasions when I see them in the flesh, saying goodbye loses some of its sting - I know I'll see them on Facebook, probably later that day. Social media has also introduced me to a community of adopters and foster carers which I value very much. On the whole, I feel as though social media has been a definite positive in my life.

But I came to a point where - and this is a personal thing - I just felt saturated with it. On my phone, my tablet and my laptop, the notifications just kept coming. And I kept checking. Many, many times each day. And through the evening. And late into the night. I have little willpower it seems. So I decided to take the opportunity of Lent to be hermit-like and go back in time to a distant era when I didn't know everything that was happening all of the time.

I've been surprised by how easy it has been. It's no hardship to miss out on things when you've absolutely no idea what you're missing! Honestly, (sorry adoption tweeps - I do love you!) it has been good to step away from thinking about and talking about adoption-related things for a little while. I think that's why I haven't blogged much recently either. It has been good to lift up my head and look around a little.

In my mind, I still think in Facebook status updates when something interesting happens or one of the kids does something noteworthy or funny. I'm surprised by how much social media has changed how I think. For the first few days it felt really strange not to immediately inform the whole internet about the odd goings on that make up our days, but I'm getting used to it now!

So, I've probably missed a few birthdays and events - sorry about that! And I'm getting regular begging emails from Facebook telling me I have enormous numbers of notifications. Lent will be over in a couple of weeks. Will I go back to using social media as much as before? Probably!

In the meantime, here are a few pics from our recent wonderful trip to CenterParcs with my parents.

Spot the red squirrel - yes really!

Emergency poncho - well, it was Cumbria in March!

We love to swing wherever we are

My baby is becoming a big boy!