In a rare day away from the children, I have been in York today, laughing and talking and learning with a group of other adoptive parents, kinship carers and professionals at The Open Nest's Best Interests conference.
I would love to do a thorough review of the day, but honestly, there was so much excellent and varied content that it's simply too soon to process it and get organised thoughts down on (virtual) paper. The day was filled with passionate people sharing their journeys on subjects from parenting adopted teens to transracial adoption, from forming an adopter support network from scratch to managing positive contact with birth family. We listened, we laughed and, yes, we cried. Well, I did anyway.
What I have brought away from the day is a sense that our best interests - as parents, and for our children - are not easy to quantify. I hear about the choices that other parents have made in their own family's best interests and I wonder what I will choose if and when we find ourselves in that situation. It sounds obvious to say it, but no two families, no two sets of parents, no two adopted children are the same, even though they may have similar experiences in some ways. I have a theory that because many adoptive parents have experienced being judged, they are conscious of not judging others. It's been my experience within the adoptive parenting community anyway. Maybe I've just been lucky.
So it is that we were able to listen to one parent talk about how home education was in the best interests of her family, and to another talk about how establishing a peer support network was in the best interest of hers, and hear a couple describe how promoting positive birth family contact was in the best interests of theirs, and the atmosphere was universally supportive and encouraging, even if those choices were not ones that others had previously considered. Horizons were widened, new options were presented. It's invaluable to be able to share your experiences and know that others are listening without judgement, without raising eyebrows, even if their experiences and choices have been very different.
Today has also been a welcome opportunity to connect in real life with some people I have only 'met' on social media before, and re-connect with others who I have had the opportunity to meet before, however briefly. If someone had told me a few years ago that one day I would consider people I only knew via their profile picture and Twitter handle as friends, I would have scoffed. Yet it turns out that you don't actually need to know somebody's real name or what they look like to connect through shared experience. It's a concept that my 40-something brain is gradually acclimatising to!
So, yes, a lovely day. There was a big goody bag with chocolate (which I have to admit I ate on the train home) and my children had a fabulous day with their sitters and were appropriately pleased to see me. Couldn't be better really!
I am sure there will be more far accomplished reviews of the day forthcoming from other bloggers. In the meantime, if you want to know more and you're on Twitter, search the hashtag #bestinterests. The Open Nest website is here - worth a look as they have some ace stuff going on.
Oh, and finally, those of us who are used to conferences and training involving a lot of plastic chairs and wilty sandwiches, feast your eyes on these pics of our venue . . . . it's certainly nice to be treated to a bit of pampering every now and then!