If I had to summarise 2012 in a nutshell it would be this: a year of challenge and growth. Any year in the life of an adoptive family is coloured to some degree by traumas past, but this year, for us has been both difficult and pivotal. So this post, the last of 2012 is a look back at everything I have learnt this year; the little things which have given a sparkle of pleasure and the big stuff, which has helped keep this giant tanker of ours on the mountain road.
1. Go to every training course, seminar, conference on offer. If it has ‘attachment’, ‘trauma’ or ‘therapeutic’ in its title and it is within a 45 mile radius, then go. You will come away refocused and will always learn something new. This is a profession and requires a professional attitude. Ok so it may not have many of the usual features of a profession such as money and recognition, but it requires ongoing training none the less.
2. Take a risk and try something new. Margot Sunderland said ‘try some art therapy with your child’. I did. It helped.
3. Know when to shout ‘ENOUGH’. Take control. Do what needs doing to keep family and soul together. It was Rob who forced us to stay at home one day, cancel school and reorganise life. I fought against him, but he was right. The trauma got scared and retreated, for a while.
4. What suits one child, might not suit another. They are now both in different schools, in different systems, in different towns. But it works.
5. Greasing a baking tray with butter and not oil, is much more effective in preventing the gluing of ones bread rolls to the ‘non stick’ surface.
6. Seek help. Take what you can, from wherever you can get it. Don’t forget that this is the Tour de France and not a time trial and so resting in between stages is allowed and necessary.
7. In the giant scheme of things, school grades are not important. Children who are struggling to keep body and soul together at school, do not learn well. Success may be keeping your family together, not bathing in the glory of your child gaining 9 GCSEs to their musical accompaniment. N.B.This has been a hard learnt lesson for a head girly type mother like me (now in recovery).
8. A static caravan holiday in France is just the job. Take the bikes AND the puncture repair kit.
9. Don’t overreact when money goes missing. If you leave it out they will take it. Get over it. Lock it away.
10. They want to play with toys which are for younger children. Get over it. Let them. What would you prefer? Drug taking and over-sexualised behaviour?
11. Don’t sweat the small stuff. I’m sure I learnt this in 2011 as well, but it’s a tricky one as sometimes the small stuff comes dressed in big stuff clothing. I was proud that when every window of the advent calendars was opened on December 2nd, I didn’t shout, in fact I didn’t care at all.
12. Twitter is great. If you know where to find it, there is some brilliant, humorous, dark and light support out there. Sometimes one just needs to say to someone ‘I’ve just found three months of mouldy packed lunches under the sofa’ and not have anyone raise an eyebrow, but to laugh with you about it. You know who you are and I thank you all.
13. Know who you can share the bad news with and who just doesn’t want to hear it. Life’s little challenges teach us who our rainy day and sunny day friends are. Just accept it.
14. If you can find someone at your child’s school who understands and gets attachment and developmental trauma then hang on to them, nurture them, lend them books, give them chocolates at christmas.
15. Yoga. During that hour and a half of stretching and breathing and lying down you can do precisely nothing else. You might as well let go of worries big and small. In fact have a little holiday from worry.
16. Remember to switch off your phone during no. 15 above or a busy day of tweeting will catch up with you in excruciating fashion.
It is common to say ‘I don’t know where this year has gone, it’s flown by.’ I won’t be found reflecting this sentiment. 2012 has been a long, hard slogfest, but the Donovans have all emerged, intact at the end of it. We are older and wiser, calmer, bendier and less likely to wet our pants on purpose. I for one will be raising a glass of prosecco with some good friends this evening and welcoming in 2013*.
* as I will be in bed by midnight, this will take place at the earlier time of 10.30.
And playing out this year one of my TV moments of 2012. It is a musical clip from The Graham Norton Show. Enjoy, like David Guetta.