Today’s post comes from a grandmother who shares her perspective on becoming a grandparent via adoption and the impact it has had on her family…
I have always thought that people who adopt children are amazing people to give a home to a perhaps unwanted or uncared for child and always admired them from afar as I knew from my days working in education what hard work it could be and that some adopted children had lots of different needs to birth children.
Afar became close hand, when my daughter and her husband announced they were considering adoption as my daughter had been told she couldn’t have children, so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me really, but it was, and I was concerned about the hard work they would have to go through to get a child, particularly when they told me they were prepared to have one with ‘special needs’. I wasn’t too sure that they would be prepared enough for what that might entail and more importantly whether they would be able to give such a child the love, nurturing and care it would need – not that they were uncaring people, but with the pressures of daily life, this could impact much more than they expected.
Eventually via the long drawn out process of adoption they were matched with a 1 year old very sweet little boy whom I will call Toffee. We met him a few weeks after they received him and immediately fell in love with this gorgeous little blond haired man who had such big eyes and lovely long eyelashes that I would die for! Over the years we built up a relationship with Toffee, though from a distance of 250 miles away we haven’t seen him as much as we would have liked. We have as he got older spoke on the phone often and Skyped and of course my daughter speaks about us with him and photos remind him who we are. We have taken him camping when he was old enough and also to a caravan near where he lives with mummy and daddy, and been to the seaside and to the park, we send him postcards regularly to remind him of us – in fact all of the sort of things that grandparents usually do! We have spoilt him rotten at times and we love him to bits.
Toffee however has his demons which stem back to his former life prior to adoption. Toffee was pushed from pillar to post when he was removed from birth family and went into foster care. Parental visits were arranged and a large number of social workers were involved collecting him to be with birth mum intermittently with supervised visits and then back to foster mum. This went on for almost a year whilst permanent placement was being sought. Toffee as a result has attachment issues and is very uncertain about some things. He worries incessantly about what others think (shame), resulting in behaviours that can be difficult to live with. He doesn’t express feelings very often, or open up and talk – and I mean REALLY talk about things, he doesn’t say when he is hurting and he doesn’t always understand consequences. He has meltdowns, he gets (on occasion) aggressive and sometimes physically hurts both his parents and his sister.
For us as grandparents, it came as quite a surprise that this little angelic boy could turn into this unhappy, destructive and often violent child as we had never seen him display such behaviour though have heard it on the end of the phone and also seen it ‘almost’ happen. However the tales we have been told of his destruction, anger, upset and defiance we know are true and have expressed concern on how his parents cope as we have seen their health suffer from the constant worry and change in their life. They do however love him to bits and always will and just want to help him.
As parents ourselves many of the things he has done over the years, we could briefly identify with, as most children do these at some point, however most children do these as a one off rather than continually and for attention. Attention – yes that’s probably the word that springs to mind that we can identify Toffee with – he craves attention though it doesn’t matter whether it is good or bad….this is understandable under the circumstances of his early life.
We love Toffee unconditionally. We also love Jelly Tot – Toffee’s sister who is not adopted and came into the world as rather a surprise. Jelly Tot is an outgoing little girl some 3 years younger than her brother.
Jelly Tot can be quite shy with us as she doesn’t know us as well as Toffee does, however it usually only takes 5 minutes of being with her and she will start to chat away to use bring us her toys to show us. She doesn’t talk on the phone to us like Toffee does but again she is still young and that will come in time.
We love Jelly Tot unconditionally too. We love them both the same and feel no difference in how we feel about them and how we treat them. Perhaps we appear more loving towards Toffee as we know he craves the attention and don’t want him to think he is going to be abandoned at any time. We tell him we love him for ever and ever and hope that he will understand that it means forever. We do however love Jelly Tot exactly the same and will always do so.
We do worry for the future though for Toffee, Jelly Tot and their parents, but we have an open mind, are keen to learn as much as we need to, to support them and understand. For other grandparents in a similar position – we know it’s difficult which is why we joined a group called Gransnet to talk to other grandparents on the forum groups in a similar position as we can all learn from each other and also not feel perhaps so isolated. We also follow The Adoption Social as again it allows us to look at adoption from the eyes of adoptive parents, adoptees and birth parents, and shares various resources that can help us.
If a member of your family is considering adoption, or has indeed adopted children, and you want to speak to other grandparents. You can find support on the Gransnet website here.