What is ‘it’?



I Recently fell out with someone close to me, family close to me.

It started over me forgetting a child’s birthday, (this happened some months ago the card and money were 2-3 days late) and for which I had already apologised and kicked myself, dutifully many times, for forgetting.  Reminded of the incident and how unhappy said person was about it I felt cornered and judged and the discussion then escalated into a row about how little interest or time that person had shown in my children. I might have had a glass of wine, which might not have helped but said person’s reply was that “Well that’s what you chose”. I reeled from this fallout for days because it just identified fully to me that this person, family close to me person “didn’t get it”.

During my post row melancholy state I realised that this saying “getting it” is bandied about a lot when we talk amongst adopters, it’s why we congregate on twitter and mooch around each other’s blogs. Here we don’t have to explain “it” to anyone, everyone knows what “it” is and everyone just “gets it”.

So what exactly is “it that makes our lives as parents so difficult or just different compared to other parents. I must admit that at times I have wondered if I’m just being a bit dramatic, if I imagine some of these hardships. My two boys, to the untrained eye, appear well adjusted little boys, not unlike their peers and yes, I know, lots of children can be difficult. So post my fallout with the close person, I have been pondering what exactly “it” is that I would like them to get. Without having to give details that may seem like a lecture in child psychology, how could I, or you, or others put it so that people, non-adopters may also get “it”.

I’ve come to the conclusion that although there is an intense physical aspect to parenting my children, it’s the emotional strain that really cuts deep. That doesn’t mean that all the physical abuse you take from your lovelies, here in the last twenty for hours I’ve experienced biting, hitting, kicking and having things thrown at me, doesn’t take its toll, it does. Restraining your child whilst they attempt to escape from your home, damaging the home or much worse themselves, requires a lot of strength and the right kind of strength too; you really do not want to hurt them. But somehow that affects me less than the emotional mental drain that creates a fuzzy haze around you for, hours, days sometimes weeks or should that be years.

Presently, from my first waking moment until their last waking moment, I feel like I’m in battle mode. Not every day, but lots of days, it is just one constant need to head off possible confrontations, negotiate positive outcomes or at the very least, create the path of least resistance. And that’s just it;

“there is always resistance, resistance to everything”

No-one ever wants to do as they are told, not right away, and if they do you know that you’ll pay for it later.

 If I’m being fair, it’s not both of my boys which require this level of surveillance and a watchful eye on their every action. We’ve already been there with the older one, he started from the day he arrived, but he’s now in a reasonably good place. He throws the odd almighty wobbly but on the whole he requires much less guidance, now it’s his brother’s turn. So with no break in-between, we have made the smooth transition from one child’s need for constant attention to other, and there is my first part of “it”. For us “it” is the now long term, ongoing need to be on guard, all day every day, no holidays given. To be honest you kind of get used to this part of “it” it’s just our family life.

But “it” is multilayered, and just like the proverbial onion, it will create salty droplets in your eyes, the more you strip it back the more emotional “it” becomes. So whilst battling through the day to day onslaught of demanding and controlling behaviour, there is the next bit of “it”. The child’s own emotional make up, how and why they roll the way they do, all of which is created by their totally inadequate, totally damaging and totally unthinkable start in life.

 One of my most disliked questions, and I know it is just a general enquiry and innocent remark, is “do you really think that their start in life still affects them now?” Yes that’s me standing on the roof tops, jumping up and down, waving my arms and shouting “YYYEEESSS”. “Yes I do think that”, “No, I KNOW that”.

MY 8 year old child does not call me a “f*****g useless “b***h of a mother” during a complete meltdown because this is the language he hears used all the time to his mother and in his home. We are not the family from hell, and although I’m sure the school playground provides a lot of his colourful vocabulary, this is not learnt behaviour.  It stems from his total lack of comprehension of boundaries, empathy, appropriate conduct for an 8 year old, because he’s trying so hard to not let another adult, hurt, damage or reject him. He’s protecting the deepest darkest corner of his steely little heart that might still be able to love, love himself because if that’s gone he will just give up. He’s repelling me, pushing me away telling me to back off, he’s venomous and determined, no holds barred.

So whilst my child is calling me a “f*****g useless B***h of a mother” I have to dig deep and not feel hurt or upset by this abusive behaviour I have to find my therapeutic mummy head that says ”you poor soul look how angry your life is making you” or “well this is positive, great he’s starting to reveal his emotions after 6 and a half years, he must be starting to trust me”. You see whilst trying to strategise over how best to deal with the situation you are in, you are also have to try and understand the situation you are in, read between the lines and understand why. The understanding why is the second part of my “it”. And to think all I did was say “no” to watching The Simpsons.

Next, here’s where the emotional heart break starts, because if you do understand “it”, understand the reasons why your child, that you love deeply, is behaving in such a horrendous way, then you can’t help but feel utter, desperate, sadness for them. Not just sadness but complete anger at the world for letting a child you love be treated the way they have been treated, but knowing also that if they hadn’t have been treated that way then they wouldn’t be yours, oh yes the churning turmoil of “it”. With every moment of recognising “it”, there is a reminder of why “it” is here in your life, a reminder of your child’s nightmares.  This is the heavy emotional burden of “it”, that because you care you can never put down. You carry this heavy sack of nightmares across your broad shoulders and it bends your back and your heart into pain you could never have imagined. “It” literally weighs you down.

And so to the final part of “it”, for me anyway, and this is how “it” then impacts on all the other relationships you have in your life; your friends, your family, the school teacher, the other school parents but most of all your significant others. It’s another blog post again containing details of relationship breakdown, loneliness, misunderstandings and angry words. It’s about pushing the boundaries of your love for others and their love for you to the farthest corners of the world, hoping and praying that it will bounce back, mis-shaped and bent but with the bond still intact.

In summary “it” is daily battles, strategising, understanding, carrying your child’s pain, emotional turmoil, taking abuse and smiling, peeling onions whilst carrying a sack of nightmare on your back and hoping those you love don’t leave. I hope said family close person is now no longer in the dark about “it”.

Oh and just for the record if someone had fully explained “it” to me before I got to choose “it”, I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to take “it” on.

 This post is written by someone who wishes to be anonymous. If you would like to submit a post anonymously too, then use this form to contact us…

9 thoughts on “What is ‘it’?

  1. Sally

    I can identify with everything you’ve written. It can feel as though we are misunderstood and damned from all sides. Every single friendship is tested and some become bent out of shape.
    Thanks for writing this because along with the other Adoption Social blogs it really helps us all to feel a little less crazy and isolated.
    By the way, your friend doesn’t sound like much of one, if you don’t mind me saying. Given what you are coping with I’m frankly amazed you had managed to buy a present at all.
    Sending love and fortitude x

  2. lindsay

    Im visiting with family and friends right now who are meeting Jonathan for the first time and I lost count how many times Ive heard “hes just being a four year old” and “all boys are like that” and on and on. Grrrr.

    I loved how you described your feelings in this piece. you have explained so well how I, and im sure many adopters feel. I too have often wondered if im imagining things, making them bigger in my head etc.

    Thank you so much for a wonderfully written expression of emotion.

    1. forever mummy

      How well observed and beautifully written. After fifteen years some of the family still don’t “get it” and sadly some old friends have drifted away and new ones who do “get it” have taken their place. These are largely other adopters or fosterers who you don’t have to explain, apologise or be humiliated in front of. Those who get it are a great support to each other. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Adoptive Mummy

    Good post, I’ve mused on this myself lots!

    I’ve given up trying to explain ‘it’. My Girl is going through a difficult time with the end of school, to friends and family the explanation is simple, she doesn’t like change because anything more than that falls on deaf ears 🙂

  4. Threebecomefour

    Excellent post and well written. I’m sad though at the depth of pain both physically and emotionally you are experiencing, let alone the whole “it” issue. I’ve found that its family that don’t get “it” the most. My sister is a total nightmare and I get no understanding or support. Lots of people seem to think that adoption wipes the slate clean and the child is somehow cured. Because Katie was in care from birth people,think she is unaffected by being adopted, which is ridiculous. She has a legacy of loss and everything she was subjected to in utero that she cannot escape, so no her slate isn’t clean. I get weary of having to explain it and field all the questions that people have about her adoption (worse now Pip has arrived and everyone knows he’s adopted). “It” is so many things. Thank you for highlighting this. I hope your family member understands “it” at some point.

  5. Lesley

    Powerful, passionate painful and very moving. I’ve had 8 years of explaining ‘it’ to friends and professionals alike. When I read this, my first thought was to print your post and show ‘it’ to my Post Adoption Support worker, my daughter’s Headteacher, her CAMHS support worker and several friends, family, strangers, my student peers who are also training to be Child Psychotherapists, teachers who refuse to acknowledge that ‘it’ exists – at a stretch they may see the theory but never, ever acknowledge the reality of ‘it’…every day…for years (Don’t worry – I’d never, EVER share anything on here without permission – but you do explain ‘it’ SO well. Definitely worth sharing!)

    Thank you for making ‘it’ tangible. We’re not just neurotic, angry, oversensitive adoptive Mums. If someone had put ‘it’ as clearly as this 8 years ago, I doubt I’d have been brave enough for a lifetime of ‘it’ either.

    1. heloisehearn

      I relate to so much of this – particularly the battle mode part and the fact that there is always resistance to everything. I also think that if I had really known how hard it would be constantly I possibly / probably wouldn’t have done it. It is nice to know I am not alone in these feelings. Thank you.


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