So we have to make a DVD of the children's yearly exploits in lieu of a letter, because their birth parents are illiterate. This is theoretically easier than writing a letter, because filmed actions speak louder than words. Which of course in the children’s case is actually harder because there only so many unedited highligts of D attacking children in the dodgems and pushing them into lakes that you can put on one Maxell 90 minute disc and not give the parents the idea he and M are not evil X Men.
I wrote earlier that one of my first ever grieving episodes was saying goodbye to being young and married without little children, and all their demands. I had a young teen step daughter who was able to go off shopping on her own at key moments in my day, when I wanted to be with my wife and whisper sweet nothings, or order a large coffee and Danish over the Telegraph in Costa, so she doesn’t count. All new parents probably feel this way at times.
But bigger loss was en route. One of them was filming the aforementioned first DVD. We had gone to one of Luton's many charming municipal parks, called Leon Trotsky Mews or whatever left leaning councils call them. You may be surprised that Luton isn’t all latte outlets, excellent travel links and racial harmony. This park was obviously visited after dark by evil teenage hoodies of doom, because the floor was littered with bits of drug paraphernalia and fast food wreckage.
|Your average Luton park|
Which D kept putting in his mouth. He literally scooted around the playground, quicker than we could keep up, popping anything he saw into his gob. I’m telling you, anything from bits of masticated hamburger to cannabis scented clingfilm to cat poo. Or his favourite- discarded chewing gum. You try shouting "No!” whilst gagging, filming, and having your heart broken because you know Theres Something Wrong. Lots of 2/3 year olds do the “I can eat anything” thing, but this seemed different because he was on a mission. This oral fixation came before using the slide, or the swings. He really did want to eat the contents of the bin over anything else.
On top of the smashed up house. Some parents say “My kids smash up the house” but they don’t. They just pour out Thomas the Tank Engine and freinds over the wooden floor during Yummy Mummy coffee morning. On one of our first “dates” since the children came we went to a Harpenden Shaker theme gastropub (but only for coffee, comrades) and saw these five mothers arrive for a lunch together. They had state of the art buggies, children who appeared to be in a medically induced coma, and they were all wearing skinny jeans and North Face fleeces and looked like Hollwood A listers. Which did make us think whether they were filming “The Stepford Wives 2: The Nicoise Salad Takeover”. How any parent of young kids doesn’t have perma-yoghurt on their top is beyond me. We looked like survivors of an air crash.
|In Harpenden We saw them|
Some punk bands talked a bit about anarchy and smashing things up, but to my knowledge, the only band who really did this- at least on TV- were The Damned, who, on playing live once on TV really did smash everything up in the first 30 seconds, till all that was left was the bass player, utterly confused, still knocking out the riff on his own. Likewise D and M really did smash up the house. During their waking hours it was nappies where they were changed, food where it was thrown, excrement where it was smeared, and….bits of Daddys and Mummys stuff rolling where they were discovered. All our stuff.
I cried like a baby in the car after attempting to film. Proper crying we men don’t like to talk about. There was snot and hyperventilating and high pitched hooting.
I had always enthused about running headlong into doing Kingdom, and I had always wanted to do Kingdom as a lifestyle and a 24 hour living thing, rather than a hobby after long office hours in some dreadful capitalist corporate deathburger office. But I had forgotten that doing Kingdom does not generate a mountaintop experience of being near Jesus and being empowered by the Holy Spirit all the time. It’s living in the Valley and turning up, mostly.
And its costs are more subtle and difficult than you think. Certain costs of adopting we were cheerful about (maybe the children communicating with and later seeing their birth parents) and others were bearable ( time out to see them get therapy). But realising that the children were not going to be as convenient or controllable as we wanted was a dark revelation. And then seeing my son being unable to be filmed, because he moved so fast and what he moved towards was the infected filth off the floor, that was too much. This “something wrong” was going to negate milestones in our journey with him I had already built a myth around in my head. His graduation. His great job. His future functional relationship with a girlfriend we could connect with.
The footage we did film was hyper edited montages of the back of his head. We added a soundtrack of Keane and some other pop tunes, and did it on the Mac so it had this semi professional loading screen and menu. But it still looked like the footage from Cloverfield, not Little House on the Prairie.
I think the mistake is that we were trying to insert extraordinary kids into an ordinary world.
Here's two stories about the interface problem:
One of our first holidays was Butlins. We were thinking; busy, child friendly themed place, plenty going on, nice chalet on top of the attraction. All true. But the swarming crowds got D over excited. There's plenty going on if you have reasonable people skills, but a howling wilderness of tumbleweeds if you are an angry, frightened little boy who is being oppositional. The nice chalet will work with children who: a) Arent hyper b) Like you c) Like themselves.
D was struggling with all of these. The door handles were helpfully made low for little hands- little functional hands who eager to obey Mummy and Daddy, that is. So D spent all night running through all the rooms, so we had to barricade the ensuite, the connecting bedrooms, and the front door. In the morning, the chalet looked genuinely like we had survived Night of the Living Dead. There were sofas standing on end and chairs stacked against every window and exit.
A later day out ended in a fish and chip meal. This was a day where we felt D coud have a day off from his nappy, so the sea air could circulate on his nether regions through his shorts. We found this deluxe chippy that offered seating and an extensive menu with all kinds of seafod pies and gubbins. Classy. It was heaving, which is always a good sign. So we sat on our table, which was placed so close to the others it was almost a bench seat, and duly ordered our meals. Midway through D announced he needed the toilet. He said it with a pained expression, midway between Eureka and a migraine. Slighty red in the face.
All too late we realised that him wanting the toilet had morphed into doing the toilet. Sans nappy. Number 2. The offending artefact somehow exited his bottom and his shorts and landed intact on the floor, not unlike a lunar module. As people ate and laughed either side of us. In a lightning bout of telekinesis, we clocked what had happened and reached for the napkins. Then I did what all Christian men who are committed to being head of the family and decisive action do. I let my wife deal, while I pretended to study my haddock. She had to scoop up the turd, scoop up D, and while I watched M and tried to encourage her not to talk about the smell and what D had done (with that over happy, reasonable, attentive face we do to stop kids crying after a fall, or talking about bodily functions while the bishop is visiting) my poor wife went into the women's toilets for the biggest environmental cleanup since the BP Deepwater Horizon crisis.
Somehow nobody twigged.
But the biggest grievance is looking back on how we reacted and how we construed D's behavour as bad, without taking time to understand. Most adopted kids come “emotionally retarded”- that is, years emotionally and socially behind their years. And the rest of their challenging behaviour is trauma. But for me especially, the "importance" and indulgence of my trauma was coming way ahead of the importance of understanding D's.
But I wasn’t alone in my global lack of grasping the situation. We had jettisoned from church because that couldn't work with this new routine of trying to keep the children calm, from attacking each other and prebenting falls down cavernous stairwells. Abandoning our lovely, small, intimate, meditational cell church- and creating hurt there in doing so- we had gone to the local uber church, where we sat in the aircraft hangar like childrens room playing with toys, missing all the input and ministry upstairs. Fewer friends were calling round now, as the event horizon of the childrens arrival had come and gone. By now parents of newborns had packed away the gifts and sold the crap ones on Ebay. Nobody beyond our mothers had twigged that we needed the visit and the practical help more than ever- and for ever- and could do with a visit or phone call every day.
Because why do Christian's like me- and I'm talking people who see the Sermon on the Mount and finally twig Jesus is actually asking we engage and sacrifice- why do we want the Kingdom as a clip on accessory to “real life”, like something from "Claires" or "Accessorize"? Why do we still view real life as the 60 hour a week dehumanizing rearranging- deckchairs- on- the- Titanic job? And are our jobs relevant or in sympathy with the Kingdom? Or if we are lucky enough to love our job, why do we give that the best of our youth, hours , strength, peak mental ability and passion? And save the tired, not- angry- yet- but- wil- be- the- next- thing- that- goes- wrong reserves for Jesus?
It could be because we go to some anodyne church and have a home group that sticks to safe coasts. That says - by commison or omission- thats its okay to live in 64 Acacia Avenue and do radical things on Wednesday nights unless there's a better offer. Do as much as we are comfortable and happy with before drawing the bolts home. Well, that was me anyway. In a good season, actually.
And if that is the scene regarding time and physical application of the Sermon on the Mount, what about the emotional side? Only looking back now, four months into God doing a miracle in D and healing and calming him (in relative terms) do I see how focused on myself I was. How unwilling to go the extra mile, how unwilling to try to understand the forgiving "seventy times seven" package, how unwilling to give up the right to be hurt, depressed, angry, and lacking patience. And thus now having regret. Seeing how foul I have been to the children and to my wife all those years. Realising I still have to build the discipline and pray for the ability to “be present” with my children- play with them, rather than share a room. Engage in the woods rather than walk behind them with the dog. Etc.
Forwards in time from those painful early days and now we have an offer from Evangelical Alliance (not a natural bedfellow at face value) to be part of an awesome national adoption project. Their leader Krish Kandia and his team have a vision to inspire, motivate and train up at least one family in every UK evangelical church to be adopters. If this were to happen, the thousands of children waiting to be adopted- the whole waiting list- would vanish overnight.
Its so awesome Im going to repeat this. Let it soak in your spirit. If one family from every UK evangelical church (in the general sense, to avoid a whole new blog entry) were to be come adopters, all the children waiting for adption in the UK would be placed in a family home.
Humanly speaking it is naïve. But I think its got God all over it.
By being part of this we will seek to support families who are struggling and loosing hope. We will endeavor to prep families with all they need to know about support prior to adoping children. To prep people about how to prepare emotionally and develop a mindest that will adapt and grow with the children, no matter how damaged they are. And aside from all that we feel the best thing any adoptive family could have is one or two other families who are raised up with them- not to physically adopt, but to offer a lifetime of support and respite and a shoulder to cry on and a hug and a coffee and a beer. On tap 24/7. And that these families are see as one entity.
Yes, it’s a big ask. Most people would be more willing to be on a time heavy coffee rota and open and shut church buildings than do this. But the support is the key. Doing it within our unenlightened mindset, and the small resources of our family nearly killed us and broke the placement.
You don't put that in a Joel Osteen DVD.