We Are Family



10 posts in this category

Missing Dad

My husband has just come back from four nights away. For many families, there’s nothing unusual in that. Weekends away and work trips are regular occurrences, and many families take them in their stride. It is unusual for us, though. In the four years since the boys came to live with us, I’ve never spent a night away from them, and my husband has only been away twice, each time for two nights. 

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12 blogs under the Christmas tree #6

I don’t have one thing to put under the Christmas tree… I have a few things. I can’t help but be excited for Christmas. I smile and nod when people say it’s for the kids…Raspberry to that! I love it even more that I have children, despite the challenges.

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Scared of Water

I am sitting besides a pool watching my partner and sons play in the water. It is loud, excited, fast and furious play, lots of splashing and swimming, jumping and diving, so much fun, so much joy. It is a great pleasure to watch and I soak up every minute.

We were on a similar holiday 18 months months or so ago, lots of sun and lots of chances for the boys to use the swimming pool or play in the sea, however things were quite different then

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Dear Son

The fact that you are not my flesh and blood I find endless fascinating. I know what your mother looks like and I see her freckled auburn beauty in your face. We don’t know what your dad looked like, but I have a sense of it. The colour of your skin, and your curly hair for starters. Yet in the end whatever they gave you, you are you. A world upon itself. I see my own mum and dad in my flesh, and more so as I age, but you are so different to those genes. So I see you. And it makes me curious precisely about you. And what you are all about.

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Dear Daughter: Where did the time go?

Dear Daughter,

It’s been over three years now since you came into our lives as a little, bum-shuffling, bottom-swaying, 14-month old bundle of pure energy. We’ve been with you watching you grow through so many different stages and here you are now, a 4 year-old little (or big, as you prefer) girl about to start school.

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The Twelve Blogs of Christmas #4: Christmas Party Games you never played before you had children...

  1. Name that stain Being a parent apparently means accruing a large knowledge of cleaning products and how best to combine them. I can’t make a Martini but I sure can combine Vanish, Napisan and bicarbonate of soda to get melted chocolate coins out of the sofa
  2. 56 wipe pick-up The rules are self-explanatory here, just insert whichever item you would prefer your child(ren) didn’t dismantle and throw around the lounge whilst you had the audacity to go upstairs and brush your teeth
  3. Midnight tag “you get up”. “No you, I just went”. “I will give you a tenner”…..
  1. Sniff those trousers Is it wee? Is it poo? No it’s just dribble, we’re good
  2. Race the dog to the vomit A particularly charming game where one of your children has thrown up and the Labrador will ‘clean it up’ if you don’t get there first
  3. Car seat bingo What is your child eating? The only clue is that they retrieved it from down of the side of their car seat
  4. The stood-on-a-piece-of-lego party dance No explanation required
  5. Supermarket sweep – where before you were perhaps one to stop and compare prices as you made your way round Tesco, now you dash round à la Linford Christie to avoid small child meltdown
  6. Pudding roulette – they ate a lot at dinner and it’s been a very exciting day, plus you don’t want to play the Labrador game again…
  7. Patience - Of course, you played it before you had children but it turns out it ain’t a card game

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Why is she in the buggy?

pram-450787_640The first time it happened I really felt her pain.It was her first play date ever and her new friend ran confidently around picking up toys and evaluating them for fun value. My daughter ran ahead delightedly pointing out her possessions and waiting for approval. Suddenly the friend let out a shriek ; my daughter had proudly held up her tatty old half-perished dummy which she wouldn't go to sleep without, the one she arrived with that made her feel safe. “Oh no”, said her suddenly much more grown-up friend. “That's for babies; you shouldn't have that”. The friend eyed her suspiciously and my daughter flushed with shame. Confused she looked to me and although I made light of it, the rest of the play was not relaxed. After the friend left she kept reliving that moment of shame. When she went to bed I saw her really struggle with her need for the dummy and I told her it was ok to have it if she needed it. “She thinks I'm a baby,” she said through tears.The second time we were on holiday and I was more prepared.Having made firm friends with a little girl of a similar age, they were giggling away, thick as thieves until we got up to leave and our daughter climbed into her worn out old buggy. The other girl was speechless and no longer laughing. She turned to us - the adults with whom she now clearly felt more affinity - and enquired, “Why is she in a buggy? She's not a baby.” Once again our daughter flushed with shame. Quick as a flash I bent down, and in a whisper said, “Well, first of all - between you and me- this isn't a normal buggy - it's magic and takes her to special magic places - that’s where we’re off to now actually; and secondly we're staying a lot further away than you are and it's very late for little girls to be up now.” I’m not sure she believed me but it stunned her into temporary silence and away we went, but all the way home she kept repeating, “she didn't like the buggy did she? She didn't like the buggy? You had to explain".It made me sad and then it made me a bit angry. What is the rush anyway?What if she's a little slower in shedding some of the comforts of infancy? Why does it matter? Why is society so geared up towards moving on to the next thing as quickly as possible? Couldn't we all benefit from taking a bit more time over things?Her childhood already seems to be going by so fast and I for one am in no rush to push her even faster through it. She can take as much time as she wants.

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As camp as a row of tents

DSC02043It was some time ago when I decided that camping was not for me.I was very aware that I will never climb mountains or set off to reach a pole - north or south - or any other truly remote locale and as such I figured that I was unlikely to actually be any place where a tent would be essential, certainly not anywhere beyond striking distance of an establishment that had a bed to rent. It wouldn't have to be a fancy bed or come with any luxuries, it would just need to be a step up from sleeping on the floor beneath canvas to reassure me that my decision is a sound one.I am not anti camping and I certainly have nothing against others doing it, in fact I guess I somewhat admire their vigour and enthusiasm for something that I now find so unappealing. I am aware that to some it gives a real sense of freedom and is a great adventure and to others it offers spontaneity or an inexpensive way to take long holidays that could otherwise be out of their reach.I get it, I just don't enjoy it. Hence I had avoided it for many years.When I camped in the past I guess it's fair to say that I found the experience less than wondrous. At the time I remember it was all laughed off with youthful exuberance, but as I have matured and as my body has aged and started to demand more of the basic home comforts - you know, like a bed, a loo and running hot water - it has left me somewhat reluctant to embrace it - even for the comedy factor.However, I now have children and as we all know - children LOVE to camp. They love the thrill of something different, of the adventure and I guess the parent/child bonding that doing it as a family offers. Consequently I find myself in my early 50's not only agreeing to go camping, but once a year perversely looking forward to it.Not looking forward to the lack of comfort, lack of decent showering facilities, of the nights of poor sleep, or to the aches and pains I suffer for sleeping 'sans' a mattress, but looking forward to a very special long bank holiday weekend, a weekend that I have recently returned from, the weekend that is the New Family Social (NFS) LGBT family camp.What is so special about this weekend that it gets me enthused for something I would ordinarily be refusing to do? Well pretty much everything actually.Firstly the setting, it's held in a very nice part of the country in lots of woodland allowing for intimate camps within a camp. It is calm, peaceful, beautiful and quite simply a great place to be.On top of its desirable setting the camp has lots of activities for the kids - archery, wall climbing, zip wire, crate stacking, pond dipping, grass sledging and more - most of which is anything but peaceful or relaxing, which is of course exactly how the children want it. In addition NFS lay on creative and thoughtful activities throughout the day and the evening for each of the 4-5 days, so there is always something for the children - and also the parents - to take part in. Most notably there is the very entertaining 'We've got talent' show and new for this year the amazing 'Village fete', with its Dog show and many stalls offering various table top games, face painting, nail painting and such.Secondly there are the volunteers - LGBT people considering adoption\fostering or already on the path to adoption\fostering - who are enthusiastic, ever helpful and well... pretty amazing. They are there for NFS who need their time, effort and energy to make the weekend go smoothly and professionally - which it does. They are there for us campers, to help us, to guide us - and wonderfully to keep a watchful eye or two on our children. Lastly they are there for themselves, to find out what NFS can offer them and to discover what we the members are all about - they get to see first hand some of what being a LBGT parent and an adoptive\foster parent means, to hear our stories of who, what, why led us to be the families that we are and to learn of our often very differing experiences.Then there are us campers, every family brings along their own unique story, and we are all there to listen and to share and maybe most importantly to learn from each other. We are families from all over the country (in fact sometimes even further afield), from all social groups and backgrounds, parents of varying intellect/ income/ political persuasion and religion yet we all have two huge things in common - that we are LBGT and that we have children. Camaraderie is in abundance and friendships are made which go well beyond the weekend.However, what really makes the experience so very special is what it means to the children.Apart from the great fun that can be had and the chance to meet up with friends from previous years and to make new friends there is a wonderful freedom on offer that is unlike almost anything most of the children would have experienced - especially those growing up in cities where their every move is organised and controlled and where every minute of their day there is a need for them to be monitored. From the moment the children arrive they are off socialising and playing and certainly for our 7 and 8 year old we only see them when THEY want us and return to find us.This freedom is something I remember SO strongly from my childhood growing up in the 60's/70's, I look back on it as being very special and it saddens me that childhood for my sons is so much more restricted. The many adult eyes of the parents and the volunteers which are all looking out for every child reassures us of a high degree of security - but the children are running wild in the woods so it's certainly not 100% safe and knowing that they can escape adult eyes, be a little naughty and take a minor risk here or there I guess makes the freedom real and even more significant to them, and every child just seems to lap it up and to relish every moment.In addition it is a weekend when they are literally surrounded by mostly adopted peers all living in LBGT families, where for a change their kind of family is in the majority. I'm pretty sure none of the children have any kind of issue with having LGBT parents however for a few days, for a change it's quite simply the norm - not the exception.Apart from being wonderfully reassuring and normalising I am sure that this environment helps to instil a sense of pride for who they are and what their family is, in a way which I think would be impossible to achieve elsewhere.I am still not a camper - however I am a gay dad who willingly goes camping once a year and loves it.

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