Two Dads, one very opinionated son.

Our Foster story, the journey from strangers to family.


4 Comments

A Point Of Difference

A week ago he walked out of his room, his wide brimmed school hat perched on his head with his curly untameable fringe sticking out over his eyes. His socks were pulled up to his knees awkwardly and his shirt was roughly tucked into his pants, his belt on too tight and his pants pulled too high, I gazed at him and smiled.
“What?” He laughed as he looked down.
“I just can’t believe it” I said
“What? Dad?”
“I can’t believe you’re actually in year 8, already!” I began to tear up a little.
“Daaaad” he sighed, do you HAVE to keep saying it?
“Do you HAVE to keep getting so big?
“Daddy! Can you make him stop, please. He’s embarrassing!”
It’s a good thing I didn’t get to take him to school, although it was the same school as last year and the same uniform I would have made him stop for several hundred photographs before he got to the classroom. It was just under 4 years ago when we first got to drop him to a year 4 classroom, but watching him prepare for his first full year as a high school student was over whelming.

Only a year ago he began at his new school, a huge change that we had instigated in an effort to get him ready for the challenges of high school. His new school was offering a middle school transition year to help students moving from primary into high school, we had bravely taken the plunge and were terrified. Where we felt terror he felt anxious, a lifetime at the one school whilst fraught with good and many bad experiences had created a sense of comfort, short of moving in with us this was to be the biggest change of his life. In a way it was a severance of the final ties that bound him to his old life, a chance to really start fresh and create a new beginning, which was a thought that played on his mind.

A few days before his first day we were making dinner in the kitchen as he entertained himself in the living room. He was rattling off a million questions about what to expect and we were answering what we could until something we said threw him.
“We can’t wait to take you in for your first day tomorrow, we’re so excited and proud of you!”
He went silent.
A moment later his face appeared around the doorway into the kitchen, he looked at us quizzically.
“Are you BOTH taking me to school tomorrow?” he queried cautiously.
“Well, yes. Of course we are, why wouldn’t we be?”
“Oh… well, I thought it would just be one of you…” he cast his eyes downwards.
“Is that going to be a problem” I queried?
His eyes remained on the floor.
“Well… no…. I guess…” He walked away slowly into the living room again and was quiet.

We turned and looked at each other. It was one of those moments where we didn’t really need words, we’d both reached the same conclusion.

He didn’t want to be the kid who turned up to school with two dads.

Somewhere in our minds we’d prepared for this day.
We knew that at some point there would come a day he may become embarrassed by us or be worried about what people may think of us but we were not prepared for it now. He had never been shameful about us before, we’d watched him meet new kids before and do the explanation;
“That’s my dad and that’s my other dad” never with an air of shame, always with pride or simple nonchalance.

Perhaps that was the sting, the turn around in attitude from what was to what is in a heartbeat, it made my head spin and my heart ache.

We sat down over dinner a while later, he picked at his food with his eyes downcast, not saying much.
“Mate, do you want to tell us why you don’t want us both there tomorrow?”
He sighed without looking up
“No….”
“Mate, you need to be honest, you won’t be in trouble but we need to talk about it”
He sighed, again, but his fork down and looked up with tears in his eyes and gave the most unexpected answer.
“It’s just… if I turn up to school and everyone sees me with two dads… well… they’re going to know I’m adopted… and they’ll think I’m weird.”
A wave of relief washed over me and I almost had to stop from smiling.
He had definitely been worried about being seen to be different but not for fear of the judgement about having two dads, but for fear of being identified as a child of the foster care system.

His innocence was astounding, where we thought him to be so quick to fear judgement about our lives he had not seen it as a point of difference for judgement but merely an indicator that would give away his own past.

We hugged him tight that night to reassure him that everything would be alright, we could sense the relief that he had got his worries off his chest. A big new chapter lay ahead, with no idea how to navigate it and us as his only guides, it was definitely going to be bumpy ride.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Words on a page, moving to the stage.

Life is hurtling forwards for us, as per usual, we’re reaching the end of another year and we’re just racing to keep up.
It’s been eventful, dramatic, moving, exhausting and fabulous, I’ve simply lost the time to write about it at all of late.

I have however been offered the opportunity with the Brisbane Powerhouse and the MELT festival in 2015 to present our story, live on stage. It’s an interesting opportunity, I’m not a comedian, but when I saw the opportunity I simply thought that there is so much to our story to tell, only so much can be brought to life using words on a page, what better medium than to speak them?

So on February 12th at 6pm I will take to the stage on my own, Flash isn’t allowed to join us and my darling husband is more terrified of microphones than he is of snakes and spiders. So it will be just me presenting our story, warts and all, in a room full (hopefully) of people to give just that bit more of an insight into what it’s like in the world of Two Dads & Me.

To make it all happen of course we need the love and support of our Brisbane audience, tickets are available for purchase online and are now starting to sell, I would really love to see a full house and really kick this show off with a bang!

Tickets can be purchased here
http://brisbanepowerhouse.org/events/2015/02/12/two-dads-and-me/

You can also spread the word, spread the love and register your attendance via the Facebook event here.
Even better you can use the event to invite your friends and spread the word.
We are just a little show, with a little budget, tickets are going to sell on word of mouth more than anything (They’re only $25 too!)
https://www.facebook.com/events/1575423732691546/
Copies of our book will also be available on the night too (finally!).

We look forward to seeing you all there and thank you again for your continued support

MJ, Ant & Flash
x

MELT_Twitter_2_Dads
Print


Leave a comment

It makes the world go round and round and…

When we first met Flash on one of your many visits we were astounded to find out some of the processes that took over his life in that little house that he occupied.

With no real friends and no family life to speak of his house essentially existed on his little schedule of waking, eating, playing, sleeping, television, playstation and toy time that consumed all the bits in between. It was evident that there was a struggle within his existence to movtivate him to change, to challenge his behaviours and encourage him to be better. Granted many methods had likely been used before, when you have a child who’s behaviour at the best of times could be likened to a feral cat your options are limited. So the option that seemed most open to them at the time was money. A system had been developed, it was hard to understand, but appeared as though he was given a $14 fund for each week, rather than earning any money, the total amount was simply there, the catch being “poor behaviour” meant that the total amount would be reduced.

The fascinating thing we observed week to week as he still lived there and we began to learn more and more of his day to day activities was that it seemed to take a lot to actually reduce this money and that essentially, short of murder, there appeared little possibility that by the weeks end Flash would actually end up with nothing left in his kitty. Instead come each Saturday morning the weekly trip to the shops would occur, where; taking his treasured reward for a week of substandard behaviour and questionable outcomes, he was placed within the towering aisles of the Big W toy aisles to be given free reign to purchase to his hearts desire.

First and foremost we couldn’t figure out why on a bad week he simply wouldn’t earn any money for spending. Later upon asking we were told that the consequences for himself, the house and his carers was not entirely pleasant, lack of money meant “escalation time”.  Looking in from the outside these escalations were somewhat comical. When they started it was like watching a building crumble in slow motion before your eyes, his eyes would tremble, the tears, perfectly orchestrated would slowly fall from his face and as they hit the ground his whole body would collapse with a glass breaking shriek.

“Noooooooooooooooooo!!!! PLEASE NO!!!!!”

This would be the start and the very clear reasoning as to why his house was littered with so many holes in the walls, he would lash out, throw himself at walls, kick and punch them and in turn make moves against any carer in his way.

The comical part of it all was the instructions that the carers were given, these strong, 20 something year old men were told that when the small, thin, angry child began to get violent, they were not to try subdue him or restrain him, no, their instructions were relatively simple.
“Reason with him, if that fails go to your room and lock the door and call the police”.

Yes, if the child barely taller than your waist chucks a tantrum, call the police.

You can’t begin to imagine the life lessons that teaches a child, when it comes to relationships with adults, with conflict resolution and getting your own way, the solution was always to give the child the power and secure safety, what’s right and wrong in this situation will always be debatable, but consequently we soon learnt why every week it was simply easier to give him some money;
“At least $5”
The boys would always say;
“That way he’s still getting something even if he’s had a bad week”.

A kid in a candy store was almost a literal description for his Saturday mornings. Armed with his money he would ponder and plead his way through the aisles of the shops, trying to find that maximum value for his money;
“How can I spend every cent and ensure I get as many toys as possible?” you could see him thinking.

We accompanied him on many of these trips in the early days and even took him on some trips with just the 3 of us to help him select his weekly bounty.

His determination, tenacity and flexibility were truly remarkable, he would drop hints for more money, pull sad faces, ponder, ask, debate and cry to attempt to procure the necessary extra funds for what was the days latest fascination, but luckily we realized quite early on that holding firm to a “No” was going to be the most difficult but beneficial path to take.

His play room was huge, a single room in the house dedicated to his weekly collection of toys. Stacked with tubs and containers of various cars and lego pieces, haphazardly upended or in various states of creation, you couldn’t tell what was old or new, what was loved or forgotten, everything was just in a constant state of collection.
“More”

You could practically see the word emblazoned across his eyeballs whenever he laid eyes on a toy, whether in the supermarket or walking past another child playing with a toy;

“More”

And with that “more” was what we decided we needed less of.

The rest of this entry can be found in our book “Two Dads & Me: The Story So Far”
Available for purchase soon.


3 Comments

Big Boys Don’t Fly

In the early days, not long after he had moved in, our greatest test began, his behaviour.
It’s hard to describe what it was like as it was so inconsistent, erratic, irrational and constant.
The slightest thing could set him off and we could have screaming, crying, swearing, throwing, running, you name it, he had it in his arsenal and every single moment of it was a test of our patience.

A lot of it stemmed from his time in residential care, in a world where you grow up with no adults, just youth workers, in a house that is not your own, where rules cannot be enforced and there are no consequences, you begin to make your own rules. His time there had taught him very little, except that if he didn’t get his own way, he only had to scream and cry, which would usually result in negotiations to avoid an escalation, when negotiations failed, get physical, escalate.

When we had visited the house in our first visits there were holes in many of the walls, several walls missing large areas of plasterboard, his bed at the time was broken at the end and he slept on somewhat of a slant. This was the nature of his understanding of consequences, “natural consequences” they called it. In the absence of discipline in any way their only option was to allow him to live with the results of his behaviours, in this case, the damage around him. How effective that choice was is debatable, after having lived with the repercussions of this method we found ourselves questioning it’s validity.

The advice we had been given was to be consistent with rules and expectations, set clear boundaries around what was ok and what was not and to ensure we explained the nature of consequences.
And so we did.
And so it was good.
In theory.
What we could never account for was the sheer volume of the “escalations” as we came to call them when reporting them to the department, yes each escalation required a report, every time. Some of the early ones were the little ones, the running away at shower time, that was the easy stuff, the tough stuff came when we really had to follow through with what we said.

With limited options at our disposal, we had to go with the basic consequences, taking away small privileges for wrong doings, things like dessert, TV, play time, early to bed and taking away toys, unfortunately it was the consequences that quickly proved to be the trigger to our escalations.
Our rules were pretty simple, primarily focusing on basic expectations around following instructions and basic manners as well as good behaviour at school and at home, we didn’t want to set the expectations high, but we had to set them firmly.

The first time we sent him to bed early I was pretty sure our neighbours thought we were murdering him.

The reaction was something from another world, it was like watching the 7 stages of grieving fast forward in front of you. He would plead, beg, apologise, cry and then started the yelling, kicking and screaming. He threw himself on the lounge room floor and howled
“No dad no! Please! NO! DON’T! PLEASE! NO! I’LL DO ANYTHING!”
He knew how to work the system, but we were prepared and stuck our ground.
By the time he got to his room he had turned angry and started screaming, he had headed for the hallway and ran full pelt at the wall at the end, threw himself at the wall and dramatically slid himself to the ground.
He howled, jumped up, ran to his bedroom door and started screaming
“I HATE YOU! I DON’T WANT TO LIVE HERE!”
We tried to remain as calm as possible, reminding him of why he was going to bed early and that if he continued, there would be more consequences. None of this appeared to help, once in his room he screamed louder, we could hear him start to kick walls, throw toys, scream and yell, by this stage I believe the neighbours may have thought we were killing a village of small children judging by the amount of noise he was creating, but we persevered.

Eventually he would settle, often not until he had upturned the contents of his room, his bed or succeeded in rousing a reaction from us that would require us to re-enter the room to check on him. Sadly as we were warned, things would only get worse before they got better and as he continued to test the boundaries that we set his reactions intensified. Within a few small months we had 3 different holes in the walls in his room, we had heard every swear word imaginable and seen some distressing reactions that had shaken us.

Some of the most distressing behaviour was his disregard for his own safety, he would use threats against himself as a means to test us, trying desperately to see if we would really care at the same time as trying to act out against us. This disregard sometimes had to be taken seriously and sometimes we had to show him we weren’t going to react and continue as though nothing was happening.

One afternoon he took to throwing himself against the wall, rolling on the floor and screaming and we had to restrain and calm him, another evening he ran back into the kitchen and grabbed himself the nearest knife, quickly I managed to retrieve it and sent him back to his room. But as he continued to escalate the behaviour our resolve continued to grow, he stormed into the kitchen another evening as I was washing the dishes while he’d been sent to his room, he grabbed the nearest knife (a butter knife, bless) and pointed it at his arm.
“You don’t love me! I’m gonna cut myself cause you hate me!”
By this stage, these outbursts had become almost daily and whilst being aware of how far he could go and the likely hood of his actually following through I simply took a deep breath and turned to him calmly,
“I love you, but you’re going to need to take that outside if you’re going to do that”.
It was as though I’d slapped him.
He stopped, stunned and just stared at me, knife poised in his hand, caught off guard.
I smiled at him calmly and turned back to the dishes, moments later he walked up to the drawer, put the knife away and walked back to his room. It was this sort of attitude and approach that we had to adopt, we had to call his bluff, we had to know that what he wanted was a reaction, he wanted us to freak out and come running and although our natural instinct was to help him, to hug him, he had to know that this was not going to work.

Perhaps the point at which the behaviour hit it’s peak was one of the scariest both for us and for him.
During his end of year break up party  at school he came home on a sugar high unlike anything else, heavens knows what he’d been fed, but he was bouncing off the walls, almost literally. As he arrived home he had reached his peak and was slowly coming down and as he did so the behaviour continued erratically until he was told he needed to go to his room to calm down and that, was when hell broke lose.
The screaming began.
He ran.
Outside he ran to the fence and back inside, he tore up the hallway and into his room, he screamed, he kicked and he threw.
With only one of us home he was testing the boundaries even more and the decision to sit and wait it out was the only option.
Minutes passed and suddenly silence.
Minutes passed again and suddenly a sound outside.
Walking outside and looking down the stairs, below his 2nd story bedroom was a little body lying perfectly still on the ground.
Thankfully “Daddy” was the parent home for the afternoon, quickly he rushed down the stairs to check him.
“Mate, are you ok?”
“Yes, I think so…” came the shaky reply.
He checked him over, somehow, he seemed fine, somewhat shaken, but fine.
“Good, you need to go back to your room now.”
Evidently, boys can’t fly, but they do know how to give you a good scare. He had expected a reaction, he wanted one, he wanted something, somehow he wanted to take back control on the situation, but we couldn’t give in to what he wanted.
After he’d gone back to his room he settled until we were both home together again to talk through the afternoons events.
Evidently he’d been very calculated, climbing down and hanging from his windowsill before dropping himself from the lowest point for dramatic effect, cleverly making it look as though he had leaped the full 2 stories.

This was life for so long, test, trials, screaming and yelling. But it wasn’t all bad, in between was the beautiful good natured boy who just wanted to be loved and make friends. Whilst his methods weren’t optimal they were expected and were the only thing he’s ever known, it made it tough for him and tough for us, but we all persevered.

These days when you meet him you would never believe that he had ever behaved like this, he has adapted and learnt, he knows boundaries and he respects them. His consequences have reduced themselves through consistent good behaviour and this school term marks the first term he has been without a suspension of any form from school.
Whilst we may have taught him about rules, boundaries, respect and consequences he has taught us about patience and unconditional love, he’s tested and tried us and ultimately we’ve all come out on top.


6 Comments

Brave, Powerful & Talented

Of the many questions that Flash fires away at us every minute, of every day, the one that I find the most interesting lately is;
“Are you proud of me?”
It’s a question that sometime just stuns me, he could ask it for the simplest reason, a good day at school, a good score on a test or because he cleaned his room without being asked, but it still just makes me look at him and smile.
How he could think we could be anything less than proud of him has me floored, for one little person who’s been through so much, every day we’re proud of him.

Perhaps what he never realises is how much we want him to be proud of us.

Being a parent was always going to be a difficult job, being gay parents was always going to be a slightly more challenging task, it comes with this subconscious feeling that sometimes we do have just that little bit more to prove, whether it be to ourselves, our son or to those around us.

For me, I’ve always wanted him to be proud of us, to know exactly who we are, what we stand for and why. Because lets face it, one day someone is going to throw mud in his face about his dads and I want there to be no doubt in his mind about who his fathers are and what they are capable of. I want him to feel pride, not shame if he is confronted with anything unpleasant, because when we are truly proud of who we are and where we come from, nothing can knock us down.

In the last 2 years I’ve taken on a lot of tasks outside of parenting, I sit on a couple of volunteer committees, including helping run our local pride events, some local media gigs and most recently I’ve taken up Rugby Union. Whilst I enjoy these things immensely  there’s a part of me that does them because I feel like I’ve got something to prove to Flash, to prove that his dads can do anything, they can take on the world with one hand behind their back and still come out with a smile on their face.
I want him to be educated, to see his fathers as two men and not simply as “gay men”, capable of doing anything at all, whilst still being fabulous.

He’s been involved in a lot of things for a child his age, occasionally he’s attended meetings with me to help plan our events, he’s been to my media gigs and watched and listened with avid fascination and he’s been to Rugby training countless times, either watching or joining in as best he can. All the while he’s been surrounded by amazing people who role model the best behaviours and experiences for him, I see him laughing, enjoying himself, taking it all in and digesting it all. Later he asks me questions, he wants to know about this decision and that decision, this person and that person and the definition of that word and all the while in the back of my head, subconsciously I’m thinking;
“Are you proud of me?

Part of our routine at home is visitors. From the Department of Child Safety, to our foster agency, then the Children’s Commissioner or his psychologist, at least once a fortnight or so different people from various departments stop to check in and say hello, checking to see that all 3 of us are healthy and happy. It is lovely that they care, but sometimes, just a bit of a drain on the brain when you’re in between marking homework, cooking dinner, cleaning the house and juggling phone calls, otherwise just another day in our house.

However perhaps one of my more favourite visits are those from his child psychologist, every fortnight she stops by to work with Flash and the 3 of us as a family, she generates some beautiful insight from him on how he perceives his  life and those around him and it’s always beautiful to hear him really speak from the heart.

I arrived home last week, walking in the door I was jumped on, literally and told at a million miles an hour the details of the visit thus far, unable to actually take any of it in, I took a seat on the carpet to have a look at what he’d been working on. His psychologist was sitting with him with his “life book” open and written across the page were words written neatly in crayon.
“Kind”
“Caring”
“Enthusiastic”
“Loving”
It stretched across 2 large pages and comprised about 25 words, as I read through them a very excitable little monkey climbed all over my back, squeaking and chattering in my ear about the words to explain them to me.
“They’re words about you and Daddy, like describing words for both of you”
I smiled and continued to read across the page, his psychologist pointed out to smaller sections with words below them.
“All of these words are words that describe both of you, but I asked him to choose one word for each of you and to give me a reason”
Underlined heavily were the words “Brave & Powerful” with a neat little sentence below them
Daddy can make anyone do anything he wants, even me!”
I giggled to myself, an interesting admission really, acknowledging that he used to get his own way, now, not so much.
Across the top of the page was the word “Talented”
“Dad is really talented because he can do anything with technology”
He attempted to climb, somehow trying to get himself onto one my shoulders, excitedly giggling away, wanting to know if I liked it.
“Of course I do sweetheart”
Yay” He squealed, leaped from my shoulders and jumped across the book.

Whether it’s pride, happiness, confidence or a bit of everything, he’s growing, he’s understanding and he’s becoming a bigger and stronger person with every passing day and for both us, we simply couldn’t be more proud of him or more proud to be his parents.
*As a side note our book is now closer to being published, extended content from each of these blog posts will be included in both the printed and digital copy. Be sure to subscribe to our blog for more updates as we get closer to publication.
Thank you again for continuing to read our story. 

 


2 Comments

A Moment In Time

Continued from First Contact…

It was certainly an interesting introduction, but also quite fitting, presenting a quick snapshot of what life would be like with such an energetic little person running around in it. We were a little taken aback at first, having the child running screaming from us wasn’t exactly what we expected to encounter, but we were assured it was simply excitement. Flash had been in this house almost 2 years, the prospect of something and someone new was an overwhelming set of emotions for someone so young to comprehend, you couldn’t really blame him for not knowing how to process it.

As we made some light conversation we heard a rustling sound coming from the garage, he had commenced his approach, the youth worker called out to him gently to coax him out of hiding and come say hello. He emerged from the garage, a huge cheeky grin on his face, beautiful brown eyes peering out from underneath a little mop of curly brown hair, he took a moment to survey us up and down as we said our own timid hellos. Overcoming his shyness he immediately wanted to start guessing which of our names was which, after that we were off, he took us on the the grand tour, which was heart breaking.

It wasn’t that he lived in squalor, it was more the depressing nature of the house, he had his own toy room littered with race cars and teddy bears, beautiful indicators that a child most certainly lived here. But it was as we walked towards his room that we spotted the holes in the walls and doors that we were consumed with the gloomy nature of this existence, we later found out these were caused by extreme temper tantrums and break downs. His bedroom was a typical little boys room, messy and littered with toys and clothes, we were introduced to his teddies, Bubbaloo, Buzz & Woody from Toy Story and the different pictures that littered the room and the house. A lot of effort was placed into fostering self esteem and identity, pictures of himself at places like Movie World and parks and playgrounds were a plenty, always with an uplifting message written alongside them, so many of the pictures were always of him alone.

We would later find out about the trouble he had making friends and adequately socialising and developing relationships with his peers, his situation being so uniquely different, coupled with behavioural issues that had struggled to be contained had left him with few friends and school and a social circle that extended to his neighbours, youth workers and other children in care who he would socialize with. He didn’t have anyone that he could really call a friend.

Dinner was Pizza, as Friday night was takeout night, we sat down to eat together and could see he was nervous and inquisitive, he wanted to know what we did, where we lived, what our house was like and pretty much every question you could imagine. At the same time he was eager to please, he wanted us to like him and was doing his best to make an impression on the both of us. We finished dinner and as the clock ticked away we decided to play a game of “Trouble” together. As we played he told us, matter of factly, that we were there because we wanted him to live with us, we told him that we were, if he wanted to and when he was ready.
That would be really cool” was his reply, we could tell he was trying to maintain his composure as his excitement built and truth be told we were trying to maintain ours.

Trouble, our first game together

Trouble, our first game together

I’ve never had 2 hours go past so quickly in my life, before we knew it we were being told that it was time to go, but as a parting idea we had been encouraged to take a picture together. Standing together with Flash in between us we got to capture our first visit together, we have the picture framed now and it sits proudly in our kitchen, he pointed it out yesterday when he came out for Breakfast and stated (as he routinely does),
“I remember when that picture was taken
I reminded him that it will be 2 years exactly in a couple of days since it was taken, he yelled,
“It’s our anniversary!” and took off through the house giggling to himself.

As we left we were given huge hugs and goodbyes, we promised that we would return as soon as we could, this was the start of the journey for all 3 of us and it had set all our hearts racing.

As the door closed behind us and we walked towards the car we heard an audible squeal of excitement and laughter coming from within the house as a certain someone struggled to contain his excitement. We drove down the road and pulled over at the park and got out.
We looked at each other and he simply turned to me and said

“I don’t think I’ve ever believed in love at first sight, until today”

“I couldn’t agree more”