Two Dads, one very opinionated son.

Our Foster story, the journey from strangers to family.


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Pride

Sometimes you can choose to take a hiatus from the hustle and bustle of life, but sometimes life can also choose to put you on a hiatus and you’re left looking at your life from a distance, evaluating everything you thought you knew.

It’s a struggle to get perspective, looking back on how far you’ve come and feeling like the end game is further away than it’s ever been whilst contemplating if there is ever to be an end game is the hardest thing.

Life changes and throws you curve balls again and again, but it is tenacity and love that gets you through and our little family has that in abundance.

He stands at 6 feet, 2 inches, eyes dark and brooding, his unruly curly hair poking out from underneath his backwards turned cap, he smiles shyly at compliments as his eyes light up with pride like clouds parting from across the sun. It’s been a few weeks, I remind him he needs to shave again, he scowls.

Although he’s only an inch taller than us both, it begins to feel like he towers over us now. He’s tall and goofy, still a bubbling bundle of energy that seems to have an endless power source as he powers ahead through life. Despite his energy he grunts and drags himself around the house at the best of times, sometimes forcing a “good morning” or a “hello” out of him is more of a struggle than it used to be to get him to take a shower of a morning. But underneath this sullen facade is a tenacious young man who’s proven his resilience against life is stronger than that of anyone three or four times his age. He is truly unstoppable.

Teenage years are hard, that’s generally a given but for him it seems as though they have been compounded, forced him to grow up quicker than his brain may have been ready for and made him learn life lessons about fearlessness, forgiveness and perseverance that take grown adults years to conquer.

We’ve survived four years of high school so far, with two left to go. Four years and five schools is not an easy road to travel, it’s creates more baggage than someone his age should have to shoulder but perhaps it was a journey he needed to take to help him discover a sense of self, independence and identity. He’s discovered the cruelty of other children that struggle to understand the new kid who’s wired a little differently but also the struggle of an education system bursting at the seems with kids needing assistance and finding their time for a kid who just doesn’t quite get it isn’t as high as it should be. Ducking and weaving through schools and the nightmares of social stigma and academic struggle has been hard, but he’s continually overcome and through it all he’s discovered so much of the good in this world. The friendships that last beyond schools, the teachers who truly do care and inject a sense of self belief and the love of a family so large and unconditional it takes my breath away.

After four years, he may have finally settled, just a little.

School resumes soon, but with a different twist. This year, he’ll enter this senior years as a school leader, a mentor to the year seven students. It’s the tiniest journey that he’s pushed himself through so ferociously, fighting his own demons of self doubt, learning self control, empathy and understanding. To be recognised, trusted and given the opportunity to prove himself like this at school is a first and although he’s buried his pride about it as deeply as possible, for fear of letting out his real emotions, he’s proud, so damn proud of himself and he should be. Not only does he start the year afresh, he enters senior school having finally passed every single subject and having no suspensions for an entire term. An achievement we all quietly cheer for, he shares the pride of those around him, but would prefer to play minecraft than talk about it. He’s been tutored by some amazing, caring and talented people who he sadly left behind before moving schools, they set him up with not only the foundations of the skills he needed, but the confidence to try, to have achieved without them was even more rewarding.

Friendships have grown and in turn has his confidence. Spending his 16th birthday at dreamworld with four very different friends was an exceptional validation for his self esteem and an amazing testament to his growth as a young man. The experience of friendship as a permanency and not a fleeting idea or moment has shattered a wall of isolation he built around himself for so long and has seen him realise his worth as a person to other people is far more than he imagined.

Independence is his latest badge of honour for the new year, over the holidays securing not one, but two jobs at local restaurants waiting tables and washing dishes. Despite his protestations at the thought of working in a kitchen again the pay cheque at the end of the week turned his objections around. He has independence and money to finance his new addiction, his phone. A shiny 2nd hand IPhone 5c has become his latest toy, over taking his life as he discovers the relentless joy of having music plugged into his brain on a constant cycle. Whilst it’s a draining addiction it also gives him his own little ways of communicating since he seems incapable of words.

From the depths of the dungeon that is his bedroom there is silence, except for the faint screech of his headphones as they blare at full volume, from the verandah where I sit drinking my coffee in my own solitude my phone buzzes.

“I love you dad”

He may not be perfect, he may not be “there” (wherever “there” is) but for the first time, in maybe a long time, he is happy and safe again.

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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
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Pick your battles

Generally I’m a calm, rational and patient parent, after all we’ve been through as a family not much can really shake my patience.

But there’s always that one time, that time were your patience is tested by such inconceivable child logic that you can literally feel your brain on the verge of imploding inside your skull.

Breakfast was finished and the morning off to a lovely start. As I sent him off for a shower I reminded him,
“Don’t forget to back your bag for school when you’re done sweetheart”.

I continued about my morning preparations, listening to his shower medley for the day, consisting of Grease, Adele and Justin Beiber, belted at the top of his lungs of course. The usual morning noises continued, doors and drawers opening, closing, rustling, shaking and squawking. Twenty minutes later he emerged, dressed and ready, school bag in one hand and book in the other.

“I’m ready” he stated as he plonked himself down on the couch and buried his nose into his book, a practice he has taken to of late.

As I returned from the kitchen with his lunch box in hand I asked,
“Have you packed your bag?”
“Yep”
Opening his bag I was baffled to find it was empty, completely empty, barren, not even a single book thrown in for good measure.
“Mate, there’s nothing in here, why did you lie about that?” I queried calmly.

He turned to me with a look of utter bewilderment, a look he conjures up often, for dramatic effect.
“What?”
“There’s nothing in here” I repeated in exasperation.
“But, I packed it!”
He looked at me with such earnest conviction, the bag was empty, we were the only people in the house, what did he expect me to believe had happened to his bag?

“Mate, if you had packed your bag wouldn’t there be something in it?”
He got up, looked at the bag and gazed at me dumbfounded.
“But, I did pack it!”
“Then where are your books?”
At this point he chose the response that every parent loathes, the one that makes the muscles in your face start to involuntarily twitch and body convulse, he shrugged.

Attempting to maintain some form of composure and not completely lose my mind I asked him,
“If you’d packed your bag, wouldn’t there be something in it it?
Again, as though attempting to tear away shreds of my sanity moment by moment he stared blankly and responded
“I dunno?”
Blood pressure rising and grey hairs slowly starting to form across my skull, I tried again, surely I could highlight the logic of this situation to him?
“There is nothing in this bag, it is completely empty, no-one else is here to have unpacked it. You have not packed your bag, have you?”
His eyes widened, as they started to glisten with tears his bottom lip started to tremble,
“But… I did!” He sobbed quietly.

Was I missing something? A magical pocket contained within the bag that made all these books seemingly invisible? I walked into his room as calmly as I could, he followed me close behind. There sitting atop his desk were his pile of school books, precariously stacked and completely unmoved from the day before. He stared at them, appearing shocked. The evidence lay before us like a crime scene, untouched and painting the clearest of pictures. Now of course I was going to get a human response!

“There you go, they’re right here. You haven’t packed them mate, it’s plain as day.”

I’m sure he must have been possessed, clearly something other worldly was taking place in his brain, there was no other explanation.

“I did, I packed them!” He exclaimed.

“If you had packed them then they would have been in your bag, they’re not! You’re bag is empty and your books are right here!” I screeched at a volume so high pitched every dog in the neighbourhood started to howl. Any higher and glass would have started to break.

There wasn’t much more of this logic my brain could take, slowly but surely I was starting to doubt my own sanity, was this a Jedi mind game or a war of willpower?

I stared at him for a moment as I took a few deep breaths.

“Mate, I don’t know why you’re continuing to lie about this but right now you need to pack your bag so we can get you to school”.

He went to speak, I had to cut him off.

“No, no more, please just pack your bag, now.”

There was just no logic to this situation, this wasn’t something that he could possibly lie himself out of, the evidence was being presented to him plain as day. Somewhere in his head the lies and the truth were rolling together, somewhere in there perhaps he thought he was telling the truth?

This time there were books in his bag, no magical powers had removed them. We headed to the car and started for school, calmer and ready to settle this before we arrived I figured he was ready to accept the situation.

“Darling, do you understand why dad was getting upset don’t you?”

Eyes downcast and not looking at me, he mumbled a response.
“Yes”
“Great, so mate obviously you could see then that there was nothing in your bag, you clearly hadn’t packed anything in there.”

He must have wanted to push me over the edge, surely, there was no other explanation, he turned and looked at me again.
“I did pack it though” he said quietly.

Slowly and carefully I pulled the car over to a gentle stop on the side of the road. I stared at him intently, trying to read his expression, attempting to find something to give away what was going on in there.

“Mate, ok, do you think that maybe, perhaps, you thought about packing your bag? Maybe you thought about it so much that you just think that you must have packed it, even though you can see that it wasn’t packed? Do you think maybe that is what happened?”

A moment of realisation flickered across his eyes. Either I’d struck the nail on the head or he’d found a way out. Regardless I finally got something.

“Yes…” He murmured.

Success!

There’s no telling what happened that morning, what was going on in his head or why he just couldn’t acknowledge what was going on. Regardless it was another lesson in trying to understand his mind.

I called my darling partner to debrief later that day, his response was simple.

“You know, sometimes you need to just pick your battles”.

Yes, yes you do.