I have come to the conclusion that the great benefit of children’s birthday parties is to remind you that, actually, your own kids are relatively polite and well behaved. I only got my teacher voice out three times, though.. and I don’t know whether the two eight-year-olds in question quite knew what had hit them because they were quite subdued for.. oooh, at least three minutes!
I thought I had it sussed, actually. I booked Smudgelet and three of his friends into a craft session all morning, had an hour to feed and water them, and then the five of us were booked into a puppet theatre session (The Frog Prince) for an hour in the afternoon. Pain free and delightful, and not too expensive – who’s a clever mummy, then? Hmmm.. the bit I’d forgotten was the hour spent feeding and watering them and actually having to be in their company and deal with their rather over-excitable and undecorous behaviour. Smudgelet had the decency to look really embarrassed at their antics and actually handled the situation incredibly well.
I can’t believe he’s eight already. It seems only yesterday that the phone call came. I can remember it so clearly. “Smudgie, wait until you hear everything I have to tell you before you make up your mind, but how would you feel about taking on a three year old?” Me being a single working mum, the adoption panel had only approved me to adopt over-fives and above and had explained that there was no possibility of me being considered for pre-school. But here he was, waiting for a home (and with little prospect of one, for certain reasons) and here was me waiting for him.
It was a nightmare time – there were so many unforseen snags and hurdles to leap and battles to fight. And one horrendous day when I was going to meet him for the first time and was headed off at the front gate by a social worker who said they weren’t willing for me to see him unless I agreed to accept him without an allowance there and then. I’d argued hard and long for the allowance to be granted (for reasons I can’t explain here, of course) and panel had approved it, but here was this social worker refusing to let me see him. It was like the nasty bit of a fairy-tale, as she took me back to the office and shut me in a tiny room with just two chairs and a telephone and a barred window, and left me there, high above the carpark three storeys below. Many frantic phonecalls later to my poor harrassed social worker who was on her day off but was battling for me on the other end of a phone line, I was there alone and in tears when I saw in the carpark below the only other social worker on that side of the solent that I actually knew – a senior member who had first approved the match. I waved and shouted frantically, and God be praised, he saw me and came racing to the rescue – my knight in shining armour – and plied me with coffee and chocolate biscuits and stories of battles won while he mobilised the troops and got everything sorted.
And then there I was, in Burger King, face to face with my new son over a strawberry milkshake. They reckoned it was textbook stuff – though shy at first, he insisted we put two straws in the same drink and drink together, putting his hand over mine as I steadied the cup. I was in love.
There followed several weeks of me gradually taking over the care for him within his foster home, taking him to stay with me for a day, bringing Tiddles over to meet him on his fourth birthday (a whole year from him being suggested to me to us actually meeting – and most pregnancies only last nine months), having him to stay for longer….. and then at last the day came when our family of two became three and he was firmly established as my new son.
And now here he is, eight years old. Incredibly tall – I couldn’t quite take in that the bike I’d bought for him to grow into is actually just the right size for him now! Rather toothy as he’s currently at the high-income stage of trading teeth with the tooth fairy for extortionate prices. Gaining in maturity and confidence slowly but surely. And absolutely scrumptious. And there he was on Friday night having his first taste of going to Cubs. Surely he’s only just settled into Beavers? Surely? I remember buying his uniform.
In fact, wasn’t it only a few weeks ago that I stood there in the playground of his nursery school, having a “sneak preview” to confirm this was the boy I wanted to become part of my family.. and thinking with a sinking heart that I actually didn’t like the looks of him very much? He was standing, with children playing all around him and him just staring vacantly into space. A child with no spark, and a sulky one at that. As I followed the group indoors for “song time”, I was frantically trying to think what I was going to do about this child that I’d fought so hard to be matched with and now found I just didn’t take to at all? I sat along the line from where he was, chatting with a little girl who obviously had decided I was her new best friend. But what did I find? A little boy at the far end of the line was playing peepo with me over the heads of the others. He had a knowing smile, as if he’d sussed why I was there and what I was up to. The nursery teacher asked for volunteers to go out to the front and sing to the other children, and all of a sudden my little man was up there by his teacher, singing his alphabet strongly and confidently for all he was worth, with a wicked little grin in my direction and his sparkly diamond-blue eyes just emanating “go on, love me”.
And here he is, my baby. To celebrate being eight, he’s started pottery classes, made his first pot, and started to learn to use a potter’s wheel. (I was particularly impressed because he didn’t make a fuss when it all went horribly wrong, just said “I can learn from that how to do it better next time” and moulded it back into a ball). He’s started Cubs, as I said, and thoroughly enjoyed it. And he’s played in his first football match and, despite nipping off the field at one point to ask me if I thought there’d be time to play with his new Scalextric car before bedtime, he was awarded “man of the match” for his sportsmanship and enthusiasm.
I may complain about them sometimes, and believe me I do, but I am such an incredibly lucky mum. My two boys do me proud.