It’s 20 minutes before the head teacher, Mr Hovers, rings his huge bell right into my unsuspecting face (not a euphemism, naughty), signalling the children to join their chaotic queues in the playground. We’ve just set-off in the car and we’re sitting in a static traffic jam on the city’s inner-ring road. We haven’t moved for a minute or two and it’s hammering down, like literally raining so hard that I can barely see.
I’m starting to wonder whether the school up the road has any space, despite the fact (as mentioned back when we were looking for a decent school) that it looks like the inner-city school from Sister Act 2. At least we’d be able to walk there, even if we do risk the occasional mugging.
A lady in a Nissan Micra zooms up the inside lane and cuts in front of me, raising a ‘thank you’ hand. Bloody cheek.
Richard, sitting in the back of the car has his eyes closed tight, banging his head against the headrest behind him, causing his little face to go bright red. We all jump up with shock as Lyall (in the front next to me) turns Clean Bandit’s Rockabye Baby up to full volume. I quickly grab for the volume knob, only to realise that Lyall’s activated the satnav, inadvertently turning the navigation woman right up to maximum volume too, with a piercing “CONTINUE ON THE RING-ROAD FOR ONE MILE”. I bash the knob to turn it all off, receiving a moment of blissful serenity (by comparison).
After ten minutes-or-so, reaching the end of the traffic jam, with relief I happily escape the ring road and join the country lane towards the school, just a couple of miles to go.
Pulling up in the car park across the playground from the school, I instruct the boys to don their jackets and to get out carefully without bashing their doors into the enormous Landrover next to us.
“We don’t have any jackets Daddy” says Richard, sat happily in a pair of summer school shorts and a neat little red polo top, hair looking smart in a nice side-parting.
“What? Why not?” I yell, possibly a little too loudly.
“You told us to put our jackets into our school bags though”.
“…Yes, so where are they?”
“In our bedrooms.”
Lyall pitches in, “You told us to put our shoes on, so we couldn’t go upstairs and get them”.
“Why the bloody hell didn’t you tell me this before we left in the rain??”
With only minutes to spare, all of us huddling under a big rainbow umbrella, I deliver two extremely under-dressed boys across the playground, through the gates and to their classrooms (luckily there’s no bell-in-the-face or queuing when it’s raining). I mutter a quick apology about the lack of raincoats to the soaked teaching assistant who’s been assigned to stand outside ushering the kids in. She isn’t wearing a jacket either, and looks absolutely freezing, as though she’s just done the (incredibly annoying) freezing bucket challenge thing from a few years back.
Feeling more than a tad guilty I head back home along the ring road to fetch the boys’ school bags.
Naturally, on rearrival at the school 45 minutes later with the boys’ bags and coats, the sun is beaming and the sky is blue and clear. Typical!
This little (insignificant) incident got me thinking about adoption and particularly the importance of routine for adopted children.
When Tom and I were negotiating the adoption process back in 2013, we were introduced to the idea that cared-for children have usually experienced a turbulent, complicated start to life.
Richard and Lyall, like many children in foster care had been looked after by numerous carers with several disruptions (social-worker lingo for ‘not working out’). Whilst their penultimate foster home was loving, positive and secure, each carer had their own routines, expectations, values and parenting styles.
So, in the months leading up to our placement (or, what the boys affectionately refer to as ‘moving in’) Tom and I set about planning a daily routine. This seemed a little trivial at the time, like a proverbial box to tick within our adoption application, however routine quickly became pivotal to the success of our family.
Our initial routine plan included
getting up time and breakfast
When the boys eventually ‘moved in’ we initiated our routine unambiguously with a poster on the fridge to avoid any confusion (despite that the boys couldn’t quite read back then). The new routine left nothing to chance and the boys were able to settle in with their exciting new dads without any worry about what might happen and when.
In the early days of placement, our routine was accompanied by reassurance about the ‘forever’ nature of our family, to remove any concern that the boys would be moved on ever again. We would frequently remind the boys that we’re going to be their parents forever (yes Lyall, even when you’re 60 babe) and we’d deliberately talk about plans for future holidays, school and our future as a family over dinner or during car journeys. This approach to family life might sound a little contrived, or regimented, but as the boys settled in and the poster eventually made its way to the recycling tray, the routine continued with the kids’ full approval.
As our family evolved over the years, so has our routine, with school, homework, playing outside, video games and friends getting involved. Almost everything has a boundary attached, however flexible or inconspicuous.
Our routine isn’t written down anymore, but it still sits firmly at the throne of our family, keeping the boys settled and comfortable.
Photo credit: Gabriele Diwald