During Stage 1 of the adoption process we were asked to create what was called an “Eco-map” to represent the family, friends and co-workers who we thought made up the network of people who would support us during the approval process and after we adopted our child/children.
When we were thinking about who to put on the map we didn’t really have to do so too hard. We both have quite close-knit families so brothers, sisters, mums, dad, and grandparents immediately went on to it without a second thought. We then considered extended family and put a few aunts, uncles, and cousins who we saw regularly on it. After that came friends and we added a number of them who have children that were or would be around the same age as the children we had hoped to adopt. We had been open with our colleagues about our plans to adopt and had been met with nothing but positivity so they went on there too. We ran out of space on the piece of paper, so we had to trim some down.
The eco-map was presented to our social worker as part of the stage 1 workbook which they received at the end of that stage, and formed part of one of our stage 2 assessment sessions.
It was commented how big our support network was based on our eco-map. This did confuse us because we knew we had trimmed down who we had put on it, and could have put more on if there had been space. Having family and friends around us to lean on was just part of our lives so we hadn’t really thought anything of it.
When I look back and analyse this, I think that perhaps the social worker was right. I think about how incredibly lucky we have been to have been presented with nothing but positive reactions to our decision to adopt children from our closest friends, family and even colleagues. Not in the least part because we are a same-sex couple and there is still a far-too-large number of people out there who think that we shouldn’t be allowed to be parents. Mostly the older generation and people who are self-proclaimed authorities on religious doctrines on the matter.
But, we had the support of every generation of our families, from the 80 year-old grandma to the youngest cousin that we have. All were behind us.
So now we are nearly two years into our family life with our sons, has anything changed from what we thought might happen? Has our support network stuck around?
Yes. For the most part. The only person who we dearly miss from our support network is my husband’s mother, who sadly passed away a month or so before we were matched with our children. The advice and support which she, as a retired nursery school teacher, could have given us will always be sorely missed, as will she.
Every single other person who we put on our eco-map is still there, my husband’s family and my own Mum have rallied around us to help to try to fill the void left behind by my mother-in-law. We regularly arrange play-dates with our friends who have children, enriching the social skills of our boys. My work is still allowing incredible flexibility surrounding my need to take the odd day off at short notice to deal with child related things. Not only that but we have added people to it, people who we met along the way, people who understand adoption and children from care more than anyone in our existing network.
We are lucky to have all this still, many don’t. Our children are not currently displaying any difficult behaviour which can trigger so many relationships with family and friends to break down.
My Youngest son does occasionally bite if he is over-stimulated, which actually makes me paranoid about letting him socialise more than it seems to bother other parents. His triggers are generally being told ‘no’ and being stopped from being ‘helpful’, all of which are easily avoided or redirected. My Eldest gets worried by the unfamiliar, when he triggers he triggers silently and shuts himself down. It’s hard to see him do that, and it doesn’t happen often anymore, but because this behaviour is not violent or aggressive it is sometime overlooked as a problem.
If their behaviour ever escalates to something more harmful to others, do I think that our support network will still be there to help us? I like to think so. Throughout our short parenthood so many of them have been asking questions, not the annoying adoption related questions that we all tend to get, but useful questions, good questions. When it comes to our children they follow our lead, enabling the consistency we strive to achieve to remain as much as possible.
Time will tell, as always, but for now we couldn’t ask more of our support network. Our friends. Our family. Our loved ones.