It has been far too long since I’ve had an inspirational parent takeover on my blog. The last one was a fabulous interview from Jenny back in December. I never really stopped doing them, but I didn’t seek out people to take part either. That was until Martyn messaged me and said that he knew someone who he thought would be perfect for this interview series.
I already followed meandminimees on Twitter, but Martyn’s message made me take a closer look. Meandminimees is written under the pseudonym of Matthew Blythe. The writer is a single dad to two teenagers who he adopted when they were young children. He writes about the trials and tribulations of parenting teens and his writing is incredibly compelling.
I particularly love his post entitled The Chat. It is one of the most impactive blogs I’ve read on the topic of protecting children online. Please note, the photos included in this post are stock images to protect the identity of Matthew and his children.
1. Tell me about the most unexpected change to you as a person or to your life since becoming a parent?
The chaos. The utter chaos. Not knowing what is going to happen next. How you think you have all your plates spinning ok, then another appears, spinning in the opposite direction to the others, You have to keep them all spinning, or they all come crashing down. Then another one appears, and it’s made of glass…
2. What has been the biggest challenge you have faced since having children?
What ever the latest spinning plate has on it. Every time something happens, you get through it, and you think “what just happened?”, “how did that happen?” and how did we get through it. The old saying “This too will pass” is good, although when you are in the middle of something, you just want it to pass!
Earlier this year we had incidents of Mate Crime. My boys are vulnerable, and one of them was befriended by the local gang. Luckily they are all quite young, but the incidents escalated quite quickly, putting one of my lads at risk. The police were understanding and supportive to us.
3. What do you regard as your greatest achievement?
A year after the boys were placed with me we went to a celebration event, run by social services. We were chilling out, the boys were on the bouncy castle. A social worker came over to me and asked why I was there. I was confused to her question, but replied I was there with my boys, and pointed them out. She saw them and was clearly surprised. I asked he why she was surprised, she said, and I quote …
“Wow, we never thought you would last that long”
I was gobsmacked that she had even thought that would be appropriate to say, and simply replied, “I know, I am so proud of them for putting up with me…”
Some children who have been adopted have experienced profound trauma in the early years. Parents adopting them need support and understanding, not just hope.
4. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. What hasn’t killed you?
Attitudes of professionals – always thinking they know what is best for children with extra needs, especially those with complex needs due to the trauma they experienced when they were young, when clearly they have no idea what to do.
Attitudes of the ones who should have known better. The ones who have been trained to work with children have either nearly broken us a family or kept us together. Primary school was a nightmare. The staff were trained in how to restrain my children, but ignored any training to try to prevent them needing to restrain children in the first place.
Secondary school was an absolute lifesaver for us. They had undergone training, and also worked alongside me. They were simply awesome. We had the fantastic chance to work with an amazing therapist. She understood our needs and how to work with us a family. I honestly think if it was not for her belief in the boys and me, we would not be together now as a family.
5. Who inspires you?
My boys. Anyone to have lived with the daily trauma they experienced day in day out day in day out, for three and a half years like they did, are amazing. To think they are the cheeky, fun, inspiring individuals they are is incredible.
Their first Christmas we were together, after they had opened all their presents I asked them if they had got what they wanted, one simply answered “Yes, a family Christmas.”
After my Grandfather had died, I was feeling sad. At age 8, one of them realised I was sad, and said “Don’t worry, if you ever miss him, just put your arms around yourself and give them a hug, because they are always in your heart.”
When, even at 17, they both will still give me a hug and tell me they love me (especially when they don’t want anything in return – love money!)
6. I have just invented a time machine (and you thought you’d achieved something great). You can now go backwards or forwards to any point in time and deliver any message to any person, what’s your message and who is it for?
To go back in time to that social worker and say look at us now, look at us in the future, and to ask her what she and her team were going to do to help others to help them survive, because that’s what it is for some adoptive families. Yes some do OK, but a huge amount struggle, day in day out. Things are changing, but the professionals need to learn, read and learn again how children’s early life experiences have a profound effect on them. For adoption to work, parents need that ongoing support from professionals “get” it.
Can I go back in time twice? In for a penny and in for a pound….
I would go back to when my boys were babies. I would help and support their birth parents. I would get the professionals in to help and not judge. I would stop the awful things that happened to them. I know that I would then never meet them if I did that, but at least they would not have to experience what they did. They would not struggle day to day, trying to fit in to a scary, threatening world.
7. You have the opportunity to influence the entrepreneurs of the future. What life changing invention would you like to see on the drawing board?
I would send every professional on training on how trauma affects children. Even children who are taken into care at birth have experienced levels of trauma in the womb. War veterans who have post traumatic stress are slowly getting the support they need, children who have experienced neglect, abuse and trauma also need long term support, along with their adoptive parents.
8. I have waved a magic wand and all of your responsibilities have been taken care of for 24 hours. What are you going to do?
I struggled with this one. I don’t think about myself. I don’t plan things too much because they are usually scuppered. The more I thought, the more I included the boys, us as a family. No matter what is happening, we come back together. It sounds so cliched I know!
Right if you are adamant, for me, it would be somewhere in the middle of no where. A beach. With the sun going down, with an amazing sunset. Then on to a quiet bar with a group of friends.
With the boys – a theme park, with fast rides! Then on to a beach resort, with penny slot machines, ice creams and hot donuts. Finally down on to the beach to watch the sun go down.
9. How can parents best be empowered to properly balance a career and a family life?
To go to work and leave home life at home. Then when you leave work, to leave on time, and leave work at work. I once had had an awful day at work. I work in healthcare. We had a sudden death. It was a huge shock to everyone. When I collected the boys from after school club I was in a real grouch. One of the boys simply said “Dad, you have had a bad day at work, but that’s not our fault.” He was right. From then on, I left work at work.
10. You’re off for a night out tonight. Where will you go, what will you drink and what will be the topic of conversation?
A quiet restaurant. With a small group of friends, This week it would a bottle of Fleurie . Although any French wine I am happy. Conversation? Would end up about the boys, but if forced not to talk about them, it would be something funny.
That laughter when you laugh and you don’t know why. I don’t laugh as much as I should. I wish I could laugh more. That laughter when you are with someone you know well enough that you just have to look at them and you start laughing, to the point of hurting your stomach, unable to breath, and eyes watering…that laughing!