School is once again filling up most of our days and the much needed structure is back to help the boys navigate through the adoption world. I am also able to carve some much needed self care time out for myself to chill and to let you all know how our first ever family holiday went…
My parents live in a different country, which made it impossible for the children to meet their new grandparents until now. We were told from day one NOT to ask for passports for the boys before the Adoption Order is granted as it is highly unlikely we would get them (BM not cooperating and all). The boys came to us just weeks before the summer holidays last year and the council was kind enough to pay for 6 weeks of holiday club. We didn’t want to spend another six weeks being stuck here so we asked anyways and after much drama we finally got passports for the boys under their current names. That meant I bought flight tickets for 1 family with 4 different names. What could possibly go wrong???
Can’t travel without a Parental consent
This was the next hurdle we had to tackle. Legally we are still nobody to our children, so we needed a ton of paperwork from the LA from parental consent to leave the country to flight details, address and contact details in the visiting country. We were also given a copy of our Matching Panel report and permission from the Head of Services that we are indeed OK to take them out of the country. Since we had to change the already booked flights we had to go through this loop twice – we got the last documents a day before we flew.
We aimed to be at the airport way before the suggested 2h period in case we have problems with any of the paperwork. As it turns out, NOBODY asked for any of the paperwork! Not at check-in, not at the security gates, not at passport control, not at boarding. I thought it was odd, but surely they would ask for it upon arrival there. Well… again, nobody cared! I sent a message to the SW letting her know how easy it was to ‘take 2 random children out of the country’. I shared this with fellow adopters and was told probably they will give us a hard time when we come back to the UK. Again, to my utmost surprise, nobody asked for anything when we returned a few weeks later.
Meeting the grandparents for the first time
This one can be tricky for any adopters/foster carers as our parents and in-laws didn’t choose this path; we did. Naturally anticipation was high on every side! Kids were looking forward to it, I was nervous as I knew my parents and my parents were excited to finally have THEIR grand kids. I wrote like that as it was clear from early on that they don’t care much about the children’s past or how that shaped them, they were looking at it from their perspective only; finally my mum wasn’t just a mum among her grandma friends, but one of them! That put an interesting spin on things.
Luckily we needn’t have to worry! They have bonded in NO time! It was beautiful to see, even despite some language barriers it was apparent that love needs no words! My parents did what every grandparent is expected to do: spoil them rotten! Not just with sweets and toys, but also offering them 3-4 types of food for each meal ‘in case they didn’t feel like eating their favourites right now’, which has caused some challenges once we returned home as 8 in particular developed an even more picky attitude.
It was very interesting to see how the boys behaved with my parents. During the first week they were in the ‘Honeymoon stage’. Everything was wonderful, no issues, just cuddles and kisses and smiles. And obedience! By the second week the boys got over the initial excitement and they started testing the boundaries. To give me a break my dad took the boys to the hot spa pools and told them where to stay and which pools to avoid, since they don’t know how to swim. My dad only looked away for a second, 7 was already heading for the deep pool. My dad was very cross with him, but covered it up beautifully. When they returned he told me so 7 got a big telling off from me, because A) he needed one B) I knew he can take it from me, not from grandpa and C) this way grandpa is still ‘the best grandpa ever‘ 🙂
8 loved playing with grandpa in the sand, in the water, in the dirt, in the park, in the playground, in the house, in the pool, in the garden…etc. I know he was very fond of him, because he told me ‘Mum, I will leave my new digger here so grandpa can play with it while I am away!’ Aaaaaaaww
Meeting the extended family
My brother was there as well for a few days with us and the kids were over the Moon to have an uncle. Again, uncle P could do no wrong! He was totally out of his depths but to his credit he managed OK. We also had a day where my cousin and her family came for a visit so the boys suddenly gained some cousins, too. Both boys bonded well with their cousins; 7 especially! He kept on referring to the other children not by their first names, but as ‘MY cousin said this’, ‘MY cousin wants a…’ He was so thrilled to be part of a greater family!
Going to a new country has lots of perks, especially when you had no idea what to expect. The ‘mum, they still drive on the wrong side’ became somewhat boring after a few days, but since we returned the boys often played with their toys and I overheard 7 telling 8 to ‘let’s drive on the non UK way today’. I was glad to see both boys embraced their new ‘heritage’ amazingly well and ate local food like the locals. They even enjoyed some weird meals that even my husband wouldn’t touch! 🙂
The boys had so many firsts! The most memorable was going to a beach of a LAKE! 7 was shocked that regardless of the time of the day the water levels were the same. He was really missing the tides! 🙂 I told them they can play further in as the lake was shallow enough even when they went waaaaaaay in. It was a fresh water lake and 8 really enjoyed drinking from it. A lot! Then he asked me where to go when he needed the loo. I told him to just go to the lake. Bless him, he walked into the lake, the water was barely reaching his knees and he just relieved himself in front of lots of people. I was mortified! We managed to further deepen the bad reputation of British tourists abroad…. 😦
7 loved the lake so much! He kept on nagging me to go in to play with him and as the temperature was almost 40 C and no clouds I was more than happy to go in to cool down. One day we went deep in. Out of nowhere he said ‘Mummy, pretend I am a baby and I am drowning.’ Before I could blink he started to splash water desperately and shouted ‘Mummy, save me, save me!’ I quickly ‘rescued’him and we cuddled in the water. I told him ‘I want you to remember this special moment forever, you, me, cuddling in this lovely lake with the sunset behind us’. He smiled then jumped away from me saying ‘Poof, look mummy, it’s 7 years later now and I can swim now!’ (he still can’t but that’s besides the point). For once I was able to recognise that we were having A MOMENT where he is working hard to rewrite his sad past so I went along and told him ‘oh look, we are back in our special lake now where mummy rescued you when you were a baby’. I can’t describe the volume of his bright smile as he jumped back into my arms and said ‘Yessssssss!’ 🙂
A few tips to save you some headache:
- If you can, send some things ahead. I have bought some second hand English books and toys that I knew the kids would love, but was unsure if we could get there. They worked like a charm. Grandma gave the boys something new each day thus quickly becoming the ‘best grandma ever’.
- I bought the boys some cheap summer clothes; the goal was for them to survive a few weeks only. I had no intention of bringing them back as A) British summer – nuff said B) that way I wasn’t worried if they ruined it C) they would be too small by next summer anyways
- I packed the boys’ favourite toys, teds and their pillow cases to have something familiar with them.
- Before leaving the house we took pictures of the boys in each room in case they feel homesick while we are away. Luckily we didn’t have to use them, but just the fact we took the pictures put the boys’ mind at ease.
- On the flight it’s better to sit in a block as opposed to in a row for 4 people. Since it was their first ever flight both kids were glued to the window and naturally they ended up fighting! On the way back hubby was sitting with 8 in front of me and 7 so we had the kids separated, they both had a window each and I could spend some quality one-on-one time with my little one.
- The best tenner ever spent was on 2 cheap no name MP3 players I bought for the boys on eBay before the trip. I uploaded about 2 h worth of their favourite music (the same list for both boys) and that kept them not only quiet, but happy too while we waited at the airport.
- Another good trick we found was to have a meal at the airport while we wait to kill time!
- But even if you had a lunch there, it’s good to have some snacks in your bag. On the way home we boarded the plane, but they found some problem with the AC system and we couldn’t leave till they fixed it. We were stuck on that plane in 38C with no AC for about an hour. Some snacks and tiny cheap toys saved our sanity!
- You can always order a photo book or prints online afterwards. I am not promoting any sites, not getting any commission so I will not give you any affiliate links, but I found at the end of the summer most companies offer good deals. I just finished creating a Photo Book and it comes with 2 for 1 so I can send one to my parents to remember the fun times and keep one in the house so the boys can touch it and look at it whenever they want to.
In all honesty I have enjoyed our first family holiday together a lot more than I expected! We didn’t have any adoption-related meltdowns and the boys really behaved exceptionally well.
But I am also very glad school has started already… 🙂