Sunday, 15 August 2010


She's three. She doesn't speak the same language as anyone else, everything looks and smells different from anything she has ever known, and everyone in her new world is a stranger except the woman who came one day and took her away from everything she knew, everything that she thought was her solid, reliable world. She misses her life up till now: all her normal sights, smells, habits, the routine of the orphanage. She's been in the UK for two months now. Her life up till now was in Russia. She's three and a half and has the sweetest little elfin look, a tiny Olga Korbett with a determined jutting chin and little legs that stand wide and strong, prepared for knocks.

Can you imagine being taken away from everything you ever knew, with no warning, no understanding and beginning a new life somewhere else with no contact at all with anyone you ever knew before, and no ability to even tell anyone what you missed or how sad you are? No ability to understand what the plans are for you? No understanding of what is going on or why? No wonder kicking the water really hard is a satisfying thing to do for little N-.
She is fighting the big old woman who has taken her away from her life and now is trying to control her. She's fighting hard all the time. Sometimes with rage, sometimes with fear, sometimes with frustration but mostly to see how her opponent will act, to test her out.

Her opponent looks as if she'd also love to lie on the ground and kick. She's white-faced with exhaustion, looked as if she might keel over flat into the kiddie playpool at any moment. Of the two, little N seemed to be holding up far better. She still has energy to kick her new mum in the face when changing into her swimsuit, still has the energy to lie on the ground and kick her heels when it was time to go. Her mum says that it's likely she'll still be up, banging and kicking, into the late night.

This new mum has been punched and shouted at night and day for two months with no one to help out. She's got no experience in how to parent an easy child, let alone one with all this grief and anger. She's wrestling with some silent guilt. Logically she knows that's N's future would have been bleak but she's aware that, from N's perspective, life may have taken a downturn at the moment. Sometimes, in the middle of the night when she's sill being kicked and hasn't slept she wonders whether she's bitten off more than she can chew. Like all new mums every relationship she's ever had has just changed, and some close family are being very hurtful about her decision to be a mother: her own mother is refusing to be called grandma. She's finding relationships with close friends hard. Some are fed up that she no longer seems to have time for them. Worse are some of the apparently supportive who misunderstand and say:" isn't it great she's so independent'," when little N rushes off into a crowd without a backward look. Her new mum knows this means she still hasn't forged the first beginnings of a viable attachment. They give her ice-creams when her teeth are still rotting and it gives her a sugar hit she's never had before, causing her to bounce off the walls most off the night. They look at this new mum's attempts to give reassuring boundaries in the way of a routine as her being a bit of a boring killjoy of a mum.

X and I met N and J in a cafe. I've never met another single adopter and neither had she . I empathised with her in lots of little ways: for instance when she had a little tirade against bigger families who act as if a family of two is not even a really a valid family, to be considered as having a say in arrangements. We had a playdate in the park. X and I ran around a lot with N while her mum slumped on the rug for a short while. Later N splashed her new mummy in the face with a great slice of water that ricocheted over them both. It was unexpected. They both broke into surprised laughter. It was a good little moment, a little glint of better times to come.

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