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Free will or forever at the mercy of the past?

(24 Posts)
roadwalker Sat 08-Mar-14 23:20:52

This is something I have been pondering
Forgive me if I do not word it well, saturday night and a couple of glasses of wine to blame
I am often told to have endless sympathy for my DD's BM. My heart goes out to her for the loss of her children but not for the choices she made
This is where I struggle
By the laws of MN it seems that women are always victims of the past, men on the other hand are bastards who are always held responsible for their actions
If I were to believe this then the future is bleak for my DD and for lots of adopted children. They are victims whose future is already set
I know environment is crucial to a persons well being but I have to believe too in free will and choice

Italiangreyhound Sat 08-Mar-14 23:32:57

I believe we have free will. There are all kinds of things in life that can 'set us up' for problems, genetics, experiences etc. Whether we overcome those hurdles is a lot to do with the help we get along the way, the strengths we find within us, the way we look at life, and ultimately how we handle things once they happen.

I am a big of a believer in never giving up. It sees me still trying to aster Taekwan-do when I frankly crap at it! It got me married in my later 30s when lots of other people had already got married and it'll hopefully see my family extend to two children as I am not far off 50! If we can in any small way encourage in our children a tenacity of spirit, a desire for fun, a sense of self worth etc etc, we can maybe tip life's scales in their favour.

Although it is hugely understandable to agonise over the past, and the wrongs done to us or our loved ones, it does not change the future. If we have not already done so, if we can forgive those who hurt us, it will not help them, but it may free us.

In some ways I feel how we feel about our environment is almost more important than how it is, although there are exceptions, and of course real life is very 'real'! A gritty war zone is just that. Yet, aside from those extreme examples, please can find happiness and fulfilment in different areas of life and others who would seem to have the perfect environment actually struggle to ever be happy.

Hope that makes sense, thinking of you.

Italiangreyhound Sat 08-Mar-14 23:34:11

I am a bit of a believer in never giving up. It sees me still trying to master

NanaNina Sun 09-Mar-14 00:29:43

I know social workers will always try to ensure that foster carers and adopters are able to understand the birthmothers of these children and feel some sort of empathy for them. Most people on the adoption threads know I have a 30 year career (now retired) as a social worker and team manager of a LA fostering & Adoption team. During the prep course we always did a session on birthparents and the importance of not running them down in any way in front of the children.

I have seen many sad cases of abused/neglected children and I can honestly say I have never known such a case where the parents have not been ill treated themselves as children, have mental health problems/learning difficulties and sometimes a combination of all three. That is NOT to say that people who suffered trauma in their childhood will all go on to inflict trauma in their own children. In fact many will ensure that their child doesn't suffer in the same way that they did.

The parents I have come across over the years are often young, almost always emotionally immature (a big gap between their emotional and chronological age) so children trying to parent children really, have no support from their own family, financial problems, poor housing, domestic violence in the home, complete lack of understand of the child's needs. Many young mothers feel that the baby will be someone to love them (as they have never really experienced this) and then when they find this isn't the case, they are confused and unable to cope and may ill treat the child.

There will be many other reasons, but these are just a few, but I believe that these birthparents whose children are removed and placed for adoption will be amongst the most disadvantaged and deprived sections of our society. Psychologically they can be seen as victims but sometimes victims turn into perpetrators and we see this in all sorts of ways, including physical ill treatment, neglect and sexual abuse. Many sexual abusers were victims of such abuse themselves and this incidentally is true (though to a much lesser extent) of women as well as men.

I got into deep water on MN once as an adopter described the birthmother as "pond life" and I'm afraid I reacted rather strongly. The adopter was furious and told me that I had no idea what she had done to her child, well I probably had, and many other things too, and yes it is a tough one, because we want adopters to love the children and not think badly of the parents who caused them such psychological harm, and it's ok for social workers as they don't have to cope with the harm that has been caused to the children. I was however disheartened that many other adopters piled in to support the issue BMs being "pond life"

SO I suppose it's a matter for your own conscience at the end of the day and whether you are someone who can feel empathy for people who have never really had much of a chance in life, or whether you feel that that doesn't mean they had to inflict such harm on their own child. I believe that in the main we parent our own children in the way that we were parented although there are exceptions as I have outlined above. These parents of children who are removed will only have one model of parenting, the one they received themselves and the really sad thing is that so many of them don't believe they had a hard childhood, saying things like "well my dad hit me with a belt and it never did me any harm............"

Moomoomie Sun 09-Mar-14 08:36:28

Nananina... You do not need to introduce yourself on every thread, we all do know you, even if we don't agree on everything you say, sometimes I feel like you are the teacher listening into conversations between students, then adding your tuppence worth!
Roadwalker... I know where you are coming from, we are the ones having to live with the preventable mistakes of BM.
BM was not typical of an nananina description at all. I won't go into too much detail on an open forum.
She had many, many chances to change her lifestyle and addiction for the sake of her children, she chose not too, then wonders why her children were 'stolen' from her!
I think all we can do for our children now is be the best parents we can be, build resilience, be positive role models.
One piece of research I have read on FASD has been all of the above can really help a child affected, so, I hold onto this.

Kewcumber Sun 09-Mar-14 08:51:20

I was however disheartened that many other adopters piled in to support the issue BMs being "pond life"

Without wanting to restart a bunfight and because I think it is slightly relevant to this thread, if thats what you took out of that thread NN I think you missed the point "other adopters" were trying to make. Which was not that BM's are pond life - I'd be amazed if you could find one other similar thread saying that and we're hardly reknowned for keeping our opinion to ourselves!

Many of us were making the point that until you have lived with the (sometimes catastrophic) damage caused to your child by the person who they should have been able to trust and are at the end of your tether and come on to an anonymous support forum to vent that you don't need a lecture about how you ought to feel.

If someone smacks your toddler across the back of the head even if you know that person has learning difficulties, addiction problems etc your first reaction isn't to empathise with the parent. I think you were being unfair on someone living with the day to day effects of parental abuse/neglect who needed to vent who really didn't need a lecture about how she should feel. We have all felt like that to some degree or other at times when we're dealing with the issues our children might have and we identified with her and felt protective of someone who was going through a hard time. The issue really really wasn't about how any of us feel about the BP's of our DC's which is much more complex than "oh how sad of course we empathse 100% of the time" or "pond-life".

I don;t think one answer OP - some children will overcome terrible abuse and neglect and go on to live productive and fulfilling lives without even a model of good parenting, others with no abuse or neglect and a pretty decent set of parents will go completely off the rails. Of course children who have had a difficult start in life will be more prone to going off the rails but consistent good parenting can in my opinion make the difference.

The problem with the idea of free will is that it is impacted by intellectual and emotional capabilities, addictions and brain wiring. Free will operates within the capabilites of the person and those with a degree of empathy, no addiction issues, no self respect issues etc are likely to make better choices than those who don't.

Free will like so many other things in life) isn't a level playing field.

Inthebeginning Sun 09-Mar-14 09:53:20

Kew I was going to come on and hamfistedly give my view but I just want to say ditto the second half of yours grin I see students in my school who's behaviour, motivation etc is dreadful, some have had a lovely childhood and some it's a massive achievement with their home life, that they even get into school. Then there are some "model students" who have dreadful home lives and vice versa. (told you I couldn't explain it well. wink

On the other side, I think when you are living a very frustrating/upsetting/difficult time of your life you come on mumsnet to vent,to be comforted and supported and to heal. Unless you post in AIBU you don't come to be judged and told how to feel. This is definitely not why I come on our boards anyway.

roadwalker Sun 09-Mar-14 10:40:53

I do appreciate how difficult some peoples lives are and how little support they are given
I have worked in mental health services and have worked with people who had terrible, traumatic childhoods
This is not the case though in my DD's BM. She came from a typical family, had a good education and career. I know that I do not know everything that happened to her but, as she likes to play the victim, I am pretty sure she would have disclosed abuse. I know too that she had a lot of input and support

NanaNina Sun 09-Mar-14 17:10:26

Ok I get the message - sorry to have caused offence and I will keep away from threads like this in the future. I should have known better.

LastingLight Sun 09-Mar-14 17:25:04

Genetics, environment, experiences and the choices you make all play a role and it's not possible to predict how those will combine in any given person's life and what the outcome will be. The best we can do for our children is to give them the tools to become happy, competent adults. I don't think we need to look at BM's through rose tinted glasses. My dd's BM is dead and didn't abuse her, but from what I've gathered I don't think I would have like BM much if I had ever met her. I will never tell DD this, or even DH who was married to her, but I have the right to think it.

crazeekitty Sun 09-Mar-14 21:50:59

Ditto to lasting light.

We do have free will. For ever case the liberal sw above can cite of cycles of abuse being perpetuated in families I can tell you of adults and children I've worked with who have chosen not to repeat the behaviours of the parents and have done their damndest to get out of the social deprivation handed to them.

As for my thoughts on bm and bf of dd... The only way I can deal with them is to put them in a separate compartment in my mind and speak about them truthfully to dd but not pretend to like nor show dislike to them. Dunno how to maintain it at contact though.

Clake66 Mon 10-Mar-14 09:05:21

I read this last night around 2 am, couldn't sleep so went ferreting on the www and Italiangreyhound, could have been writing about me, 18 months ago, that would have been me. Though tai kwon do has no appeal! But what has happened sitting on the other side of the fence as a adopted child's grandmother has knocked the stuffing out of me. I do not have one friend who has not said, they will be glad when the get the old me back. Forgiveness is going to be difficult and most probably need to be earned and I will never be able to forget. I never ever thought I nor my family would be treated the way we have. I was always an advocate of the NHS. That has stopped. My experience with the Social workers involved unfortunately has more acutely honed my intense dislike of them and any I come across in the future will have to be pretty darned amazing to every get the time of day out of me. I was never one to hold a grudge, but this experience has left me with scars that will never heal. As much as I might need them to.
I would never have let myself think I was a victim, nor thought of my family as such. We are collateral damage. My grandchild is the victim of a terrible wrong that will now never be righted. My only hope is that things for her turn out as well or better than they would have done.
As for at the mercy of the past. I will grow hopefully grow old and die. Hopefully survive mentally intact to wait for a chosen visit.
The past months cruel effects will have little impact on me unless the trust I work for doesn't like being told some home truths from a relative of a baby they so badly let down. If the SCR is as bad as I hope it will be, knowing all the facts in the medical notes, the errors, the documentation and safeguarding failures along with the compounding failures of the SWTeam they will be in for a bumpy ride.
The parents however through no fault of their own apart from perhaps naively thinking they were doing the right thing torn to shreds by a social services department that needs to be investigated. Those social workers have laid seeds of destruction within our family and the mothers family that can only cause more mischief and misery for young adults. It will matter not one jot how much free will and self reliance these two have they are marked for a very unhappy and possibly childless future. Essentially at the mercy of their past. A past filled with blunders and lies. I often wonder how this would have turned out if I had not searched for the truth, sat back and played them at their own game. Trouble is no one told me the rules are changed to fit each and every situation.
I cannot begin to imagine how difficult it is for you to have to tell your children what happened to the to bring them to you. To have to deal with adolescent tantrums which are so much more muddled for their situation, the nearest I get is dealing with a insulin controlled diabetic son who used to use it to try and get his own way. Having to make choices impacting free will in some cases is to be denied both.
As for the comment re pond life. It is exactly how we were all made to feel. The scum of the earth. We were never held responsible for anything but our son will labelled as a child abuser forever and it cannot be overturned even if found not guilty in the criminal court. Even if he could get his gravy train legal team to appeal and they won it will never get him his daughter back, which has been stated rightfully so for her. All of us tarred with the same brush as Peter Connolleys mother. Just because I get my fair share of obnoxious, ill tempered, ill mannered and demanding patients and relatives, it does not mean I expect everyone to be like that. I do like a challenge though and usually manage their transit through my department trouble free. Do SW have holistic models to work with?
I often hear everything happens for a reason but I not sure what any of us, most of all my grandchild did wrong for this to have happened. What goes around comes around is the only thought that keeps me going. That and positive/constructive comments given to me elsewhere on MN.
This is not going to be a easy fix for anyone. At the root of all problems and complaints I have in my professional life communication is key and is so often lacking. Even if the communication is only happening one way as long as it's positive or constructive. My fate and the fate of my family lies in the hands of any goodwill of the adoptive parents. I hope once established and past the teething stages, communication with the adoptive parents may help mend some wounds until a few days ago I though would never heal.
As for the dozens if not hundreds of theories associated with upbringing affecting future. The future as someone has said, not fixed and you make choices. The choices left for our son have reduced to almost zero on a family future point of view. Unless he admits to the LA being right and him wrong they will never let him have a family of his own. Marked with the stain of guilt at the mercy of his past unless perhaps a social worker with a bucket load of common sense and a heart magically appears. Rare as hens teeth. He can choose to be a model citizen, to attend counselling, parent craft and the like but without a SW, an oxymoron if ever I saw one, who cares, he just as well might continue to think life is not worth living. I can only do so much. I have no influence on his options for the future. I think the options he was told about are just pipe dreams to keep him quiet.

I made the effort to show my children that they should 'Do as you would be done by' as was passed to me by my Dad. If only he were still alive to ask if there are exceptions to the rule.
Your heart goes out to her for the loss of her children you can do something about it. You cannot be expected to feel the same about her choices.

I at last have found people to give me hope where there was no hope. Those who should have been guiding me though this have treated me and my family with contempt. I could have made the choice to walk away and avoid the hurt but that then would have made me no better than the other professionals involved.

Italiangreyhound Mon 10-Mar-14 21:47:13

I'm so sorry for your loss Clarke I hope you find some peace in the midst of all this sadness.

Kewcumber Tue 11-Mar-14 10:00:37

As for the comment re pond life. It is exactly how we were all made to feel. I too am very sorry for your loss Clarke.

But please don't think that the "pond life" comment was in anyway representative of the norm of how adoptive parents on here feel about birth parents. You could read back through very thread on this adoption forum and I think you would find such comments vanishingly rare. It was one comment made by a parent really struggling to deal with a serious life long condition caused by a birth parent who was in prison for that offence.

It was a comment made over four years ago on a thread and I believe has only been mentioned in subsequent threads by NanaNina. It certainly isn't something you would need to worry about people in this forum thinking of you.

Its more likely that your real life issue in getting an maintaining contact with your grandchild will be the possible insecurity of the adoptive parents and the need for your grandchild to bond with her adoptive parents. I would love DS to be able to have contact with his birth family but I'm not sure I got to that place for a few years.

TeenAndTween Tue 11-Mar-14 13:08:05

Going back the the original question.

I believe in free will, with some early conditioning thrown in.

We talk to our DDs about the fact that when they are older they should be aiming to say they have succeeded despite their early start in life, not failed bacause of their early start in life.

However there are some things which seem to be so conditioned into our elder DD that she may never be able to throw them off entirely. What we can do is to help her understand why she thinks/feels as she does and if necessary to let her common sense override it.

Sadly some adoptive children have had so much negative early conditioning that they struggle to overcome it.

CheeryGiraffe Tue 11-Mar-14 15:25:36

I believe in free will. Although as with most things in life, I think there is a huge grey area where sometimes circumstances make it hard to exercise free will - and as such there will be situations where the ability to break free will be very, very hard. But with the right 'training' and adequate support it is possible.

Fusedog Tue 11-Mar-14 21:01:28

Children left with abusive or neglectful bp turn into abusive neglectful

That why we should be seeking to ensure the rights of the children are focused on not the wants of the parents which is the current situation

NanaNina Wed 12-Mar-14 18:52:49

If I dare comment again .....Fusedog you are of course quite right that children left with abusive or neglectful birthparents, will in most cases parent in the same way when they have their own children. And then of course you have to go back to the grandparents and their parents - it's known as the cycle of deprivation and no one (politician) or anyone else knows how to break into this cycle.

Please can I make the point that I am not saying that all people who suffered abuse or neglect in their own childhood will go on to parent in the same way. Indeed some of the people ensure that their children do not suffer in the way that they did as children. Incidentally I made this point in my first post to which people objected. I think however I have the right to post even though I am not an adoptive parent. Crazykitee if you re-read my post you will see that I made this point quite emphatically.

It might seem to you Fusedog that the parent's needs are put before the child's needs, given the number of children who have died at the hands of their birthparents/step parents etc., especially in Birmingham City Council and the Daniel Pelka case in Coventry. However after the death of Baby P in Birmingham, applications for Care Orders increased by some 50% and on the news last night, it was stated that child protection cases had increased by 40% following the Daniel Pelka case. I have read the Serious Case Review on Daniel and I'm not sure many people will know that the child was seen by a Community Paediatrician 3 weeks before he died and no concerns were raised.

Working in child protection is a very difficult and complex business. On the one hand social workers have a duty to work in partnership with parents and offer support rather than remove children, but at the same time have a duty make application for Care Orders where children are perceived to be suffering significant harm or likely to suffer significant harm. It is like walking a tight rope and small wonder there is a national shortage of experienced child protection social workers.

Right I'm off to crawl under a stone............!

crazeekitty Wed 12-Mar-14 19:20:13

Nananina are you trying to inform debate or just provoke and argument?

NanaNina Wed 12-Mar-14 20:57:56

CrazykittyI am certainly not trying to provoke - why would I. I was responding to Fusedogs post about children who are left with abusive or neglectful parents, and I know I'd already made the point about the cycle of deprivation in my OP. I was also responding to Fusedog's views about the needs of the children and those of the parents, and giving up to date information to demonstrate that there was more emphasis on the needs of children than was sometimes the case.

I was scrolling back to see just why my posters were taking exception to my posts. I then noticed your post of 9th March and the para about the "liberal social worker above" etc (I can't do that cut and paste thing) and noted that I had already made the point you were emphasising in the second para of my original post of 9th March. I was clarifying the issue - nothing more nothing less.

To be honest I am struggling to understand why you think I am trying to provoke or start an argument.

MiscellaneousAssortment Wed 12-Mar-14 22:57:11

I think that the women = victim, men = aggressors is a really significant cultural norm.

Obviously, i dont think it is in reality that simple or gender biased. I think that the victim status women tend to get labelled with isn't very helpful, to women or to society in general.

Being a victim at one point in life is not a reason to somehow be less responsible for your actions further down the line. It is a reason, one of many, and it is very sad when you can see a cycle like that. But does it instantly mean that it makes it ok? No of course not. I think it's a balancing act between being understanding which is good, and having lower expectations which is bad. Its so tricky.

I do know that breaking cycles is the way to help children have a good start, and even for adults, having the awareness and insight to set out to be different from the past... These are powerful forces.

Daisiemoo Fri 14-Mar-14 09:51:57

I too believe in free will. My dh and I are approved adopters (waiting and waiting for the match!). It was only during the home study that I realised how close my own upbringing had been with lots of these children who need to be adopted. I really hadn't thought about it too much, HS made me see how my early years had influenced my life and the decisions I have made to not become a parent in my 20's and 30's because there was no way I would treat my child how I was treated. I can honestly say I have been so determined not to be like my mum. I hope I am not!!
Gosh I feel really guilty writing that and sad, however mum was not my hero, she was a very special person in her own right and I loved her, but she wasn't great.
So the cycle can be broken, it does take time to heal and as long as you have support and determination you can get through anything.

Italiangreyhound Fri 14-Mar-14 14:07:16

Daisiemoo well done for breaking the cycle. Once you are matched it will fly by. Hope you are doing OK. Are you on the national register? If approved over 3 months you can go on it and go to national events like the one in May. The one we went to was in London but had agencies from all over the country represented. Good luck (sorry no desire to hijack thread!)

Daisiemoo Fri 14-Mar-14 15:20:15

Unfortunately we have been told by LA that their policy is 6 months before we can go onto the national adoption register. The LA are very frustrating we've been approved for nearly 2 months and not even been allocated our family finder yet!! We're going to start chasing them end of this month. Thanks for the link though Italian! X

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