Being a parent is an incredibly exciting / daunting / thrilling / overwhelming experience (delete as appropriate). It’s not for everyone – there are people who are comfortably or heartbreakingly childless – but it seems to be an instinct in the majority of us.
Deciding to become a parent myself was a huge decision to make, given that I’m not in any kind of committed relationship. To choose to become a single parent is huge, and to choose to become a single father is even bigger. People have asked – usually to my mum, as they’re too reserved to say it to me – “How will he cope? He’s a single man, for heaven’s sake.” That whole concept – of a dad being lauded for activities a mum takes for granted – is a baffling one to me, and the subject of another column.
I’m adopting; my son won’t come home as a new-born baby, but as a school-aged child. He’ll have opinions and thoughts all of his own, and will have experienced a number of years that I’ve played no part in. I won’t have chosen his name, his background, or his life experiences up to this point – but I’ll have experiences with him every day after then.
Adoption is a huge commitment, in terms of your energy, your ability to reflect, and your determination to become a parent. I chose to go through an adoption agency rather than my local authority, purely because they were struggling at the time to match up the number of children they had in care with the number of adopters coming through. Going to an adoption agency meant an additional level of work but gave me a more national reach in terms of looking for children.
Six months after the initial visit from a social worker, and after a full medical, a DBS check, the social worker interviewing my parents and a number of close friends over many hours, and multiple meetings totalling hours and hours of our time – where I was interviewed on everything from my parenting style to finance, my upbringing and health, and my diet to friendships – I was approved by a panel of experts … and then started looking for a child.
And if that sounds a little harsh, then you’ll understand how I felt as I began this process. I was given access to a website where different child’s details were listed from a variety of local authorities around the country. The child’s social workers would list details about them – a little bit about their history, their personality, their looks, etc – and then you would have a discussion about the children you felt were a good match.
That was the hardest thing I think I’ve ever done in my life, and to try whittling down over 800 childrens’ details to anything like a few was emotionally draining. But I went through it for the sake of the child I knew was out there, waiting to be found by me.
And then I found him – after much searching and discussion, I was matched with the right child. Because of some bureaucratic wrangling, the second panel I have to attend, in his home district, was delayed from its original December date. As I write this column, I’m waiting for the new date and, once that’s done, my son’s room will finally come alive.
That was a frustrating blip in the otherwise smooth ride – having to wait a little longer – but I had the chance to meet my son recently (although he didn’t know who I was). When you hear the stories where parents say they fell in love with their child from the moment they met … I’d never understood how that was possible. But now I do; he is an absolutely amazing human being, and I was in love right away.
When he comes home, my quiet, orderly life will be transformed into one of school, play dates, emotional ups and downs, and so much else, but I’ll also gain the privilege of raising a child to be the best he can possibly be … all by being given one simple title; Dad.