Children grow up and away from you in a thousand small degrees; it’s never all at once, but it does slowly happen. For this week, in our home, it was fingernails; Bryan wanted to cut them himself. He wanted me to show him how to do it properly, then he wanted to try and take his time getting it all done.
I recognise that I’ve spoken about two vastly different subjects in the last two weeks; the Kent Test last week and fingernails this week. But each topic is important; fingernails are an indicator he wants to be that little bit more independent and responsible for something, and it made me both happy and sad – happy because he wants to try something new, no matter how small, and sad because I enjoyed the connection of doing that small act of kindness for him.
But, of course, parenting is about encouraging independence as much as it is about a hundred other things. I suspect there are still more parts to being a good parent than I’ve not fully discovered yet; I’m still learning about being a dad as much as Bryan is learning about himself and who he wants to be.
I was surprised (and pleased) to hear from Barnardo’s this week, the adoption agency which had got me trained, checked, and approved as a prospective adoptive father four years ago. There’s no statutory checks in place for adoptive parents after the family court judge makes it all legal, but many adopters stay in touch with their agencies for the training they offer in particular and – sometimes – the social opportunities.
Part of the adoption training all prospective adoptive parents go on is a three-day course; when I did it, it was all in person in Ilford, Essex, and I was the only single parent on the course with four couples. I’ve not stayed in touch with any of them, but I’m occasionally curious as to how they’re getting on; did they all get to complete their own families in the same way I did? I hope so.
But one of the sessions included a talk by different adoptive parents who had been through the process and out the other side; they were now parents and were at the “coal face” if I can describe it like that. One of them was a single parent, and she was fascinating; it was wonderful to hear her experiences.
But I’ve now been asked to be that person on a training course for a new group of prospective adopters; talking to them about my experiences and how the process worked for me and my pretty amazing son. It’s being delivered over Zoom, which is pretty normal for this world we now live in, and I get to share my experiences with others. That’s a privilege.
Being a parent catches me off-guard sometimes, I must admit; I remember the person I was in my 20s and I know that I wouldn’t have been a very good parent. I wasn’t ready, mentally or emotionally. Something changed when I was in my 30s that made me willing to change – to be a different person that could be emotionally confident enough to care for a child. I don’t know what that “something” was – it’s hard to define – but it allowed me the confidence to become responsible for another human being.
Jumping through all the hoops you need to jump through in order to become an adoptive parent – and there are more than I can count, I think I’ve blocked some of them out, to tell the truth – is hard but every second was worth it.
Even if it means that writing my column has gone from a 20 minute job to an hour’s job because I get interrupted to watch magic tricks, deal with questions about breakfast, and listen to a joke.