Four years ago this week, Bryan came home. I struggle to believe that all that time has passed – it feels like I’ve blinked and the eight year old who walked through the front door has suddenly become a 12-year-old with a breaking voice, size 11 feet, and a heart the size of a planet.
On Saturday 16th March 2019, I had come home after a week with my amazing son, his siblings, and his foster carers. His foster carers were then coming down in their care with a very precious cargo – my amazing son. I was so nervous, so I can only begin to imagine how he must have been feeling.
I’d gone out in the morning with my mum to do some shopping – topping up the cupboards with food I knew he liked, and then I waited. They were delayed by traffic, so didn’t arrive until 4.30pm – they were knackered after the drive, understandably. Bryan knew his way around his new home, as I’d put together a book of photos as well as a video tour, so when he walked in, he went immediately to his new bedroom to check it out. I couldn’t really argue with that, so gave him all the time he needed to look round; his carers said goodbye (they were staying nearby for a few days), and we had our first evening together. We didn’t do a huge amount because of the time, so it was mostly dinner, a game, and bed.
I can’t tell you when the first moment was when I felt love for my son, but it was quick; perhaps it was even before he moved in, as we had spent time getting to know each other over the preceding months. The first few months of living together was focused on social work visits, establishing contact with his amazing siblings and their parents, and applying for an adoption order that would make me legally dad.
Life then moves on, and it surprised me how quickly those things were forgotten; I had eight months off work, then went back part-time, which I’ve continued ever since. One day, I might go back full-time – but, right now, part-time works for both of us. It still occasionally surprises people when they discover I’m a single dad, and we go for weeks and not give the “A” word any active thought; not because we ignore it, but because we have so much else to think about – day-to-day routines that matter to us. Adoption is a magnificently important part of our lives, and I embrace every part of Bryan’s life, both before he came home and since; he deserves every kindness and respect that I can give him.
We’ve been through some experiences that I hadn’t expected in the last four years; a pandemic, lockdowns, strikes, emotional ups and downs … things that I had no idea how to manage when they first appeared on the horizon, but soon became part of the music of our lives. For better or worse, these big national or global events have defined part of our lives together, just as I’ve been learning how to be a dad for the first time to a boy with his own opinions, emotions, and experiences of his very own that formed before I even came on the scene. But things calmed for me when I adopted (if you’ll pardon the pun) a simple mantra; My son doesn’t need me to be perfect; he needs me to be present. I can figure out most things if I keep that in my head.
In another four years, my son will be sixteen … gulp. That seems as far apart from my current experiences as 12 did when he first came home, but we will deal with it as we have dealt with everything; with good grace and love. The little boy who first came home in 2019 isn’t quite there anymore, but the young man in his place is equally as beautiful.
This week’s column is something of a love letter to my son; I want him to know how much I love him, and I tell him on a regular basis (which, let me tell you, he adores). He is my pride and joy, and I am beyond glad that I found the courage to fill in the form that registered my interest in adoption; look at where it got us. We became a family.