I’ve got a confession to make; there are times when I forget my family was formed through adoption. I recognise that there are certain reasons why it’s impossible not to remember – he came home as an eight year old boy, not as a new-born baby – but the word “adoption” featured in our every day conversations in the early days.
That’s understandable, in many ways; we had social worker visits, lots of checks, and judges being involved to make sure it was all ticking along as it should be. So we remembered that Bryan was adopted because we talked about it a lot. But since Bryan was legally adopted, those times when we talk about it have lessened, and life has become normal – our normal, anyway, and the “A” word doesn’t feature in our daily lives.
I’m thinking about that more so this week not for any particular reason, but because I’ve been reflecting – as I often do – on how lucky I am. When you’re preparing to become an adoptive parent, there’s a lot of conversation about the various things you need to consider as such a parent; if they have siblings, how are you going to build and sustain a relationship with them? How will you support your child in school if they have missed some education in the past? How can you help with their natural anxieties, fears, and worries? You absorb all this information and find yourself (well, I did, anyway) intimidated by the scale of the years ahead of you.
But then you do it. You just do it. It becomes normal; your normal. Every family has their own sense of what is normal and what isn’t, and you soon come to realise that there’s no rule book – not a one-size-fit-all rulebook, in any case. You need to follow your child, and how they’re responding to different situations. I’m writing this column on Saturday morning, and I mentioned to Bryan what was on my mind – what I have regurgitated to you – and he looked at me and shrugged; “I’m adopted, so what?” he sighed before going off to his room to practice the dance moves he’s doing in a show next week.
As I say, in some ways, it’s become a bit passe in our family right now.
But family life has evolved over the last few years; the child who first came home has morphed into an almost-teenager who’s too cool for public displays of affection (or, indeed, any displays of affection), and who likes to spend time by himself now. That’s taken some time to adjust to; going from having a little shadow following me around to having a son who has size 11 feet, is already nearly as tall as me, and likes his own company more than he used to. It’s wonderful to see him developing, and I am sometimes lagging behind, trying to catch up with the changing demands of a pre-teen.
But, it doesn’t mean I don’t keep trying. I miss those early years in a way, and I’m sure I will miss these years in the future – but who knows what his twenties will be like, and his thirties, and … well, you get the picture. When he’s thirty, I’ll be sixty, and that’s not something I’m entirely ready to consider – especially if he then decides to have children of his own. I’ve already made clear that I want to be “Grandpa” if he chooses to have children.
Adoption is how we became a family, and there are times when that can help and encourage Bryan; the education system, especially when moving between schools, is very supportive of children who are, or who have been, in care, and that’s been incredibly helpful for both of us. One thing that I see is that we’re both still learning; I have to evolve as a dad to meet my son’s needs, while still keeping our core values the same – because I talk about values a lot, and if I can keep sharing good values and love with my amazing son, then I’ll be a happy man.