Three years ago, our son came home.
A week ago (again to the day) we met him for the first time. He was four and a half. Such are the wierdnesses of adoption, that he knew we were going to be his Mummy and Daddy before he had met us. He had seen photos of us, of his new bedroom, his nearest play park, his Nursery via a photo album we had sent him. He’d even heard our voices, as each photo had a wee mp3 accompaniment. We, on the other hand, had only seen a photo of him about three days before we met him. I must admit I was anxious about that. “What if we get a minger?” I’d asked my wife – only a joke, you understand dear reader, but you know it’s really hard to get emotionally attached to someone you’d never met. Imagine knowing you’re effectively already a Dad, barring something awful happening, and you don’t even know the colour of their eyes, hair or skin?
I really wanted to dive into this parenting thing body and soul, but I’m a cautious chappie by nature, and it was the hardest few days of my life, knowing I’d be Dad to someone who I’d never met. What if he didn’t like me? What if he didn’t want to leave his Foster Mum? What if… oh a billion things.
There are two “Things They Never Tell You About Adopting”.
One: the only thing you can really do to prepare for adopting a child concerns your comfort zone. You have to bid it a fond farewell, as it leaves the building, hurtling off at a million miles an hour never to be seen again. Adopting is something you can never train for, never be prepared for.
Two: In the adoption process, you learn about all the difficulties, all the problems, all the toughness of adopting – and it’s right that you do. We knew our son had speech delay, that he may have learning difficulties, that we would struggle to understand any words he said, that he may not ever have the sort of life one might wish for him.
What you don’t learn is that it is just possible that everything about him and about us as a family, might go blissfully, ridiculously, unbelievably right.
They never tell you that the child that you fall in love with so completely will seem every bit of, and perhaps, even more your child, than any birth-child could.They never tell you that your child’s laughter (and there’s a hell of a lot of it) will shatter any anxieties you might have, that it will break down any worries and troubles, until you realise the truth of adopting, which is that everything that matters, all that matters, is them, and the love you give them, and everything else can go hang.
Six days after meeting us, he moved in. Three years later, he is a boy full of giggly laughter and heady joy. He is a boy with no malice in him, no unkindness, and his only sin is over-exuberance, and sometimes a careful filtering of the ability to listen. I’ll take that – he’s a much nicer kid than I ever was. He has all the anxieties that a boy who was adopted might have – but he knows that these belong to our family, not just to him, and that’s where they can be shared and dealt with. He is as full of energy as any boy can be, he is as geeky about Doctor Who as I am, he is as soppy as my wife, and his vocabulary is wide (perhaps a little too wide, but then that’s my fault for letting him listen to me when I was on the phone to BT).
So today is our family day – a family birthday, and if there’s one purpose in this blog post, it is to recommend it. Every family should have a special day when you celebrate the fact you have one another.
Today and tomorrow for us will feature cake and tennis, den-building and Tintin, Doctor Who and tree climbing. So why not give yourselves that? Go on, Pick a day – mid-way between birthdays, an otherwise dull day, and make your family a cake. Think of one thing which someone in your family most wants to do, and make sure it happens. Make each other laugh. I do that by telling my son a joke, my wife does it by trying and failing to remember a joke, my son does it by pretending that he has a balloon for a willy.
Family days are a great idea – do try it. Any excuse to tell your family how brilliant life is with them is always going to be worth it.