My son came home at 4.30pm on Saturday 16th March 2019. He had been due earlier, about 1pm, but there had been huge tailbacks on the motorway. As he had just turned eight, he clearly hadn’t been driving, but nonetheless, he had travelled a long way to get here. It’s unusual to know so precisely when your child is due to come home. It’s also unusual to have your child arrive home for the first time aged eight. But such is the adoption journey.
I was nervous about him turning up, so I can’t imagine what he must have been feeling. He never fully opened up about those emotions but, like a lot of eight year olds, he was undoubtedly trying to be brave. That’s one of the things you’re concerned about when you’re that age – being seen to be brave (or so I remember … it’s been a long time).
I’d spent the morning preparing as much as I possibly could, but it’s difficult to fully prepare when you don’t know how things are going to go. You have a vague plan, of course, but it’s only vague; planning for the unknown is only partially successful, and you shouldn’t try. Of course, I ignored that sage advice and tried to plan every single inch of that first weekend. I soon surrendered to the inevitable, however, and gave it up as a bad job.
He and his foster carers had a long trip from their home town, all stuck in a car piled high with his possessions. His seemingly-endless boxes and suitcases were a testament to the love and care he’d received in foster care – the carers really are magnificent – but it was sad to see his life packed up so neatly and so easily. I couldn’t imagine how it would feel for me move half-way across the country as an adult. As a child? Coping would be tough, but this young man was clearly trying to present a calm front; he did seem excited by the fact he had been “claimed”, and I was determined to make him feel just that way from day one.
I was inwardly anxious about everything. Would he like my cooking? Would my rules be fair and equitable? Would he accept my parenting? Would we like each other as human beings? I could only hope, and that first day was a morass of “Right, come in, let’s get you sorted, fed, washed, and put to bed.” There wasn’t much time for anything else.
The following day, a cool but sunny Sunday, he got to spend the morning with me and his foster family before they had to head off (although Foster Mum stayed behind for a few days, sacrificing her own family time to help my son settle and transfer his instinctive emotions from her to me). I was then left to get through the day, which sounds terribly dramatic, but was how I’d felt for a moment.
Most parents have the opportunity to adjust to their children from the moment they’re born, with all the positives and negatives that follows. I was presented with an eight year old boy who had experienced both terrible times and secure times; he had thoughts and feelings all of his own, and he was clearly seeking his permanent place in the world.
I’d prepared a welcome book for him which his carers had gone through with him as often as they could. When he arrived home for the first time, he already knew his way around the place and went straight to his bedroom to look round without needing me to direct him. That was lovely to see, especially as he didn’t feel the need to ask permission; I’d really worked with him during introductions to say things like “our home” and “your bedroom”, to give him a sense of ownership – and it seemed to work.
Reader – my son is home, and it makes me so happy to tell you that.