Counting Down to A-Day

I received my post the other day. I wouldn’t normally bore you, dear reader, with such matters, but in the post yesterday was a special letter. It was from the Family Court division of a court not that close to me (notice the vague nebulousness of my writing there?), noting that A-Day was a step closer.

They didn’t use the phrase “A-Day”, of course; the courts have more formal jargon than that, I’m sure. “A-Day” is something I use to describe the day when my son formally becomes my son; and no, that isn’t tautology at its finest. The lad who has claimed his home here with me is no my son in almost every way – he has claimed his new family, and we have claimed him. Legally, however, he is still a ward of the state, with social worker visits being a constant reminder that he’s not quite the same as most of his peers right now.

But A-Day will be soon approaching; the letter has given me the date and time of the hearing, as well as the judge’s name who will be hearing the case. It goes without saying that I’ve run every internet search I possibly can to find out about the judge – not much, as it turns out, although I’ve seen a few of her decisions recorded online – and I’m confident they will be fair and impartial.

And now we wait. Birth parents have the right to appeal against the proposed plan of action – for my son to be adopted by me – but only within the remit of the law. They have to prove that something has been done wrong; the judge needs to listen carefully to what they have to say, but is a legal expert and so knows when to dismiss them and when to allow them the chance to speak. They have that right, of course, although it doesn’t help my own concerns and worries. I want my son to be a full member of this family – our family – and not have to be schizophrenic about his surnames (he wants to be know by his new surname, but there are certain places where I have to use his birth surname for the moment). I want him to feel claimed, not just be told that he’s claimed.

But with the court date now approaching, we’re another step closer; it might well be signed on that day, which would be lovely, or there might have to be an adjournment if the judge needs time to hear an appeal or see further evidence. I’ll be waiting impatiently by the phone for my son’s social worker to call me after the hearing, and will potentially be a nag if I don’t get a call within five minutes of it ending.

But another point to consider; how do I tell my son that A-Day is fast approaching? He has every right to know – it’s about him, after all – but I’m conscious of his age; kids can sometimes struggle with “holding” information for long periods of time. And what if I were to be totally honest and tell him the fundamental importance of this date, would that just stress him out too much? I’ve always vowed to never lie to him, but is this one of those moments where I hold some information back in order to help him manage his own emotions? Possibly.

I will tell him, because he deserves to know, but will I tell him right now? No; the appointment isn’t quite yet, and it’s set in stone, so I have time before he definitely needs to know. I’ll help him manage his own expectation; my social worker, who has worked with families in similar situations for years, suggested that I describe it as a meeting between my son’s social worker and the judge to discuss how his adoption plans are going. That feels reasonable; it gives him the information without overloading him with potential anxiety – and I most certainly don’t want to do that.

So there we have it; the date is set, and we’re getting ever closer …

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