Let me be clear at the outset; the science-fiction show alluded to in the title of this post does not feature anywhere else. I’ve not actually watched any of the series, to be honest, and I’ve never really been tempted – perhaps I should give it a go some time? Whoops, I’ve gone off on a slightly tangent there. The twilight zone I’m talking about here is a rather more nebulous and frustrating one, but entirely unavoidable.
I am fortunate to have a son. He is a blessing in my life, because of his sheer force of personality, his love of life, and his intelligence. This young man and I haven’t lived together since his birth, and I was not his first family; but I intend to be his last (or, at least, the beginnings of his last, factoring in any romantic relationships he forges when he grows older and any children he has).
He has claimed me, and I have claimed him; I am confident that I love him just as much as I would do if we were genetically related, and I like to think that he thinks the same way (he assures me that he does). He has a nan and granddad who he adores, other close relatives he is developing strong bonds with, and burgeoning friendships he is forging on his own through school.
In the eyes of the law, however, we’re not quite there yet. I am technically classed in some eyes as his carer, rather than as his dad – the name my son calls me, and uses to claim me. He doesn’t get the difference – nor should he – between me being his carer and me being his dad. All he is interested in is the latter, not the former. So am I.
But we must wait for the formal court order to come through, and in order for that to happen, I must submit documents and reports at certain times, in particular ways, and pay fees. Such is the life of an adoption service that it is second nature – thanks heavens, because they know what they’re doing, so can organise it carefully and studiously, based on extensive experience. I’ve never had to complete the rather complex form required to make the application to the judge; I like to think of myself as at least reasonably intelligent, but the form gives me a headache. It is not easily designed for a lay person, and it’s only because I’ve got an excellent social worker supporting me that I feel confident in it looking pretty damn good at the end.
The process takes time; of course it must, we have a child’s interests at heart. He deserves to be respected, loved, and cherished, and never have to experience anything else.
But my son wants it to happen now. Of course he doesn’t understand why it takes so long; he’s eight, he shouldn’t have to understand. He is frustrated that he’s not quite over the finish line, and so am I. Between you and me, I’m frustrated that it takes so long. He and I have bonded in a way I hadn’t realise could happen so quickly; I can’t differentiate between my feelings for him or a birth son – because there isn’t a difference. We are a family, and both of us very much want to live a normal family life.
I have regular meetings with professionals to ensure that everything is going as it should be. My son is never present at these meetings, because I’m his advocate in that sense, and I’m proud to be so. but I’m also passionate about his voice being heard; this is about giving him a voice and being heard, because he has a right to. So I always pester him to make sure he knows that, if he wants, he can speak up at these meetings either through me or someone else.
He’s not also bothered, to be honest; he’s not always that interested in meetings where I talk about “boring stuff” with social workers. But he occasionally likes me to say something on his behalf. The most recent meeting, which occurred only a few days ago, was one such meeting where he wanted me to say something to the assembled masses, and it was this; “Get on with it.” That was the entirety of the message, and so I repeated it word for word. There was no embarrassment on my part – why should there be? He wanted that to be said, so I said it, and the professionals took heed; they saw, not for the first time, his desire to have a normal life with normal experiences and without them.
That’s not to dismiss or underestimate the role of the professionals in the slightest, it must be said. They have had to take some very difficult decisions over the time he has been in care and before, decisions which I can only hope I would make as quickly and as assertively. But now they are made, my son wants to be claimed by a family, not by professionals, and I can respect that.
So we are in the Twilight Zone, a frustrating time for us both – for the family – whilst we get all the paperwork finalised. And then, when the judge signs the piece of paper, what a wonderful feeling that will be. The start of something new!