I’m a dad, a real dad. It amazes me when I get occasionally asked, “What happened to your son’s real parents?” I’m his real parent; a judge has signed a piece of paper to confirm it. I’m not my son’s first parental figure, but I’ll be there for him forever – and it can be hard to find a way of responding to that sort of question delicately without getting cross. I’ve done that too.
I mention this because there the post-adoption landscape is a very intriguing world; what happens when social services leave you alone and life becomes like any other family’s life? Because social services do leave; when you get the judge’s order through saying that you are a legal parent to the light of your life, you have the same rights as a parent that a parent who gave birth to their children does. You are treated the same by all official services, and as you meet new people who don’t know your story, you realise six months later that they don’t have a clue that your beginnings as a family are not like the majority.
I had opportunities that many prospective parents don’t; I was able to think about my parenting style in some depth when I was in the process, meet other people in the same boat, and analyse my own perspective on life. Why did I want to become a parent? How would I be a good parent to a child with previous experiences that weren’t always happy? Would I be confident from day one? To sit down with someone (a brilliant social worker) and discuss my personality and my abilities gave me the opportunity to consider the sort of person I was; it pushed me to think about my strengths and weaknesses.
But now the time for theory has passed, and the time for practicalities is upon me; my son is at home, and I get to parent an amazing child. It was a strange sensation, to be like “anyone else” when the judge signed the adoption order; the social worker visits stopped there and then, and Bryan was no longer a child in care. That didn’t mean, of course, that he would forget his past; he spent longer than he deserved in his first home, and he wasn’t going to shut off to that part of his life just because there was a signature on a piece of paper.
That said, we were also keen to move forward; we didn’t want to dwell on that every single day. We wanted to live our lives in whatever way we found worked; no socials on a regular basis reminding us (through no fault of their own) that we weren’t yet legal. When we had a social worker continuously calling me Bryan’s “carer” (in front of my son) before I legally adopted him, despite him calling me “Daddy”, was somewhat aggravating – I struggled to hold my tongue on occasions, and there were times when I made my point very much known. My son deserved better than that.
Now we are living our life, and it’s become normal; at first, after the legal adoption day, I found myself going to call or email the social workers, or seek permission to do certain things. It took me a few weeks to remember that I could give permission, and that was a wonderful feeling when it finally sunk in.
One thing I’ve thought about from time to time is wishing that I had the chance to sit back and reflect on particular situations; talking about situations where I could have done better and situations that went really well. It would be nice to have someone to discuss it with from an external perspective, at least for me; perhaps because I’ve had that before, in the early days and before Bryan came home, I find myself missing that opportunity to sit and reflect from time to time.
But I still find myself enjoying life as a parent; I get to teach my son and spend time with a wonderful young man. What more could I ask for?
And now here I am in the driving seat, guiding my son’s growth and development in the right direction – or, at least, I hope so. I make mistakes like any other, and reflect on it like any other parent. One thing I notice is that I forget about the adoption sometimes, and I know my son does as well; the day-to-day minutiae of our forever life has taken over, and adoption is no longer the number one conversation on our lips; it has faded away into the background of our lives.
But you have to be committed to allowing that word to still exist post-adoption. Your child might be interested in asking questions about it as they grow, and they have a right to; whatever your feelings as a parent, it’s their life story, and they deserve to know – we as parents need to give them the freedom and safety to ask whatever they want. We are entitled to our own feelings, of course, but so are they – and it’s their story which we need to support.