There is always a question that parents dread their children asking. You like to think you have prepared yourself to give an age appropriate answer, but they always manage to add a follow up you aren’t prepared for.
Our question isn’t the usual one, it is one which most non-adoptive parents would never have to face, but we have.
I had just congratulated our youngest son on finally saying ‘Tummy’ clearly in relation to the current location of his dinner rather than his usual pronunciation of ‘mummy’. It was a full conversation ending with me mumbling to myself, ‘well that’s really good, he usually says mummy’.
Eldest son was, as ever, listening intently and fired off his own question:
Son: I have a tummy mummy don’t I?
Me: Yes, that’s right you do.
Son: But she doesn’t look after me does she?
Me: No, she doesn’t. Can you remember why?
Son: She couldn’t keep me safe.
Me: That’s right.
We have had that conversation before, it isn’t something that has ever bothered us. We have never hidden the fact that our sons are adopted from them, so actually we welcome this kind of conversation. It usually stops there, with our son accepting that his bio-Mum couldn’t keep him safe, so he needed to be adopted. (Obviously it’s more complex than that, but that’s what we have settled on until he’s old enough to better understand the ins and outs of it).
This time, however, he didn’t stop.
Me: Why what?
Son: Why couldn’t she keep me safe?
And there it was. The question that will lead on to a huge story that we know he isn’t currently ready to hear, or probably able to understand. We have a strategy in place to deal with it though, as it is something that we would inevitably have to deal with at some point.
Each of our sons has a Life Story Book written in ‘child friendly’ language. They’re not perfect, we will no doubt tweak them the more that we use them, but they do serve a purpose.
This was at bed time and his book was away in a box as we’re currently embarking on some house renovations so accessible storage is non-existent. We told him to ask us in the morning to read him his ‘special book’, which would give us some time to dig it out. We have read it to him before, but only once and he’s never shown interest in it since.
So, today he was read it. Or, some of it at least. He lost interest part way through and that was the conversation ended for the time being.
As our children get older they will probably become more interested in their past, we have some tools available to us and a plan in place. As our children were relatively young when they were adopted the adoption agency decided that they didn’t need to do ‘Life Story Work’ with them and left us to do it ourselves (i.e. they didn’t offer us any support with it). At the moment it is something we would rather do ourselves anyway, we haven’t yet felt the need to contact the post-adoption team for any support.
We hear varying reports on the quality of the support offered to adoptive families once an Adoption Order is granted. Will we be one of the lucky families that doesn’t need any help? If we do, will they be there to offer decent support? We don’t know. Only time will answer that.