Today marks the 3rd anniversary of my first ever blog post. Three years ago I never really considered how my blog would evolve into what it is now. My family and friends still read it, which was one of the reasons I started writing it, but now I have other readers too, up to 100 that seem to keep coming back (on a good day) with my current most popular post getting over 300 views in a week (which is fairly unprecedented for this little blog).
It’s not just my blog that has changed in that time; I have too. I have re-read some of my older posts and I thought how naive I sounded about adoption and parenting an adopted child. Things that seemed so black and white at the time are now a myriad shades of grey. Some things that seemed simple are actually very complex, and things that seemed complex can be quite simple.
Here are a few things that I recognise have changed about me in the last three years.
My Interactions With Children
Three years ago I was nervous around children, especially younger ones. I actively avoided them and then thought that they didn’t like me. Strange that, a grown- up trying to avoid children, not make eye-contact with them and then wonder why they didn’t approach him.
I always felt awkward talking to young children, I got embarrassed doing silly things to entertain them. I was probably too uptight really, it was my own self-consciousness causing me a problem as I knew that no-one (including myself) ever batted at eye-lid at people being silly around children.
I knew I needed to change this as I’m fairly sure a parent who avoided children probably wasn’t exactly what social services was looking for in an adoptive father. So, we did what we could to increase my experience with children (my husband never had this problem; he’s always been amazing around children).
One major turning point for me was when we did some volunteering at a nursery. I still felt a bit awkward, but I made myself interact with the children. There was one little boy who I will always remember, and was about the same age as my Eldest is now. He completely latched on to me while I was there. He followed me around and called out my name to get my attention when I was off spending time with other children. I found out later that he didn’t have much interaction with male grown-ups in his home life so I sort of became a surrogate dad for the day. I have to say that was an amazing feeling, to have a child want to be with you, to want to play with you, and to want your undivided attention.
I now try my best to talk to children who are around me, and although there is still a bit of self-consciousness going on, I have been known to do silly faces and talk to babies in that ridiculous high-pitched voice that adults use (although I may do it a bit less when other adults are around).
When we started the adoption process I trusted social services completely. They knew what was best, they told me to jump and I asked how high. Over the last three years our interactions and experiences with them have made me realise that they are not all-knowing, or perfect in their knowledge. In fact, they are extremely fallible and do not always know best. Our first indication of this was when we were dropped by the family finders, only to manage to argue our point by using, amongst other things, the training that social services had provided us. To me that showed not only a total lack of regard for our well-being in the first place, but also an ignorance of some of the things that we, as adopters, are told are so important to understand.
This is where I started to realise that the adoption process is more complicated than just trusting what you’re told, up to that point we had encountered social workers who acted professionally and knowledgeably, this experience revealed to me that there are good social workers and bad social workers, some that put the children first, and others that do what they need to to make their own jobs easier. So, after that I started approaching new ones more warily than before, keeping in mind they may not be as knowledgeable or experienced as they made themselves out to be. I also started arguing with them more and putting our points across, not allowing them to dictate how everything was going to go (politely though – my husband has prevented me sending one or two ‘nuclear option’ emails when my frustrations boiled over!).
Maybe this is a negative change, becoming less trusting to a group of people, but trust is something that really should be earned. Especially when the welfare of my family is at stake.
Biology Over Family
I have to admit, early on, I was a bit sad that my children would not be genetically related to me. At the same time I always knew that even if we had gone down the surrogacy route, they would never have been able to be biologically related to both of us anyway.
Once we chose to adopt that thought has not occurred to me again, it simply does not matter in day-to-day life. Yes, it may do later for medical reason – I hate the medical history questions which I have to answer with “I don’t know, he is adopted”. I have had to say it several times already, and I’m sure there will be plenty more times to come.
Biology does not make a family. I know that now more than ever before. I have advocated for a person that is related to my children, for the simple reason they were important them; family to my children, therefore family to me.
We aren’t a family in spite of my children being adopted, we are a family because my children are adopted. It may not be the norm, or the conventional way a family is formed, but that does not make my family any less than one that is biologically related.
In fact, adoption has brought together many people who care for my children to form a much larger group far beyond the four of us. A group with a common love for the children and each other. Is that not what a family is, or should be, at the end of the day?
There are far more things I could write about, from the way I perceive other parents – now with far more empathy than before – to what I view as important in life.
But, maybe I haven’t changed that much at the core, maybe this is just a realisation of things that were already there. I’m still the overly sarcastic, grumpy man I have always been, but with added extras. I’m a little more cynical of ‘professionals’, a little more childish (my children continue unsuccessfully to try to convince me I’m not a serious person and am actually fun???), and a whole lot more appreciative of my family (both old and new).
I finish this post wondering how much I will change in the years to come. The last three years have seen me develop as a person far more than I had anticipated. Mostly for the better I hope!