I felt the need to write this recently after receiving the life story book for our son. For anyone who doesn't know, the life story book is exactly that. A book detailing the birth history of the child, the reasons why they were adopted and why their birth parents couldn't care for them and ultimately how they ended up with you, their family. All explained in a fully researched and effective way for young kids.
I have said it before, but I genuinely forget he is adopted. The love, the bond, the middle of the night wake ups, nursery drop offs, the nappies, the milestones, the tantrums… every single day passes and every day I feel like he came from me that little bit more. I feel that we never went through the process of adoption, the meetings, assessments and panels. Maybe because it felt like such a calm, seamless journey for us I just forgot about it the minute we met our 14 month old little boy? I don’t know.
But a week ago, almost two years to the day we met, we received his life story book (don’t get me started on how it took two years to get to us). And it hit me. My son is adopted. I didn’t give birth to him and I’m pretty sure my husband didn’t either… I know that might sound nuts, but i can't explain it. He came from his birth mother. And we honour that 100%. But I don't think about it every day . In fact, I rarely think about it. But receiving his life story book really reminded me that we have a job to do. He will have questions. Maybe not so many in the coming years as the younger kids tend to be more resilient and just breeze over such matters. But when he’s older, wanting to find out more about himself. Things like why does he have curly hair? Why was that name chosen for him? I need… no, I want and I will be the one to support him in answering as much as I can.
We met the birth parents when it was decided that we’d been chosen to be his parents. And I am so glad we did. It gave us a chance to speak with them, tell them how much we already loved this little boy even though we hadn’t met at that point. And we also asked some questions we thought he might like to know when he’s older. Unfortunately we didn’t leave with much… this life story book won’t offer too much either (in its current format).
I don’t think enough energy and thought is given to this book as a whole within the adoption industry. And from discussions with other adopters, they feel the same about their children’s books. These 12 pieces of A4 paper (which is the first draft, assuming it’ll be presented a little nicer in the final edit?) are supposed to help explain to him why he was adopted by his daddies, explain the circumstances birth parents found themselves in and how his life started for that first year before we met. Two years ago when we were going through training on attachment and bonding we truly breezed through it all knowing that one day of course we’d tackle the realities. But now, and only now, while actually being a parent (because at the time of this training and prep work we were not dads and no matter what anyone tells you, you don’t know til you experience it) do I fully understand the importance this will have on my son. These books have been written in a way to explain and reassure the child that will be reading them over the years. It’s all been researched and worked up in a way that is beneficial for them. I get that. But in my opinion, it’s not good enough. We don't plan on handing this to him at a particular time in his life. I want this book to be in the magazine rack downstairs for him to pull out, flick through, see the faces, learn the words… all from the get go. No surprises like the end of an EastEnders episode when he’s sixteen with me saying “Son… you’re adopted!” and the duff duff kicks in. Not for us thanks.
We’ve decided to use this book we’ve been given as a base to make our own. The words and child friendly explanations are great and will be 100% recreated. Some photos too… but a flimsy few sheets of A4 written in comic sans from a blatant template document with just names and dates change won’t cut it for me. I want this book to reassure. To give comfort and answers. Throughout all our lives.
This is not a ‘hating on local authorities’ exercise. Don’t get it wrong. I know they are massively under staffed and getting budget cuts left, right and centre. The fact it took two years to come still isn’t ideal. But really, a life story book is so much than what it currently is. It needs to be given so much attention, so much focus and so much more love. Saying that, as the parent I feel we are in control and have a responsibility of this situation to a degree and can a) make the book amazing and b) make sure our delivery is the best it can be. We won’t be letting the book do the talking and that be that. Our conversations… our answers to the questions… THAT is what is really important. And hopefully that overrides anything potentially not being answered from the book. We know our son best.
We’re still to receive the later life letter too, which is designed and written by the child’s social worker and written in a much more grown up way. It’s to be read when they are older. Usually when the child is 18 but we’re not sticking to those rules massively, we’ll know when it’s right. And that right there is what else is so important in all of this. At the time when the conversations are happening between us all we would have been dads to our boy for years. We know him more than anyone on this earth. We probably know him more than we know ourselves at this point.
How did I think it would all go at the start of the adoption journey? I don't think I thought at all. It sounds crazy but we were just on the road to creating our family. It was never not going to work in my eyes. I had complete positivity and faith. I probably should've thought a little more maybe...? I don't know... We've all come on leaps and bounds in the last two years. The steepest learning curve I think we'll ever face. Thrown right in at the deep end with a 14 month old little boy. No rest. No down time. It's been full on. 'On the job training' for sure. And I love every minute. But it ain't easy. No one ever said it would be. I am immensely proud of what we've accomplished in the last couple years. We've created such a tight bond, a house full of so much laughter, fun and ultimately love. We're so in love and the novelty hasn't left. I know it never will.
Be led by you and your family. You will know what is right and when. I take comfort from that and know whatever life story book we create or whatever conversations we have as he grows will be right for him, because we just know. And we will be doing it for our son, not ‘just another child’ through the system.
I genuinely look forward to every morning waking up to his silly little noises or him sneaking into our room. How will the next two years go? They are going to have to work hard to beat the last two, but i am confident it will be equally as beautiful.