Family Day

It’s six years since T joined our family.

Lots of families mark the anniversary as ‘coming home’ day (I have even heard gotcha day which makes me cringe) but that doesn’t feel right for me. T had a home before he came to live with us; it wasn’t the safe, nurturing environment that it should have been, but it was still his home and I don’t want to erase that.

This is a particularly significant year for us, as T has now lived with us for more than half his life, longer than he spent with his birth family. In some ways it feels like now is the start – like we’ve done our best to balance out his early years and now we can build from here. There’s a part of me that can’t help trying to rationalise things; maybe once he’s been with us for twice as long as he was with his birth parents, maybe that will be enough to make the difference? It’s not about us being a family, because we already are; it’s not about trying to erase his past, as that would be doing him a huge disservice; but if I could wave a magic wand and take away the fear that permeates every waking minute of his life then I would do it in a heartbeat.

We will celebrate today; we’ll celebrate for us because T has brought so much joy and laughter into our lives, and enabled us to grow and learn in ways we never imagined, and we’ll celebrate for T because he is part of a family that will take care of him and keep him safe. If I had to take a guess, I’d say the celebration itself will last less than a minute – because how can he think about being safe without simultaneously thinking about times when he wasn’t safe? How can he embrace the love of his new family without grieving the loss of his first one? He needs us to hold the conflicting emotions with him – I know this because he tells us about 50-60 times a day at the moment. Obviously he doesn’t use those words, but that’s what he’s telling us; I need you to remember I am frightened all the time – even though I know in my head that I’m safe, every bit of my body is telling me I’m not, and I don’t know which one to believe.

I’m not writing this for sympathy, by the way, just for reflection. Writing helps me think. Adoption isn’t always the happily ever after we’d like to pretend it is and I think it’s important to be honest about it. T is going to carry the weight of this for the rest of his life, and he is going to have to find a way of managing that – to celebrate the good right alongside acknowledging the bad, because in fact without the bad, he wouldn’t actually be where he is now, and goodness me THAT is a tough pill to swallow.

Adoption is complex. I don’t know if I’m entirely in favour of it. But for better or worse we told our boy that he would be in our family for ever and ever, and that we will look after him and keep him safe – so that’s what we’ll do.