Yearning For His Dad
This blog is written by one of Adopt London’s single adopters and covers an important topic. How difficult adoption-related questions come up any time, sometimes much sooner than expected, and when you may often feel quite unprepared. It contains interesting content for anyone considering adoption.
My Son Michael asked me where his dad was at the age of 2. I was so shocked and unprepared, I looked away and went into daydream mode, acting like a child that had been caught doing something they should not be doing.
‘Mama where’s my dad?’
I actually said ‘Erm!’, trying to buy time.
‘Mama where’s my dad?’ he continued.
‘You don’t have a dad my darlin’, just me’ I answered.
Oh my god! I was not expecting that question until he was at least four. I thought about it all day and before bedtime I told him families are different, listing some families we knew that had two parents, one parent, loads of children, and one child.
I thought about it (over thought about it), for a few days, checking in with his nursery to see if they had done something for Father’s Day, but they hadn’t. It then dawned on me that he spends time with my brother and his family on a weekly basis, my brother, at the time collected him one afternoon per week from the nursery where he spent the rest of the day with him and his family until I got home from work. My brother’s family consists of a mum, dad, and a child. We also spend time with my other brother, whose family consists of a mum, dad, and five children. I could only assume it was this that had sparked his curiosity.
At the time my son was having contact with his siblings who are fostered and I talked him through his life story from time to time, very loosely, he was only two years old after all. However, I thought it was time to go a little deeper so I started telling him how he’d come to be adopted without using the word ‘adopted’ as I was worried he’d say it in the wrong company.
I discussed the situation at a support group a few months later and they suggested I start using the word ‘adopted’. I held out until he was three and a half, just to be sure he sort of understood and could explain it if challenged by someone when I’m not around.
One of his cousins (who’s a year older than Michael) has asked me where his dad is a few times and I noticed the first couple of times he was very interested to hear what I said to her. I told her it is just the two of us and have elaborated on the story as they’ve got older. I hear them have conversations about his situation from time to time. I always listen in to hear if there are any gaps that need to be filled in for him.
I read his life story book to him monthly. However, his love for public transport seemed to take over his imagination for quite a while, he stopped asking about his birth dad and only asked to hear ‘My Story’ on the occasional bath time, where he’d stop me somewhere during the story to ask the odd question, then ponder what I’d said for a while and move on. Then one day he went ahead of me on his bike and I saw him talking to two ladies. When I caught him up I asked what had been said.
My Son: They asked me where my dad was and I told them, I don’t live with my dad because he doesn’t know how to look after children.
Me: Oh, you could have just said your mum’s behind you.
My Son: But they didn’t ask where you were.
I had to explain that we don’t tell strangers about what goes on in our home. It’s our private business that we only share with our family and friends. He has now started to ask where his birth dad is and when can he meet him. I try to be as honest (and age appropriate) as I can be, explaining that I don’t know where his birth dad is, but if he still wants to meet him when he’s an adult we can try to find him.
My Son: When will I be an adult?
Me: When you’re 18 years old.
My Son: How many years until I’m 18?
Me: In 13 years time.
For the time being he has my two brothers (his uncles that he loved at first sight) and a close male friend (his best friend!) that play the role of a father figure in his life, but there is still a sense of loss for him which can’t be filled. It breaks my heart that his need for a dad can’t be fulfilled!
I spoke to a friend recently who has an older daughter, (also adopted) who was the same about meeting her birth mum. She didn’t really have any advice for me other than what I already say to my son and just continue to express my main concern being to keep him safe. And at a later date, manage his expectations. The need for Michael to meet or know his birth dad will continue but for today it’s all about dinosaurs.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of this experienced individual adopter and are not necessarily those of Adopt London.