Propped up on my sun lounger soaking in the sun this summer, I watched my three kiddies as they splashed happily in and out of the water together. Having a non swimmer in the mix my hubby and I took it in turns to keep a watchful eye. My babies looked so happy and carefree that I wished I could freeze frame the moment forever. It was in these moments of watching that I found the inspiration for this (my very first blog).
I have to confess to being a bit of a holiday addict. Some people like cars (mines a clapped out banger), some people like ‘doing stuff to the house’, but having been a busy fostering household for years there always seemed little point and so every year we find ourselves debating ‘House vs Holiday’? and holiday wins hands down every time (whilst the house crumbles around us)!! I want to show my children as much of the world as I can and allow them to experience different cultures but the more secretive reason for our love of travel is that I crave the anonymity that it brings. For a brief moment in time it allows us all to leave our pasts behind us and be whomever we want without the need for labels.
The children making new friends has become the norm for our holidays. ‘I wonder how many friends I’ll make this time?’ my daughter had asked me excitedly on the plane. I’m definitely going to claim credit for her social skills, its frightening how similar she is to me as a child and needless to say it didn’t take her long to sniff out the English accents in our predominately German and Romanian speaking resort. The answer to her question was an entire families worth!
Every day our children would be drawn to the same children like magnets and I would watch them from behind my sunnies as they played together beautifully. To any outsider looking in you would see no difference between our two families and as the children grew closer every day our sunbeds inched closer to their parents. Before we knew it our two families were chatting, eating ice creams and sunbathing together like old friends and it made it a darn sight easier to keep the children in one space by the pool!
Of course it didn’t take long for some awkward questions to come our way and because it’s an unwritten rule that we like to keep our privacy on holiday I found myself being drawn into what felt like a web of deceit, with our lovely new friends. Lying does not come naturally to me at all firstly because I’m really bad at it and secondly because it has been instilled in me since childhood that ‘honesty is the best policy’. Of course where possible we changed the subject or phrased answers in a way that would lead them to believe that our family was no different to theirs.
Walking back from the bar one of the days I found my husband floundering over the question ‘how long after you got married did you decide to have children?’ Watching him doing the maths in his head to make sure he gave a correct answer was actually quite funny and I found myself smiling as he looked at me desperately pleading for me to change the subject. This is what it must it must be like for families in witness protection every day and as for covert police operations we’d make lousy undercover bobbies! Being secretive triggered memories from when our children were first placed……….
Back home quite literally the man and his dog knows our story, but that hasn’t always been the case. When we first moved into a village with our adopted daughter (many years ago now) as young first time adopters starting out we were adamant that we would not tell anyone (other than close friends, family and of course our children) about the adoption. This was out of love for our little girl and the desire to protect our daughter from being labelled as ‘The only adopted kid in the village’.
For a while we managed to keep our secret however this required keeping people at arm’s length. Being a sociable person who likes to make friends I found it difficult avoiding people and hard watching other Mums nattering away and not allowing myself to join in. Thankfully at that time I was a working Mummy, which generally meant I could avoid the playground antics but I know when I was there I must have appeared aloof to others. Looking back I felt lonely, isolated and different as a first time Mum and I can understand how these feelings could lead to post adoption blues / depression in adopters.
On my days off I would attend Mum’s and Toddlers groups with my daughter…….Let me just tell you this is an Adoptive Parents worst nightmare!! I would find myself engaged in conversations with new Mums who would naturally want to discuss their newborns and ask advice from parents with older children. Having never parented a newborn myself (at this time) I didn’t have a clue how to respond! My ears became well-trained to pick up on awkward conversations and whenever words such as NCT, birthing pool or stitches were uttered I’d take it as my cue to exit the conversation very rapidly!
Our Master Plan of Secrecy was foiled when we decided we wanted another child. We knew that there was no way that we could sneak a new addition into such a small community and get away with it. The roof was about to be blown off our cover and we were left with two choices Option A move location (which in hindsight was a little bit drastic) or Option B be out and proud as an adoptive family.
The thing is, once you’ve spent so much time covering something up it becomes more difficult to drop into conversation, there just never seemed the right moment and the fear of people’s reactions weighed heavily on my mind.
So our eldest son rocked up at the age of 12 months one Christmas weighing in at a mahoosive two stone!! I kid you not the social worker actually raised concerns I might not be able to lift him as he was so big and I was quite slight at the time (pre all-inclusive holidays). Thankfully It was the Christmas holidays so I could avoid the staring eyes in the play ground. Instead we decided to brave the Christmas Church service as a new family with our newest addition and half the village (which brings a whole new meaning to the saying the elephant in the room I tell you!).
Naturally, there was awkward confusion, definitely a few stares and even a few interesting rumours that flew round the playground after. In addition to this came an overwhelming sense of relief on my part. Just like being adopted is an important part of our children’s identity being adopters is an important part of ours.
Of course there are always the trolls of this world and the people who just ‘don’t get it’ for example the ballet Mum who decided to announce at the top of her voice ‘I just don’t know If I could love a child that hasn’t come out of here’ whilst gesticulating to her Nether Regions! Thankfully my children were not in ear shot and therefore she narrowly missed me launching into a rant about surrogacy, sperm and egg doners, same-sex couples, step parents and not to mention the C-section warriors of this world!
Thinking back to that pinnacle moment in the Church whilst lazing in the sun I remembered the weight that had been lifted off my shoulders. I didn’t need to hide in the shadows anymore and feel uncomfortable in my skin as a parent. I didn’t feel like a fraudster posing as a ‘biological family’ and I no longer needed to flinch every time a difficult question came my way. My life as an adoptive parent began that day and I became a confident proud parent who modeled to my children how to be proud and not be ashamed of who you are. So with this in mind for the first time in years I broke our number one holiday rule and the next time I tensed at the start of an awkward conversation I lifted my sun glasses and casually dropped in ‘our children are adopted’…..followed by ‘is it time for pre dinner drinks?’
So next time your’e on holiday either people watching from your sun lounger as I often find myself doing or just making friends in general, take the time to remember my story and the fact that the modern-day family now comes in all different shapes and sizes.
and to all the special families out there that bring diversity to this world and make me proud to be human its time to come out of the shadows, be proud of who you are and the family that you have achieved however that may be.
I’m not a do gooder and I’m certainly not special…..I’m just a Mummy trying her best like the rest.