One of the things that most potential adoptive parents ask is, “What will I be called?”, especially if the child is older. Of course, they already have a birth mother and father, and will already have someone that they want to call mum and dad. I remember thinking that I didn’t really mind what Mac called me – as long as we were all happy. But, of course, I was lying to myself. After such a long time trying to have a family, the desire to be called “Dad” was very strong. The words “Mum” and “Dad” are more than just language – they signify the ultimate bond.
Up to this point we had been “Richard and Swee” to Mac. I wondered how the change would be made. Would it be something that would happen over time, or would it be something that happened more quickly?
Mac slept really well on the first night. I think Swee and I both were fairly restless, listening for him to see if he wanted anything, to see if he was happy. But the night was uneventful, and we all eventually got some sleep.
The next morning Swee got up early to get breakfast ready. Mac woke up and came into our bedroom and jumped into bed as I was getting dressed. We started to have a pretty mundane conversation, asking how he slept and what he might like to do today. Then I plunged in with the question I had been longing to ask.
“Do you think you might like to call me and Swee ‘mum and dad’ one day?”
“Yes”, he said.
And with that we went to the top of the stairs and called downstairs to Swee,
“You want to be my new mum. Can you get some new pants as these ones are too tight!”
He was standing in a tight pair of Y-fronts. Swee went off to the supermarket to buy as many different styles of pants in what she thought was the right size, never having bought pants for an eight year old before.
From that moment Mac started calling us Mum and Dad, and never called us Richard and Swee again. I can still remember that day and the first time I heard someone calling me Dad. It was something I had imagined for so long. It was something that I had ached for, and here was this beautiful, perfect, loving boy blessing me with that name. It’s something I have never taken for granted.
Of course, the reality of adopted children is that they do have other parents. And if your child was adopted at an older age will have a relationship with them. We never forgot that, or criticised Mac’s parents. We would always explain that they hadn’t been able to look after him as they had got their priorities wrong, rather than going into any detail. As the child grows they start to work more of it out for themselves and start to understand on a more mature level.
We always referred to Mac’s birth parents by their Christian names, so that if I was talking about his mum he knew I was talking about Swee. Mac tended to refer to all four of us as “Mum and Dad”, and it is amazing that it was never confusing for us as we always seemed to understand which of us he was referring to. However the same cannot be said when outside the house.
Swee and my sister, Sandra, had taken Mac to the local archery club. It was something he had always wanted to try – probably due to his ongoing love of Robin Hood and Legolas from Lord of the Rings. There was a good club locally that worked well with young beginners.
Swee and Sandra were sat on the sidelines sitting talking to a few parents while Mac was being shown how to fire the arrows. He was doing quite well, and suddenly they overheard his conversation with other youngsters.
For some reason the conversation must have got onto drugs and Swee overheard him say in a completely matter of fact way,
“My mum is a drug addict.”
Suddenly there was silence in the room as everyone turned to look at my wife. At that point Mac said,
“Oh! Not that mum. I’m adopted!”
Adopted children get you in to all sorts of scrapes that you might not be prepared for.