Earlier this week an acquaintance who I know locally was at the same meeting as me. A little group of us were stacking chairs and collecting bags and coats afterwards, and a couple asked me – as people are prone to doing at the moment – how my adoption stuff is going.
Right from the beginning I have been pretty open with close family and friends about my hopes. Indeed it was only some time down the line that I realised others sometimes choose to keep it very secret – it hadn’t occurred to me once I’d started talking to an agency and filling in forms that I wouldn’t tell people if I’m honest!
And I have been so lucky. So lucky. I must choose my family and friends very well indeed is all I can say! They have been amazing throughout – supportive, excited, positive, offering help, listening, tolerant of my increasingly narrow range of conversational topics (attachment, the impact of neglect on brain development, national children in care policy developments, claiming, and the likelihood of high routine dependency among adoptive children are obviously a very broad range of subjects after all, what do they have to complain about?!).
In the summer, as it looked as if my adoption plans were coming together. I started to share my plans even more widely – remembering to tell those colleagues at work who I only see occasionally, and deliberately sharing at a low level with a broad range of neighbours and local acquaintances. I wanted people to have time to get used to the idea that my life would be changing so that when it did they would hopefully be less surprised, more able to include my new family into their picture and so on. (Interestingly among other responses I was delighted to immediately be on the receiving end of a few playdate invitations – although we never had such things in my young day (!) I do know these can be very important, and if they proved to work ok could make a huge difference to my adoption leave experience as well as to helping my new child or children to meet other children locally. Bonus!)
Again, I have been amazed – especially after hearing on Twitter and blogs, and in our training, of the experiences of some other prospective and new adopters – by the level of simple acceptance and positive support and excitement that has been shared with me by this wider group of acquaintances.
However I feel it has to be this background and trend that has made my recent experience earlier this week linger in my mind. The woman is older, known for not always being the most backward with her opinion or her views on life. While forthright in her views (a number of which I suspect would not align with my own!) and not always observant, she is however recognised by everyone to be someone who sets out to be supportive and interested in the people around her.
To recap therefore: we stacked our chairs and my two friends asked casually if there was any update. (Bless them, you could tell they were asking because they really wanted to know, but were also immediately ready to back off if it proved to be the wrong question!). I started to explain a very few words about matching …
.. and that was when it happened.
“You need your child to be as young as possible you know.” The comment and the tone jarred. I looked up and smiled; I clarified the wide age range I was looking into and thinking about; I commented as is my way that matching was hard, and there were pros and cons with every age of course.
The eyebrows went up, the lips were pursed.
I gently added that I might well end up looking at children aged 4 or 5 or so.
The eyebrows went even higher. Her expression became more pointed still. And then she made a sound that felt, to me at least, to be a mixture of disparaging, despairing and dismissive.
Yes that was it. It truly was but a moment.
Soon after we all left the room.
I carried on chatting to the two who had originally nudged me hopefully for an update. I was asked again, entirely separately, the same gentle enquiry whether there was any news about 2 minutes later – this time we didn’t even get to the age question because the very fact I was thinking about matching again was excitement enough in itself!
I do know there are a number among the public who question the right of singletons to adopt; that a few campaign against adoption entirely; that there are some for whom the idea of any additional single mothers joining society is anathema, regardless of how their family was formed. I have seen several of the lists of comments people have made to others (and yes, I am braced, it’s ok, I do know my friends and family will say some of those things too at different times).
Despite knowing all of this intellectually I truly do feel lucky and privileged to have experienced so few judgemental moments to date.
Yes, that means that when a comment is passed that raises my emotional or intellectual hackles: I notice. (Interestingly, though, the comment itself didn’t seem to throw me at all or send me into any flurry of self-doubt – if anything I feel reminded exactly why I am open to being matched with children across a wide age range and even reaffirmed that that is indeed still right for me!)
Above all, though, this small incident has left me consciously marvelling at those all around me who have been so amazing.
I have been so lucky: neighbours, Twitterpals, old friends from years ago, family both close and more scattered; you are all just so fabulous.
You are all so appreciated.
I am so very lucky.