This week the brilliant dad feature is Jamie, author of the Daddy & Dad blog. It is the current Adoption Blog of the Year. Along with his fiancé Tom, they adopted their boys, Lyall (nine), and Rich (eight), four years ago in March 2014. Adopting the boys is the single most life-changing and challenging thing they have ever done.
In his blog, Daddy & Dad, Jamie writes candidly and honestly about the good, the bad and the ugly experiences that Tom and himself as same-sex adoptive parents face. Meanwhile, they don’t shy away from the squabbles, nose bleeds and french-window licking for your entertainment and perusal!
They also get the boys involved in reviewing toys, games, holidays, restaurants and pubs (apparently pubs are mainly for daddy’s enjoyment though!).
Thank you to Jamie for taking part. Check out the blog, Daddy and Dad, you won’t be disappointed.
1. Have you always wanted to be a dad?
Right through my childhood I dreamed about being a dad. But, back in the late 80s and early 90s when I was growing up, gay people were falsely labelled as the kind of people you wouldn’t want around children. So as a young, secretly gay kid I resigned myself to the fact that parenthood probably wasn’t going to happen to me. Never-the-less, I babysat for children in the village and I loved looking after my young cousins. The feeling that I would someday have children of my own never really left.
In 2002 I met my fiance Tom (we haven’t been engaged that whole time, by the way!). We started planning our own family back in 2010 when our nephews were tots and we made our first enquiry about adoption in 2012.
2. How did you feel when you met your sons for the first time?
When you adopt, you don’t usually get to actually meet your children until just a few short days before they move in with you! So naturally, when Tom and I reached the day that we would meet our boys we were very nervous and emotional. The process leading up to this fateful day had taken almost two, turbulent years and there was so much at stake. Would they like us? Would they be really shy? We really didn’t know what to expect.
We first met Lyall and Richard at the home of their foster carer at 9am on a sunny Monday morning in March. Initially we were simply awestruck by how adorable they were. A handsome little pair with smart blonde side-parted hair styles, shy smiles, dimples and rosy cheeks.
Lyall shook my hand and in the most surreal moment of my life, I said to him “Hi Lyall, I’m Daddy”. Richard on the other hand, much smaller and far more cheeky looking than we expected from photographs went straight for a cuddle, no messing about with handshakes!
Every emotion ran through us that day; nerves, happiness, excitement, bewilderment, love. I guess you could sum it up by saying we were enchanted.
3. What have been your most rewarding experiences so far as a Dad?
Being an adoptive parent is different to conventional parenting because adopted children inevitably arrive with issues and delayed development. So, as a parent you face each difficulty face on and do your best to help your children to overcome it.
When our boys were placed with us, the little one, Richard had severely delayed speech. There was a six month waiting list for a speech therapy consultation. So, Tom and I read-up on speech therapy techniques and taught him to speak at home. It was very hard work, so frustrating – in fact, early on it seemed as though we’d embarked on mission impossible. But, we persevered.
When I eventually took Richard to his NHS speech consultation six months later, he was discharged that same day – the consultant noting that his vocabulary and pronunciation far exceeded expectations for a four year old. I cried! That was the proudest moment of my life so far.
Lyall, our eldest makes us proud every day; in particular his reading and writing skills are astonishing. He devours books – at age nine he’s read all the Harry Potters, the first Lord of the Rings and every David Walliams. He’s like Matilda! However, the most rewarding experience with Lyall was watching him receive the coveted Head Teacher’s Award in assembly at school. Despite his tendency to lose concentration in the classroom, he was awarded for writing and presenting a home-made maths guidebook to the reception class! Adorable.
4. What are some of funniest moments to have happened to you as a dad?
Oh blimey, when your whole life is an episode of You’ve Been Framed it’s very difficult to think of a single moment!
Our boys are totally clumsy and not especially concerned about how they look. On one particular occasion, on arrival at the car park near school, I realised that Lyall had his school trousers on completely backwards, with the back pockets around the front where his zip should have been. He ran off into the park regardless and started to stuff conkers into the back pockets, creating a huge lumpy bulge in his trousers. Despite shouting after him, he ran off into the school playground and joined his queue. God knows what the teacher must have thought!
Also, the other day Richard phoned Grandma Jenny to sing happy birthday to her, only he’d dialled the wrong number and sang the whole song to the barmaid at the Beefeater! I think it made her day, to be fair.
5. Have there been any situations with your children that you have found difficult to cope with?
Loads. Before they were placed with us, Lyall and Richard were known to be quite a handful and prone to fighting. Back when we first adopted the boys, our social worker helped us to plan a strategy to combat the bad behaviour and to provide the boys with the very best chance of settling in and attaching to us.
Essentially we were challenged to stick to a very strict daily routine; bed times, teeth brushing, baths, meal times, reading, cuddles – it pretty much covered everything, including consistent discipline. And it worked perfectly; within just a couple of months, the boys were completely settled and thriving.
This approach faced unfair criticism and judgement from members of Tom’s family who struggled to cope with the boys’ behaviour when they were released from our routine and into their care for a weekend. The boys like to test boundaries and naturally took the opportunity to muck about. A week later, a complaint arrived via email from somebody else in the family, naturally causing upset. The observation was the boys were behaving like caged animals that had just been released into the wild!
Another difficult situation arose at school – as new adoptive parents we were advised by our social worker not to reveal the boys’ adopted status too early on. Adopted children can be stigmatised by other parents. On the first school-run, a nosy mum quizzed me about how we managed to get a place at the ought-after village school, mid-term. I panicked and lied, saying that we were new to the area. After that, I was very nervous about talking to any of the parents in the playground. (more about that on the blog, by the way).
6. What are your dreams and hopes for your children?
Tom and I do wonder what the future holds… Lyall and Richard are growing into handsome, confident (and probably quite sassy), eloquent, streetwise young men. But, will the boys want to explore their birth family? Will they be living with us until they’re into their thirties because house prices are so ridiculous? Will they have children of their own? It’s difficult to know!
When we ask Lyall and Richard what they want to be when they’re grown up, Lyall says he’ll be a YouTuber, an author and a footballer. Richard wants to be a shopkeeper and a model ‘like Ronaldo’. Hopefully, by shopkeeper we’re talking Amazon rather than Londis.
When we talk about girlfriends or boyfriends, Lyall wants a girlfriend and children. Richard on the other hand wants to live next door, be a bachelor and adopt children, apparently! Sounds good to us.