For us falling in love was easy and instant – from the very moment we met our sons. For the boys it of course took longer – they needed to settle, they needed to attach, subconsciously they needed to allow themselves to love again.
They started saying ‘I love you Daddy’ in response to our constant ‘I love yous’ pretty early on in the placement and as pleasing and satisfying as it was, of course we knew that it was just an automatic response and at that stage they were just words. Words that the boys knew were the ‘right’ words and that they could see pleased us, but regardless we were under no illusion that they understood them or indeed that they conveyed true emotions.
However we did feel that it was healthy for them to be using the words and that at some point they would grow into them and feel comfortable saying them because they appreciated their value and meant it.
It has been two years since we became a family and we feel sure that we have now reached that point and that their love is real and unquestioned. Being a family hasn’t always been easy (and no doubt never will be), but we don’t question that they love us both – and I would say in pretty equal measures. Maybe they love us for the different qualities that we bring to their lives, but I’m confident that we are both now acknowledged equally as parents – but that certainly hasn’t always been the case.
From the subject being raised at the ‘We are Family’ support groups I have attended it seems pretty standard for adopted children to have a favourite parent in the early stages, in our house it was very clear who that was and being children they were not shy to state it as a fact.
The first time was the funniest and most honest. I was playing around and did something pleasing to our then 5 year old and proudly stated ‘see that’s why I am the best Daddy in the whole world’ to which the response was a confused look and an emphatic ‘no you are not, Pa is’ (this is their name for my partner).
I had been firmly put in my place.
I am pretty sure I had registered the favouritism prior to this, but having it spelt out so clearly and so heart felt – did take me aback. I am old enough and tough enough for it not to hurt, but there was certainly disappointment that I was not the favourite – or even equal – thankfully the humour of the situation softened the blow. I immediately took stock and realised that as the stay at home parent of course ‘Pa’ was more dominant in their lives and indeed in their eyes more important to them. However, far more relevant was the fact that it showed that a great bond and attachment had already been formed and that they were settling into a family with – in their eyes – a ‘Best Dad in the whole world’ – that may not be me, but it was reassuring and great to know regardless.
Other adopters have stated that they felt jealous with the realisation that they were not the favourite, which I fully understand as I have experienced a similar jealousy. We have a nephew who bonded immediately with the boys – especially the oldest – and they became the center of his attention whenever he was around and vice versa, their playing quite literally pushed me to one side. In the early days this was harder to accept or justify as he was not prominent in their daily lives and it did leave me feeling rejected and replaced. Thankfully after a few hours we were back to being a family and I returned to being needed and the focus of their attention, as time has gone on and I have become more secure in my role as Daddy the jealousy has been replaced with joy for the relationships being built with extended family, but in the early days it was tough.
We put so much in to our parenting and we try so hard for them that when there is anything suggesting you are not doing a great job, its difficult to accept – when it’s your child telling you that you are not as good as your partner it’s especially tough.
I am in awe of you single adopters out there taking on so much alone and I think you have it so much tougher in every respect – except one that is: in your house you are guaranteed to be the favourite. I envy you that.
If you are one of a couple adopting, be prepared as there will be a favourite – and it might not be you.