Today’s column is dedicated to a special man and a very special little boy. I write it because at this time of year it is right we concentrate not on the race for power but on the power of love
Noah Carpenter – known as Teddy – was laid to rest last week aged just two and a half years old. He died following a seizure and his daddy and his brothers and sisters are heartbroken.
He had only been part of this special family for a little over a year but in that short time he touched the hearts of many with his happy smiles and his infectious chuckles that seemed to come from deep within his being. More importantly he experienced in his short life what sadly so many children do not, the joy of being part of a happy home.
Just two weeks before he died he was being twirled around in his wheelchair at a children’s Halloween disco. He adored the family’s pet dogs and cat. They are still wandering the house looking for him. He loved being at the beach with the wind in his face.
But more importantly he adored his daddy and his four brothers and sisters. He loved being loved. And that is why his story is so special.
Teddy was born with a rare genetic disorder known as Cornelia de Lange syndrome which meant he had the most complex of needs. He couldn’t walk or talk and had to be fed through a tube.
But then Benjamin Carpenter has always been able to see past the disabilities that mean so many children have little or no chance of experiencing all that he can give them.
He is a single dad from Huddersfield. All five of his children have been adopted. But they are all the more special for that. No matter where they came from or what difficulties they may face he has offered them safety, security and happiness. And more importantly love.
Last week a Berkshire couple won damages against their local council when their application to join a register of approved adopters was turned down because of their Indian ancestry. The money doesn’t matter. Their race doesn’t matter. What matters is that this sends a clear signal to all those in charge of making those life-changing decisions that you simply can’t discriminate at the expense of love.
There are thousands of children waiting to find their forever home. Some will never find one. Why, when there was a couple with that love to give, do we even consider the colour of their skin or their cultural background? The culture of languishing in a children’s home knowing no one wants you is far more destructive, which is why so many young people experience real difficulties once they leave the system.
It has never been easy to adopt. Nor should it be. I know my own parents underwent months of scrutiny when they adopted me. And that is how it should be. But adoption shouldn’t be unnecessarily difficult either.
Benjamin Carpenter is an unusual man. From being a teenager he longed to be a father. But as he grew older he realised he wanted to be a father with a difference. A father who made a difference.
Because of him five little children have known and understood what it is to be loved unconditionally, to be a family. They are devastated that one of them is no longer part of their little band of warriors. But they also truly understand the power of sharing even a short time together.
As for Teddy he had the joy of belonging, which is truly at the heart of adoption and indeed parenting. Being adopted isn’t easy. Who you are and why you were given away plays on your mind for the rest of your life. But being an adoptive parent is even harder, your role being to answer those questions with love and understanding. I thank every single one of you who have given those lost and sometimes lonely children the gift of belonging. Without you the world would be a very different place for so many.
I want to close if I may with a little passage from the eulogy Ben wrote to his son, a child he planned a lifetime with, no matter how long that life was to be.
“My dearest Teddy Bear, my son, my world, my everything, what a little ray of sunshine you were. You overcame so much in your short life, despite having a very difficult start. You had the most beautiful and gentle pure soul. You also had the ability to make people understand disabilities just by being the beautiful boy you were. Teddy, I have always said adoption is much more than a word. Adoption is another word for love, and Teddy you were loved in every way by so many people. Until we meet again.”