And they were my Mum and Dad. It was an era when being an unmarried mother carried the sort of stigma and prejudices that seems now to belong to another century, let alone just a few decades ago. And my birth mother was young and unmarried so I was put up for adoption at the insistence of her parents. But fate brought me to the happiest home I could ever have found.
Instead of feeling second best I was brought up to feel special, chosen even. I was told I was adopted from when I was old enough to understand that ‘your mummy couldn’t look after you so she gave you to us to be a family.’ And we were. Me, my adopted brother and Mum and Dad. But above all I was taught never to judge the woman who had given me away, because, as mum would say, she gave us the greatest of gifts, each other.
On Father’s Day, 19 years after my Dad died, I found myself reflecting, as I do every year, on that special bond between us and my total belief that nurture really is stronger than nature, every time. And for nurture, read love. I even looked like my father, biologically impossible, but easy to explain. I had his mannerisms, his way of speaking (diction was very important to my policeman dad). I sat up straight like he did, because he told me it was important. “No one likes a slouch Christa, it appears lazy and disinterested.” And I always look people in the eye. Because that was important too. Above all I was told to look forwards in life, not backwards, because “that’s not the direction you are travelling in.” So I did and still do. No regrets.
Which is why it grieves me that there are so many children languishing in care waiting for the chance to find their forever family, hundreds and hundreds of them added to the list every year. Of course times have changed. The abundance of babies being given up for adoption simply because of marital status is gone forever, thank goodness
More often than not, children waiting to find parents have had a much more challenging start in life than I did. Many are older, with painful, disturbing memories to erase. And it is a fact that as each year progresses their chance of adoption diminishes. Others suffer physical difficulties that sadly mean they are often overlooked. And that is simply tragic.
Which is why I want to say thank you to all of those who are determined to give these children the love and care I remain eternally grateful for. Benjamin Carpenter, a single man from Huddersfield, has just received a British Citizen’s Award for his work in persuading others to think about adoption. He has adopted four children. Or rather he has four children to love. Ten-year-old Jack is autistic. Ruby has Pierre Robin syndrome, scoliosis, limited use of her arms and is registered blind. Lily, Ruby’s half-sister is deaf. And three-year-old Joseph has Down’s Syndrome. But Benjamin treats their challenges as just part of who they are. It certainly doesn’t define them.
Then there is Paul and Michael Atwal-Brice from Thurnscoe in South Yorkshire. Twins Levi and Lucas both have autism, epilepsy and can’t speak. And, very soon, one-year-old Lotan and Lance, also twins, will officially join the family. And they worship their boys, who worship them. And before you start surmising, yes Ben, Paul and Michael are gay. So what? They are brilliant parents who have changed eight young lives forever. And they are heroes in my book. As they should be in yours.
Family, and the structure and security it brings, comes in many forms in the 21st century. But love is love is love. So class, race gender, single or otherwise, sexual orientation, is irrelevant when it comes to being a parent. What is relevant is that children are not abandoned. They must never believe they are second best. Because they are not. I am who I am not through birth, but because of the people who raised me. Yes, there were challenging times, but that’s just growing up, not because of being adopted. And no, before you ask, I never went looking for my birth mother. I know who my parents were and I am proud to be adopted, because I was adopted by them.
And I wish, with all my heart, that those children who need the love I found, will one day find it too, in all its glorious, selfless, abundance. Because every child deserves a childhood.