Do you remember how impossibly long the promise of a six-week summer felt when you were eight? It always felt like September was an entire lifetime away, like it would never actually arrive and you’d just blissfully dawdle through the summery days forever and ever. Ah, eight was a good age. Much better than six, when things are a bit scarier and you still have trouble controlling your bladder sometimes. No? Was that just me? Being eight was all silly playground politics and Pokémon cards, wasn’t it? Still gutted I never got my shiny Charizard, to be completely honest with you.
And that’s sort of how it felt when I was about to embark on my eight-month stretch of adoption leave. The world was quickly falling apart. People were quivering inside their forts made of toilet roll, and hand sanitiser had a street value equal to some of the dodgier substances (or a shiny Charizard, for that matter – nearly £6K for a first edition, would you believe?!). But I was about to disappear into a bubble with my newly-extended family, and that was all that mattered.
It felt like an endless stretch of time. I’ll be off forever, I thought to myself. I need never open my laptop again, or write those cursed words, I hope this email finds you well. Because even when an email doesn’t find you well, you still have to pretend, don’t you?
Anyway, I digress. As always.
What I’m saying is that it felt like an idyllic limbo that would never end.
But it has ended. Tomorrow, I go back to the day job. It’s the end of the scariest and simultaneously most beautiful year of my life, and now the rest of our lives can begin. Real Life has crept up on me more sneakily than the velociraptors do during the kitchen scene in Jurassic Park. Did you know that Real Life can open doors?! No matter how hard you try and barricade it out?
So, yes. The last six weeks or so – about the length of the summer holidays, ironically – have flown by so quickly that I barely had time to prepare myself. I’m lucky enough to have a job that I enjoy, which makes the return that much easier. And it will be nice to have conversations with other grown-ups that don’t revolve around poo consistency (“He had a lovely sweetcorn poo earlier after his corn on the cob last night,” I will relay to my husband at the end of the day. Seriously, sometimes you open up his nappy and there’s just a perfectly preserved corn on the cob sitting there). Again, with the poo humour! See, I really do need some adult conversation!
It will be nice to remember that I am not just a Parent. I am a Human Being with Other Responsibilities and Interests, and I’m about to rediscover that.
But, at the same time, I can’t help but be sad that this experience is over. It’s been such a privilege and an honour raising this little boy, this tiny human who didn’t have the best start in life. Even when he’s pushing my buttons – which he does a lot (imagine my patience is a keyboard… well, sometimes he just sits on it. And shits. And I’m not talking a sweetcorn poo, either). Even when he’s clinging to me more effectively than cling film, which we all know is a material that’s annoyingly efficient at its job (you could be trying to wrap a sandwich, and your nan could walk past and get mummified).
Even on the bad days, when there’s a lot of kicking and screaming – as I type this, he’s flinging a monster truck across the room in frustration – it is still the best job I have ever had. Being one of his two dads is the most rewarding thing I will ever do. He has my heart, forever and always, and I will always look back at this embryonic time as a family with happy tears in my eyes. We’ve grown together. Laughed together. Cried together. We’ve come to love each other more than I can put into words, and I’m supposed to be a writer so that’s a bit embarrassing, really.
But now it’s time to finish this chapter and get started on the next. There are gonna be challenges that no amount of adoption preparation courses or reading can prepare us for. Nursery. School. Making friends. Finding himself. Holidays. Happy tears. Sad tears. Angry tears. Things to learn. Traumas to work through. Stories to tell and listen to. Adventures to embark upon.
And I’m just so grateful to have been given this last year. It has been a true gift. But now, it is time for it to end. Life is unfurling before is, full of hidden boxes for us to find and open. Some of them will have lovely, sparkly things inside them. Butterflies that fly out and land in our hair. Some of them will be dark, full of shadows and mould. Some will be disappointing. We’ll pick it up, rattle it, and wonder at what amazing thing sits inside, only to open it and find something a bit rubbish, like a half-eaten box of chocolates. And there will be other boxes that look dodgy from the outside. Suspicious. But we’ll open them, and sunshine will emerge.
So that’s what life is going to be from now on. Approaching and opening secret boxes that we will have no idea what they contain. It’s gonna be like being eight years old again and opening a fresh packet of Pokémon cards and not knowing what’s inside.
Except, I kinda do know, when it comes to the rest of our lives together. Because I’ve already got that shiny Charizard card. I’ve got hundreds of them. Every day that I’m this little boy’s dad, I acquire another one. My eight-year-old self would be rich with Charizards. But now twenty years later, I am rich with something else.
Until next time.