This is our new family - from left to right in this marvellous illustration; Lyall, Daddy, Dad and Richard. I'm Daddy, although unlike our family portrait over there, I no longer sport a head of beautiful blonde hair. Richard's pictures of me always feature an elaborate yellow hair do. Lyall's 5, Richard's 4.
As you'd hope, on the way to adoption, a budding soon-to-be parent is vigorously prepared, trained and then probed until every closet's skeleton has proverbially popped out for a quick scare. I won't bore you with our assessment story just now (although I might treat you to a few carefully selected anecdotes later). In short, an adoptive parent is extraordinarily well-prepared. Friends of ours with their own children often suggest that we have been given a distinct advantage; apparently antenatal care providing just a quick nudge in the general direction in comparison to our full-colour parenting road map. Marvellous, non?
Well, armed with our text-books, training, wonderful social-worker on speed dial and every worst-case scenario instilled (just in-case we experience some horrendous surprise revelation over dinner), thankfully for us, our gorgeous little boys are loving, predictable and well-adjusted to their new forever family. It's been hard work mind you; we've had our fair share of tears, snot, poo, guts and blood. No amount of training can prepare you for a nose-bleed in the park when you're a mile from a tissue or baby-wipe (needless to say, we all ran back to the car, screaming hysterically, my socks pressed against small boy's face).
So, here were are, after six months as a proud family. Last week, Richard started school for the first time - a great achievement from a little boy who as little as a few months ago would struggle to find simple words and would shy away from other children. Dropping him off inside his new classroom; a chaotic experience; navigating a new classroom along with 50 emotional parents, we were relieved when Richard kissed and hugged us both, muttering a quick 'cheerio' and dashing off saying "There's my friend Louis!". One thing I've discovered about children with a severely shy demeanour is that they improve with experience. During the Summer holidays for instance we have been to every play-centre, friend's house, social occasion and activity day possible. It works; we now have a confident little boy. Soft-play coffee is horrible, by the way.