So, I know this blog is called ‘Heart Mama Blog’ and this series usually posts adoption stories from a Mom’s perspective but today we get to hear from a Dad, an ‘AfroDaddy’ to be specific! Terence is a blogger with his own Youtube channel – I’ve loaded some of my favourite videos of his at the bottom of this post, so take a look. Terence and his wife Julie live down the road from us and we’ve met through mutual friends – if you ever find yourself in Rosmead Spar, keep one eye open for this Dad with a fro (and perhaps a kid or two!) and give him a hello and a pat on the back.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your family.
I’m a dad who is a little bit odd – in looks, taste and personality (but not too odd, I hope!). I’m married to beautiful, gracious, smart and wonderful Julie. (I say all this about her because it’s true, but also because it makes her SUPER uncomfortable)
We are the happy parents of 2 year old Liam, who we formally adopted in 2014, and 6 month old Eli, who was born last year. They are our sources of incredible joy and exhaustion.
Did you always know that you wanted to adopt?
Before Julie and I were married, we agreed that adoption was always going to be a part of our family’s story!
Did you use an agency or did you adopt through Child Welfare? What would you recommend?
Our adoption story is a bit…different. We were originally temporary care parents for quite a few children before we decided to adopt, so we cared for children from various agencies and Child Welfare.
Liam came to us via an agency, originally as in a temporary care agreement, but that changed after a few months when we realised that we wanted him to be permanently part of our family! (Luckily, our social workers agreed!)
What was the hardest part of the process?
For me, it was making the decision that we wanted to adopt Liam. We had to be brutally honest with ourselves – we asked questions like:
“Is this really the best for him and for us?”
“Are we willing to do WHATEVER it takes to adopt him – legally, financially and emotionally?”
“If we are allowed to adopt him, are we ready and willing to deal with whatever that means down the road?”
Once we decided that the answer to all of that was “Yes!” everything else fell into place.
Tell us about your first night together as a family?
Well, since we were originally temporary care parents for Liam, he came to our home when he was only a day old – which is a massive privilege, since most adoptive parents miss those first few months. We had already cared for several babies, so we were really excited to meet this new person and welcome him to our home!
Despite being fairly used to having a new baby around, that first night was filled with all the usual anxieties: “Are we using the right formula?” “Did we give him too much or too little?” “Is he too warm? Is he breathing okay? Did we burp him okay?”
There was also the moment where his biological mom came to mind. We didn’t meet her (we’d only find out about her story during the adoption process) but we had great empathy for her loss. I couldn’t imagine how tough the days leading up to Liam coming us must have been for her.
What is your funniest adoption-related family story?
Pretty much whenever we go somewhere new – The Mentors walk into the place and we can see the confusion on people’s faces: Pretty white lady, walking with a coloured guy with a big afro, who’s pushing a double-pram with a Xhosa toddler and very white-looking infant.
I can totally understand how someone who doesn’t know us would ask, “How the hell did THAT all happen?”
Do you celebrate ‘adoption day’ with any traditions?
To be absolutely frank, our lives are so hectic that it’s tough to do anything more than acknowledge the day. Life becomes less hectic as kids get older, right?
(This is the point where older parents need to lie to me right now)
Advice for the screening process?
BE HONEST. This isn’t a job interview where you can only show a certain side of yourself. Someone is giving you this amazing gift of caring for their child – you owe it to the biological parents, the child, the social workers and yourself to give a true representation of yourself, and then let them make whatever decisions they need to.
That being said, tidying up your place wouldn’t hurt.
How can friends and family best support those adopting?
If they are still waiting to adopt, try not to ask about it every time you see them, but if they bring it up, be ready to listen.
Unless you’ve adopted yourself, don’t assume you understand what they are going through – the way it affects a family is nothing like they show you on TV.
There are a lot of similarities in the feelings that go along with the adoption process and pregnancy: the expectation and excitement and anxieties are all there, so treat them the same way you would a pregnant family.
Top tip for doing life as a rainbow nation family?
In South Africa, you will likely have a cross-racial adoption. More importantly, it will be cross-cultural adoption.
I think it’s really important for the family to honour each other’s ‘biological’ cultures. Learn the language. Befriend people from that group. Do whatever you can to show your child that where they come from is an important part of who they are, and is something to be proud of.
And for goodness sakes, learn to look after your child’s hair and skin!
Last tip (and this is something I struggle with): when people look at you strangely or say things that are marginally insensitive, don’t overreact. They aren’t used to what they are seeing, so give them a break.
And now, over to AfroDaddy – here are those videos I was talking about:
Click here to view AfroDaddy’s other videos & to subscribe to his YouTube channel. And why not follow him on Facebook too so that you can be kept in the loop. It’s a pleasure.