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Stepping into the unknown

Question (Beyoncé fans of a certain age raise their hand):

Is it okay or not to leave the children in the car at the petrol station while you pay for fuel?

Who knows. I mean, surely parents with babies don’t bother to get all their baby’s paraphernalia out of the boot and strap them in to carry them the short ten metres over to the kiosk?

Incidentally one of life’s joyous little moments occurred yesterday afternoon, at Sainsbury’s petrol station on the way home from school.

Standing in the long queue waiting for the solo checkout assistant, I turned around when a haggard woman (local accent, sharp, short hair-cut) shouted out over the queue,

“Hey! Is tha’ blonde woman workin todeh, that one that took ma moneh yesterdeh?”.

The harrassed looking assistant stopped what she was doing and propped herself up on her hands, looking over the queue from her checkout.

“Which one, darlin?”,

“Tha’ blonde woman with the goorrrgeous blue eyes”,

“Hang on a minute…”

She shouts through the store-room door, “DEBBBBIIIIEEEE”.

The whole queue waits with eager anticipation of Debbie’s beautiful sky-blue eyes and luscious blonde hair. A hassled looking and obvious brunette Debbie half pokes her head around the door, leaning round precariously on one foot, obviously holding a cigarette out of the back door on her left.

“Wha’ is it?”

“Did you serve this woman yesterday?”

“What woman?”


Points directly at me, everyone in the queue turns around, I step aside and point with both hands at said woman.

Haggard woman responds “Nah it wa’nt ‘er, my one had pretteh eyes”.

While I laughed, nobody else in the queue quite got the joke so I cleared my throat and looked down at my phone, naturally following the instinct to send an emergency Whatsapp to Tom to tell him all about it.

She interrupts my messaging with,

“Tha’ blonde woman overcharged meh two pound yesterdeh. Tha’s the price of five ciggs”.

“Is it really?” I replied, quickly turning back to face the checkout.

You learn something every day.


Anyway, there goes another classic huge digression from what I’m supposed to be writing about which is of course adoptive parenting. It’s a tad serious, this one, but I’ll hopefully offer a few useful pearls of wisdom for budding adoptive parents.

As a new or soon-to-be adoptive parent, there’s no denying that the near future is unpredictable. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about all the times that I’ve had to force myself into new situations, stepping (often literally) into unknown territory as an adoptive parent. I say ‘I’, but of course I mean we, really, although I am speaking for myself in this blog update as Tom and I find different things demanding. I mean, I know that in many ways we’re experiencing the same difficulties as birth parents, and in other ways our experiences are unique; however there’s no denying that it all feels more profound, more radical when one hasn’t had the benefit of the last five or six years to ease into parenthood comfortably.

‘Common’ demanding scenarios (as-in experienced by adoptive and birth parents) that an adoptive parent can expect include; forming friendships (and alliances) with other parents, school drop-offs, after-school activities, doctors and dentists’ appointments and attending children’s parties, all potentially stressful. However, these situations are probably fairly common among all parents and not specifically to us adoptive ones.

So, what unique scenarios, as an adoptive parent, can you expect to encounter? If you’re reading this as a prospective adoptive parent, hopefully the three accounts below might allow you to nip said scenarios in the proverbial bud before they become an issue in the first place.

1. The family surname

Your adoptive children will arrive on your doorstep with their birth surname and middle names. They’ll keep their original names until your legal adoption goes through, usually up to twelve months after placement. This theoretically shouldn’t be an issue, except in our case, and I’m sure many others, the birth parents had maliciously encouraged the children to forge an enormous sense of pride in their birth surname. It was the only word they could correctly spell and for the first year with us they would tell everybody their full birth name. Very awkward and somewhat dangerous for many reasons. To make matters worse, they’d also been provided with an extraordinary array of middle names in which they were inexplicably proud.

To combat this issue, we celebrated and even incentivised use of their new surname wherever possible – it’s a difficult one to say and spell but never-the-less eventually, both boys became proud of their new family name. Additionally, we got the boys involved in choosing their new middle names, which were selected from the first names of new popular family members that the boys had taken a shining to.

2. Discretion

There’s no denying that gossip about new parents and children at school spreads as fast as a juicy rumour in the Queen Vic. The advice we were given by our Adoption Agency was to be protective over information about our new family when talking to parents and professionals at nursery and school until we’re settled; great advice in theory but very difficult in practise, something that I discovered the hard way at school on Lyall’s first day.

Having just arrived through the gates on my first school-run, a nosy parent (who I’d never met) asked where we lived, whether we were new to the area and how we managed to secure a place at the coveted village school. Although it was probably just innocent chit-chat, it felt incredibly invasive and took me by surprise. I panicked and lied. Consequently I felt so terribly guilty that I kept a low profile for a couple of weeks, dreading a conversation with another parent. Eventually, not getting anywhere I decided to confide in Lyall’s lovely teacher who pointed me in the direction of a couple of friendly parents who live nearby; Zoe and Michelle. A couple of play-dates in and we were comfortable enough to share our experiences with them. It was hugely liberating to speak with like-minded parents from school and the school-run instantly became an enjoyable experience.

My advice would be to speak to your child’s teacher as early as possible, perhaps even before their first day, to find out about your closest families (geographically) and approach them – you’ll immediately have geographical proximity in common.

3. Applying for a passport

It’s unlikely that your adoptive children will have passports, and if they do, they will feature their previous names. You can take your children on holiday abroad with these passports, however, once the official adoption order has been placed and the children take on your family name you will need to apply for shiny new passports. Simple? No.

As part of the passport application you will need to include original copies of the children’s new birth certificates. Something that we didn’t realise when applying for our children’s new passports was that new adoptive parents are provided with ‘short’ birth certificates, birth certificates LITE, if you will, that include only a summary of their new information. God knows why. So, before you can apply for a passport, you’ll need to first apply to the passport office (along with an application fee) for the children’s new ‘long’ birth certificates which include your (adoptive parents’) details. These take six weeks to arrive, unless you are prepared (or desperate enough) to pay an additional fee for a quicker turnaround. This is of course before you consider the time and expense of the passport applications themselves, which incidentally take a further six weeks and about £50 each. Long gone are the days of a last minute bargain, eh?


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