"I remember when I first came to live here I couldn't work out who my family were, I kept expecting a Mummy to appear"
If there's one thing I know we were both concerned about prior to adopting our children, it was to ensure that their adoption by a same sex couple should in no way be a hindrance to their happiness and recovery from what went before.
In the case of our son, there were aspects of his past that made his adoption by a same sex couple preferable. His final foster family were able to heal much of the damage that had been inflicted to his confidence, but there were still points at which he was clearly happier in the company of a male.
As time goes on and our son becomes more eloquent and, I think, more able to understand his feelings, we're able to discuss how he feels about our rather unconventional family.
The early days of our coming together as a family were, on occasion, difficult for me due to the loss of my mother. I've blogged about that story here.
The stress of coming to terms with that loss and supporting my father through that period was relieved almost entirely by the joy of having our three year old son join us.
The transition process and first few weeks of our son living with us went well. However we reached a very difficult period after a few weeks when J's mother came to stay for the first time post adoption.
With hindsight we made mistakes in the early days of our son's adoption by allowing too much access from friends and family. I'll tell more of that story on another occasion. My mother in law stayed for a long weekend. After the first day there was a small, but perceptible shift in our son's attitude towards me. He became less tactile, less cooperative.
By the end of the weekend this had transformed into open rejection. At the time it was really hurtful. I'd struggled slightly during her stay watching my mother in law with my new son. Whilst she was unfailingly kind and sensitive throughout, witnessing J's mother with our little boy starkly highlighted the loss of my own mum.
The difficult period lasted after J's mum returned home, to the extent that we asked for some advice from our social worker about whether there was anything further we could or should be doing.
That advice was comforting but also sobering. Having checked with a child psychologist she suggested that our son's rejection of me was linked to a confusion about who exactly constituted his family. Seeing J with his mother, the closeness of their relationship and the bond they shared had confused our son, suggested the social worker.
She explained that young children do not make any differentiation for age. Consequently our son had probably become confused by the close relationship between J and his mum. Looking for the two people in the household who, to him, had the closest connection, our son had decided that it was J and his mother and therefore considered me inconsequential.
Our social worker reassured us that this would be a transitory stage, that three year old children essentially dealt with the world they see in front of them and that things would return to normal very quickly.
Indeed they did.
As our son has got older, he's now seven, we have begun to speak to him often about the nature of family and more specifically of our family.
He's aware of how different our family is and we have worked with him to help understand that. He seems pretty cool with the whole thing and so have his school mates. Indeed, more than once we've had one of his friends' parents say: "Our *son/daughter* said the other day, do you know *7yo* has two dads. That's pretty cool, how lucky is he."
Our approach has been to ensure that when (not if) he comes across a negative reaction about our family he is armed with a response to it. We therefore talk to him frequently to ensure he has no concerns or questions around the issue.
In one of those conversations the other day our son said to J: "I remember when I first came to live here I couldn't work out who my family were, I kept expecting a Mummy to appear."
"I'd had a Mummy before and I thought I would have to have one again, but then I realised it was the two of you, and that was OK. In fact it turned out really well, I wouldn't have wanted my old Mummy back!"
That explained a little to us about those early days, and also gave us some comfort.
We've been incredibly lucky with our children. They are bright, sparky, quirky and self assured. They are clear as to who their family are and we grow ever closer. Adopting our daughter has only strengthened those bonds.
The challenges of having a little girl are quite different and deserve a whole blog of their own. We have at least been able to learn from the experience of adopting our son to help smooth the process for our daughter.
When we talk to our children about their family we explain that there are all sorts of families. Some children live with a Mum and a Dad, some with just a Mum or just a Dad. Some families contain two Mums or two Dads, some children live with their grandparents and some with step parents or foster families. But as long as there's love then that will always constitute a family.