I was quite unprepared for the shock of recognition when I met Gordon for the first time. Of course, I recognised him from the photo albums and videos I had been shown, but this recognition was at a much deeper level – I felt as though I had known him all my life. He was not only instantly loveable, he was immediately someone I felt I could understand, with whom I could share feelings and dreams.
I felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility for him; a drive to protect him and to nurture him. Friends have told me of “falling in love” with their babies when they are born – that instinct was as strong in me as it was in them, though this “baby” was a fully grown 10-year-old boy! I can only imagine how strange and terrifying it was to meet me for the first time, but he showed no sign of fear, he simply got out of his social worker’s car and walked up the path calling out, ‘Hi Mum!’ as he walked past me into the house.
When I showed Gordon the bedroom that was to be his, he cried out, ‘It’s just as if I was a real boy!’ The bedroom was not that special – it was only a small bedroom in a tiny semi-detached bungalow and furnished very simply. Delighted that I was that Gordon liked his new bedroom, I was sad that he felt himself not to be a “real boy”. What I knew already of the first 10 years of his life made me understand why he regarded himself as different.
He had suffered years of abuse and neglect in his family home, had been bullied in a children’s home and locked up in a psychiatric hospital. Yet he had also experienced love within his birth family and had strong feelings for family members he had lost through death and separation. And there were staff within the care setting who had become important to him. It was a complex story, a twisted knot of incidents, experiences and people. From this snarled mess, Gordon was struggling to build some sense of who he was and where he belonged. I think it was when I heard his heartfelt cry about being a “real boy” that I decided that one of my top priorities would be to let him have as normal a life as possible
You can read more about Jeannie and Gordon’s life together as an adoptive family in their book As if I was a Real Boy.