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'My adoptive parents did everything humanly possible to make me feel part of their lives'

After two years in an orphanage, Alex Kane on the joy his new mum and dad brought to his life

Published 01/01/2016

Very grateful: Alex Kane with daughter Lilan-Liberty Kane-Dunn
Very grateful: Alex Kane with daughter Lilan-Liberty Kane-Dunn
Alex when he was seven
His mum Adelaide
His father Sam
His beloved teddy bear sitting in the study

Adopting a child takes a lot more than love: let's face it, you don't just fall in love with a child you barely know, anyway. Adoption is the beginning of a very long journey. And it will often be a difficult journey, because the child will have personal and psychological baggage to deal with, not least coming to terms with their new life and environment.

Love is not uppermost in their mind at that point: what matters most is security, a sense of belonging and the reassurance that the arrangement isn't temporary.

I still have the bear that was sitting on my new bed when I was adopted in 1961. He has lived in every house I have ever lived in and still has pride of place in my study. There's rarely a day when I don't pat his head and have a chat.

He reminds me that I have had two lives: more importantly, he reminds me how extraordinarily lucky I was to have been adopted.

Adopting a child is probably one of the most generous things that one human being can do for another. It's also one of the most courageous things you can do, because you really have no idea how it will work out.

Happy endings are not guaranteed. A loving relationship is not guaranteed. Fitting snugly together as a happy family is not guaranteed. A child who will bring you pride and joy is not guaranteed.

All you can do - and it will be something you may need to do for years - is let that child know that you are there when you need them. And you will never know when they need you the most, because you can never tell when the questions will come, or the nightmare, or the wet bed, or the sudden, inexplicable fears. More than 50 years since my own adoption, I still have nights when I scream myself awake.

So, yes, adopting a child is a challenge of Grand Canyon proportions. But when it works - as so many of them do - it is a wonder, a sheer joy to behold.

I arrived in Armagh in July 1961 and, to put it bluntly, I was a basket case: a skinny, petrified, mute, bed-wetting weirdo. I had blocked out the first six years ofmy life, including two years in an orphanage, and I regarded every knock on the door, or ring of the bell, as a signal that I was being taken away again.

I hid a small suitcase in my toy cupboard - with a few things I wanted to keep - until I was 10. But Sam and Adelaide never gave up on me.

They talked to me, read to me, comforted me and washed sheets on a daily basis.

I never remember them shouting at me at any point during those first few years. I never remember a "go to your room" moment.

All I remember is two people doing everything humanly possible to make me feel part of their lives, while they helped me to rebuild my own life. As I said, doing the most generous thing that anyone could do for a lost boy.

Adoption is not for everyone. It takes courage, patience and an inexhaustible supply of generosity.

But the difference you can make to just one life does, in the majority of cases, make it all worthwhile. Sam and Adelaide loved me. I loved them.

I still miss them every day: a quiet, decent couple who did something wonderful for a boy everyone else had given up on.

Belfast Telegraph

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