Eight years ago today, my life changed forever. It’s the day I went to meet my daughter for the first time. She was 18 months old, and I came face to face with her for the first time in the hall of a Mumbai orphanage.
Tonight, according to tradition, we’ll celebrate our special day with dinner in a restaurant of her choice - invariably pizza.
Before I was leaving to pick her up, a wise friend sent me off with the words: “remember, kids need love the most when they’re being the most unloveable”.
The line has reverberated in my mind in the years that followed, and was amplified when I got my second daughter from China (she prefers noodle soup and dumplings on her special day).
I worked for years to get these kids. Forget 9 months: adoption means your pregnancy lasts for long painful emotional years of waiting and not knowing. That means you really have to WANT kids to go through it because, believe me, there are lots of road blocks along the way to put off those who are only mildly interested in having kids. Getting the picture? I really REALLY wanted kids.
Yet over the years there have been moments when exhaustion, stress, frustration combined to make the recurrent sight of a messy bedroom or towels dropped carelessly on the bathroom floor enough to turn me into an exploding bomb of mummy rage.
But mind you, these were just a few moments in the years of heart-engorging, almost suffocating joy my daughters bring me.
And here is the thing - my daughters are perfect. No, really, they are. They’re smart, funny, affectionate, engaging, and so oh so very beautiful. In short, they’re totally loveable. Sometimes, when I’m watching them sucking in a strand of spaghetti, or cuddling together like kittens over a book, or tumbling into my bed early in the mornings, I’m almost incapacited by love.
That’s what kids are built to do to their parents right, generate the kind of love that means mum and dad will literally walk through fire for them? But as we know, in the real world, there are lots of kids who don’t get that kind of love, who don’t get any love at all. And even in a rich country like Holland, where the queue for would be adoptive parents stretch for years, there are still thousands of children in care who can’t find foster homes.
Because let’s face it, parents want loveable kids who come with as blank a page as its possible to get. No one wants troubled, difficult, abused kids who’ve gone through heaven knows what life-warping trauma with addicted or disturbed parents. That’s why talking to Ron and Aad Dissel de Boo was one of the most extraordinary interviews I’ve done in 20 years of journalism. When they first started their journey, they were told they could never get a child because they were gay. 25 years later, they’re one of the first points of call with the Child Protection Agency who has sent them more than 100 of the most traumatised kids you could imagine.
WIth my two perfect daughters, my house usually looks like it was recently visited by an enraged bull elephant on a destruction spree. Aad and Ron have a house with nine kids, most of them mentally or phsysically challenged, and its neat as only a gay men’s home can be. The secret? They’re just seriously good parents. Have a listen to the programme and see the kind of magic that is born when someone takes on the task of loving “unloveable” children.