On Adopting Siblings, With Matt Jex
Dadditude Newsletter #16
Dadditude interviews dads from different backgrounds, professional fields and ethnicities to get their insights on what it means to be a dad in the current moment.
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Matt and Will adopted two young brothers two and a half years ago, and have been sharing their journey on Instagram, from the adoption process, the happy moments, the challenges, and more as Matt now helps support training days for new adopters.
We spoke with them recently about their adoption journey, and how the boys adapted to their new forever home.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am Matt. I am married to Will and we are dads to two boys via adoption who have lived with us for two and a half years. We have been together for seven years and got married a few months before the boys were placed with us. I work as a deputy headteacher and have worked in education for 15 years.
Tell us about your kids.
Our eldest son is five. He’s a kind-hearted, nature-loving soul and can often be found with his nose in a book.
Our youngest is three. He’s more outgoing than his older brother and loves nothing more than to play with his cars and garages. Both boys love to be outside and exploring and we lead a fairly active lifestyle with them both.
How do you manage to mix work and family?
Since the boys were placed, I now work part time. I spent nearly 11 months at home with them both on adoption leave and continue to be at home two days a week with our youngest whilst our eldest is at school. Working part time initially meant I could continue building strong attachments with them both beyond the adoption leave. Whilst the boys are generally happy and settled, they continue to benefit from me being more available during the week and not working full time. Part time working has also meant I can volunteer with the agency with whom we adopted. I help support the training days for new adopters, answering their questions and concerns but also offering my experiences as an adoptive father to help bring the theory to life. By attending these training sessions, I also get to see the latest research and theory around children who have experienced trauma which can only be a positive for our home life.
What do you think is your biggest strength as a parent?
Patience. Our children are still processing the trauma of their past and their life story so far (and may continue to do so for a long time). Sometimes the boys will ask outright but other times these emotions can display themselves through behaviour. Having this understanding means I am able to recognise when the boys need support and have the patience to work through their history to provide this. In time, this should help them to fully understand what has happened and why they are feeling these big emotions.
What stresses you out the most these days as a parent?
On the days where both Will and I work, there are time pressures to get the boys ready and out the door. These days can be a whirlwind and small things, such as one of them deciding they won’t eat their breakfast, can cause stress. We have a well-defined routine for these mornings but convincing a three year old to play ball all the time can be a challenge!
What side of parenthood do you wish you had invested more time and energy in the past?
If I could rewind time, I think I would like to have spent more time during the adoption process researching and learning more about adopting siblings. In hindsight, a lot of the training we did and books we read were about adopting one child so we did not fully understand the implications of adopting more than one. For example, our boys displayed very different attachment styles when placed and this was not something we had considered might happen. Reaching out to others who had adopted siblings would have massively helped us at this time.
Can you tell us about an especially favorite/special moment with your kid recently?
When we adopted, I knew it would mean we would have missed out on some of their ‘firsts’. We didn’t get to hear either of their first words, for example. But what I absolutely love is that, even now, we get to experience things with them for the first time. Our eldest was scared of water when he was placed with us, but last week confidently played in a splash zone. To see his face as he ran through the sprinklers laughing and jumped in the pools was incredible and shows just how far he has come.
Thank you Matt!
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