Adoption and beyond: You’re not responsible for what you did as a child you are only responsible for what you do now.
by Kayla Forde, comedy writer and producer
I had a really difficult childhood, but have chosen not to let it define me. And it is a choice as it took me a long time to realize that I could change my future and try to learn from a past that I can’t change.
Sometimes as a person whose early life has not been the easiest, when you’ve grown up with a sense that you have no control, patterns get set in which you feel that stuff happens to you rather than you being a person who can make things happen for yourself. It’s still difficult when fear of an unknown step can push you right back to being three years old but it is possible to train yourself into believing that you deserve good things to happen to you.
Low self esteem can be paralyzing but however low you get it’s worth trying to remember that you are of worth and that everyone feels scared sometimes.
Shakespeare was frightened of spiders, Jonny Depp and the Harry Potter star, Daniel Radcliffe are terrified of clowns whilst Madonna is freaked out by thunder. The trick to overcoming fear is to act fearlessly. That doesn’t mean not being scared it means feeling scared but deciding not to let it stop you.
I was born to a single mother in the late 50’s, I know I’m ancient and should know better but I don’t and that’s OK. She always told me that my father had left because of me and it took me to the age of 40 to realise he left because he didn’t love her enough to stay.
Although I was, unusually, welcomed by my Grandmother and Grand Aunt my mother never really bonded with me and at the age of 2 and a half she sent me to boarding school – I know! – I always cover the hurt this caused by joking we didn’t have Social Workers then.
I was very happy at school and am still in touch with the headmistress, now aged 92. I mostly stayed there in the holidays and as the youngest was the pet of the school. Unfortunately on my 5th birthday my mother came down to visit me and brought with her the man who was to become my step-father. I disliked him on sight and nothing he’s done in the intervening years has changed my first impression.
He was abusive to me and I spent many years wanting to go back to my boarding school.
For some reason it was decided that I should be adopted by him and for this to be completed both my mother and he had to adopt me. In those days the process was much less formal and there were far fewer safeguards for children. As I remember it; my step father took me to a judge’s office, while waiting to go in to see the judge I told my stepfather that I didn’t want him to be my dad and he threatened me that if I told the judge I would be sent to prison and never see my family again. I remember going into the judge’s office and being offered sweets from an enormous jar of Smarties, saying no and my stepfather saying he’d like some and sitting there crunching while the judge asked me if I wanted a new father and I had to say ‘yes’…
As soon as this was done I was sent back to boarding school but this time it was more problematic for me as I now had a younger brother and sister who I missed. I stayed there for a further 3 years until coming back to London on a new whim of my mother. I cried and cried to go back but was told that I wasn’t wanted there. I wonder if it was jealousy on my mother’s behalf or if it was just to stop me whining about missing my other family. I later found out that far from not being wanted she’d offered to keep me without fees. I now see that she was in reality my foster mother and am so pleased that we stayed in touch.
As a post script – I traced my father’s family when I was 40 and they have proved to be a loving addition to my life. My father had died when I was two, could this have been what prompted my mother to send me away? However he came from a big Irish family and I suddenly had all these Aunts, Uncles and cousins – overwhelming for me but great for my children to have that sense of belonging that I never had.
But that sense of being an outsider has helped me to become the person I am and the writer that I am whilst the urge to belong is the reason that I’ve made a few fantastic friends who are stronger family to me than the family I was brought up in. Not only are we the star in the film of our own lives but we need to be the writer of our own film script too.
Kayla Forde is a comedy writer and producer and at present has two full length feature films in development.