Once again it is the Guardian Family Section on Saturday that has inspired my thinking about a particular aspect of donor conception and family life. This time as issue devoted to cars!
Car journeys have an important place in the life of many donor conception families because of the opportunities they offer for conversations between adult and child or between children that only take place because of the particular nature of the environment of a car. As Stuart Hannah, the child and adolescent psychotherapist quoted in the Guardian says, “Cars provide a very particular transitional and temporary form of intimacy, which can help some people to open up and talk about otherwise tricky subjects. The setting is warm and containing – almost womb-like – and the environment feels familiar, all things that are great facilitators for conversation….There’s also a relaxed informality about car journeys, unlike sitting round a table at meal times, for example, with everyone looking at you. Children, especiallty, can find eye contact very intense, as if they are being scrutinised….”
I remember my first proper conversation about donor conception and who was and wasn’t a ‘real dad’ with our son when he was eight or nine. I was driving him to school and he was sitting in the back, just out of my eye line in the mirror. We had been telling him about his conception with the help of a donor since he was four, but he had only recently seen a copy of the book My Story, which had just been published. Although it is intended for children much younger than him, somehow the simple words and the fact that it was all contained in a book, suddenly made the penny drop. This sort of age is also when children’s brain development allows them to understand more complex concepts so he was ready to learn more. It was just a short conversation and then we moved on to other things, but I’m sure that it was the familiar, warm space in the car and the lack of eye contact that made it all possible. This was around twenty years ago, the time that we helped start DC Network (or DI Network as it was then). As children in the Network started to grow up we noticed other parents reporting important conversations with their children taking place on car journeys. Also hilarious chat between siblings or their own children and their friends as parents ferried them around. These conversations often revealed misunderstandings by donor conceived children (all children are conceived using a donor so assuming a friend had been made this way too) and rivalry between siblings conceived by different donors as to whose donor was the best! All very matter of fact.
Bikes may be eco-friendly but are not conducive to intimate conversations. Never under-estimate the power of the car.