Richard Wilkins has opened up on raising a son with Down syndrome after welcoming him with his then-girlfriend at the age of just 18 – admitting while he “wasn’t the greatest dad” at first, his son is now his “rock”.
Speaking on Today Extra, the 64-year-old star recalled how he made the tough decision to move his son Adam, now 45, into care in New Zealand when he was just a baby – but said he refused to have him adopted at the time as he would always be his son.
“I was only 18 when Adam was born – his mum was just 16, very unusual for Down syndrome people to be born to such young parents… So it was a bit of a shock to be a parent let alone of a Down syndrome child,” he said as he promoted World Down Syndrome Day – which he described as a “very special day” for him.
“I’m quite happy to admit, well I’m prepared to admit, that I wasn’t the greatest father back in the day. I didn’t really know how to handle it, I was 18, I was getting on with my life and career, I wanted to travel the world and make music and do that sort of stuff, and it was with some reluctance that after about a year we put Adam in a home.
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“People said you can have him adopted. But I thought, ‘No he’s my son, he is always going to be my son and I want a relationship with him’. He has had great people in his life over the years.”
Praising Adam’s “beautiful soul”, Wilkins revealed he has huge love to share and called him his “rock”, adding: “To have a Down syndrome person in your family is an absolute joy.”
The presenter went on to meet several other families with Down syndrome relatives and speaking at the end of the segment, he revealed that Adam loves nothing more than performing the haka for his father at family gatherings – with his son insisting each time that his dad gives him a formal introduction.
Wilkins went on to have four other children after Adam: Rebecca, 35, Nick, 33, Christian, 23, and Estella, 14.
Speaking to 9Honey‘s Super Mums podcast in a rare interview previously, Wilkins insisted he doesn’t know what would have happened to him if Adam had never been born – along with all of his other children.
“People often say, ‘What’s the greatest thing you’ve ever done?’ and I always say the greatest thing in my life are my children – bar none. I love, love, love them so much,” he added. “They make me enormously proud, deliriously happy.”
However, he admitted to the Daily Mail Australia in 2014 that he feels guilty for his decision to move Adam into a home, saying at the time: “I still feel guilty for not being there all the time and for not being the pin-up boy for father of the year.”