Where to begin? It’s so cold. Our unplowed neighborhood streets are frozen into icy ruts that funnel the van into a lane of traffic like I’m driving one of those amusement park cars unable to veer more than a few inches left or right of the designated track. I worry about the kids’ fingers freezing while they line up to walk into school in the morning.
But that’s only the backdrop, the story is harder to tell, keeping in mind privacy and feelings, and honestly my own emotions which are raw and uncertain. I prefer to write in retrospect.
Three weeks ago the social workers charged with managing Graham’s case and the cases of way too many other children, asked us if we’d consider being a permanent placement for the beautiful baby in our care. Matt and I talked of little else. Could we afford it? What about medical care? What about our other kids? What about the emotional fact that he is the same age as the baby we lost? We hadn’t thought we would be an option for him, for some very good reasons, and we felt some trepidation and confusion.
The wrinkle in our very rational discussion was that we love this tiny person who has lived with us for more than half of his little life. Finances, fears, and uncertainties faded into the background when we faced one fact: we are attached to him and he to us and we of all people know what “not attached” feels like. We know him. We know he rubs his face on my shoulder when he’s tired and he needs to go to bed. Nate runs for his pacifier any time he fusses in his bouncy chair. We know he’ll take a cat nap between us in bed after a 6:00 a.m. bottle on a lazy Saturday morning. We see him quiver with full body happiness when he sees his brothers and sisters in the morning. We know he laughs out loud if we swing and dip him in our arms. He prefers sweet potatoes to all other foods and if we don’t burp him quickly he’ll puke his whole bottle all over whoever is holding him.
We started bit by bit to think in slightly longer terms. A trip in June. Permission for a hair cut. I called to ask some questions about summer travel and the social worker said sadly she’d needed to call us, they had made a mistake and another permanent placement – a different adoptive family – had precedence over us.
We all met last week and it was a bit messy, very sad for us as we adjusted our emotions and expectations to this new set of circumstances a little slower than things were actually moving, even acrimonious at times. A date for his transition to his new home was set for just a few days later.
And it was okay. It is okay. He has a warm, safe, incredibly loving family waiting for him if his Person can’t do what his Person needs to do to show that s/he can be a safe place for him.
We prepped our sweet kids for the transition. They saw pictures and heard about their farm and their horses. Quinn and Nate crawled into our bed each morning with a running countdown that alternated between terribly sad and indignantly jealous because EXCUSE ME. HORSES?!
Three more days with Graham, Mommy.
Two more day with Graham, Mommy.
I got the call Friday. After much review, the permanent placement isn’t an option right now because the first priority of the agency is protecting a parent’s right to see his/her child and they live too far away to protect that right. Will we – can we – consider continuing to foster him?
JESUS. Not literally. It just takes too long to type POWERFUL FORCE FOR ORDER INSTEAD OF CHAOS IN THE UNIVERSE.
So, we will. We can. We are. He’ll stay with us for now. It’s so complicated. It’s not perfect. I don’t know what’s right. Should he be with us if there is a different permanent plan for him? Is it fair to him? To us? To his potential forever family? I don’t know. I know that maybe naively, optimistically, and fervently, I believe in the power, the intention, and the duty of the American legal system to protect the rights of people without a voice. I am sad and frustrated, but relieved to know that albeit lurchingly, and painfully for so many people affected, the system protected a poor, uneducated, struggling parent’s right to have access to his/her child until – and if and only if – those rights are terminated by a court of law.
My clear, objective, legally trained little mind feels great about that. If we’re not doing that, I don’t want to be a part of this bulky, flawed system. But our hearts (oh my god, my babies’ hearts, every one of them, however they came here), our hearts, if I tell the truth, are struggling.
P.S. 100 bonus points if you can name that musical referenced in the title of this post. xo.