Here's how it all started: we had itty bitty 6 week old Tiny for a grand total of three days and got a phone call. Our social worker called to say Tiny's goal was changing to adoption, and his three older siblings' goals had changed to adoption (they had been in foster care for a lot longer) and he was being rolled into that permanency plan change. There are four kiddos altogether in this family, and they all needed permanent placements. Tiny had been in foster care for a total of 3 days, and the entirety of that time was in our home. We weren't asked at that moment whether we wanted to adopt, but we knew it was coming. Fast forward three weeks later, and we were asked to take Mr. Toddler, as he was a bit too much for the home that was fostering him. Taking him involved some serious soul searching on our parts, as we knew if he came into our home it would always be with the intention of reunification, and if that failed he would be in need of a forever home with his brother. No kids to two kids, with the option of forever, in three weeks flat? I mean, come on universe. All this with the larger frame held over that we were emergency foster parents, with a supposed max time frame for fostering of 24 hours. But we already knew we sucked at short term care, so I guess that helps.
So our boys are on the adoption track. And we were asked a few weeks ago for our formal answer about adopting. And we said: Absolutely.
When I sit down to try to organize how this all happened it feels so big and at the same time wonderfully simple. Saying yes was not an easy choice, it involved a lot of talking, being purposeful, and staying open to all kinds of options. Here's a small list of what we went around and around on: the town we live in, transracial adoption and all the complexity that comes from raising kids we don't share a cultural history with, our extended family's ability to be supportive/ready/welcoming to our kiddos given there is still some uncertainty about whether forever is going to be forever, the pre-school (and beyond) long term plan, my job(s) commitment and The Artist being in the middle of a career change and needing to have a lot of dedicated time to working fully on said career and vision.
The boys' Mom has done her best in almost all the ways she can, and yet has still wounded these two littles something fierce. I think every parent has anxiety about how their kids will fare through the teenage years, and even though we've been raising two boys with a trauma history, this was not even remotely a concern that weighed in here. Managing behaviors with kids as we grow together feels like a natural challenge. The not-so-natural challenges we'll work on harder.
We did a lot of talking (together and with other people we love and trust) about how well white Mamas can raise black boys, and we really thought about what we can and cannot do. Would they be better off with a family that looks like them? Do they deserve that? Are we being selfish in wanting to raise these boys we love when perhaps someone could offer them more than we can here? After the racially motivated terrorist attack in Charleston, I went to bed for almost a week-and-a-half clutching my boys with tears in my eyes after they fell asleep. The path they will walk in this life is both glorious and perilously dangerous. Both are true. I may know more than I ever hoped to about homophobia and hate crimes, but walking in this world as a black man is something I know very little about.
Other things. We wondered if leaving us would be too hard a disruption for Tiny who has only ever known us as caregivers? (Yes, I said, and still say, a big "yes" to that). Would Mr. Toddler do better as an only child who can stand in the spotlight for as long as he needs and never have to share with his younger, inherently needier, brother? (I'm in a different place on that answer now than I was several months ago - I thought he would really need more than we could give him given the demands on our time, and I'm so proud to say we are all working it out.) What about the plan of our own that we had to carry kids and give birth? Is that gone now? Would three kids even be manageable for us? Do they even sell Eurovans anymore? Because I think we are going to need one of those.
Someone I care very much about shared this helpful advice with me as I was negotiating these waters: every parent in this world goes through a seismic shift after having kids, the challenge here is that The Artist and I have options about what to do with this seismic shift. Most birth parents feel desperate when going through the change of life that comes with parenting, and yet these little people are yours, there is not a Plan B, so you make do and move forward. The tortuous part came from our having to decide that we were best, and feel okay with that. And then move forward.
So, this is the part where I tell you we decided. This is our beautiful family. All four of us. And this is us moving forward.
-Foster Mom (the therapist
You cannot have it both ways; your life as you knew it & your life as you now know it. You have to want to change. You have to let go fully of any hope for free time, spontaneity & predictability. Whatever goals you had for yourself, set them aside. Park them & revisit them when you can. It is making a leap into some unknown & carving out a home for yourself there. It is grabbing whatever necessities you can on your way out, mindful that you likely forgot things you previously thought you couldn't live without. Mindful that you now carry things you never knew you could or maybe even wanted to. This is fostercare. You can't go over it. Can't go under it. Gotta go through it.
I wrote that back in January and posted it with an image on instagram; two months into fostering Tiny, 1 month into fostering Mr. Toddler. When 'Goin on a Bear Hunt' was the book of the week & during one of the toughest winters I've ever known (and I'm from Michigan - I know tough winters). So immobilized by the crack of bitter cold was I, the inevitability of sunshine & sidewalks did not cross my mind. Thoughts of the beach and any ocean surfaced only when remembering our trip to Kauai the year before, where I proposed & when we hatched our pregnancy plan. So deeply stuck were we in ice & snowdrifts & sick babies & the system & becoming parents, it just didn't occur to me that the boys would get healthy, that we would hit our stride, that the days would get long again or that we would talk adoption. And here we are. And there it is. I said it out loud.
There is currently nowhere else for Tiny and Mr. Toddler to grow. No relative who has claimed them as their own or who can care for them. We knew this was likely the case. We've talked openly with each other about this all along. And we had the talk with their worker about a month ago. It's official. We are pre-adoptive. We start the process now. We are their permanency. I could not be more elated. I could not be more frightened. Where I once was so convinced I had nothing to lose, I now feel like they are everything. A lot needs to happen between now and then, and in the meantime, we get to just keep doing what we've been doing; raising them as if they are our own. Loving them because we know no other way.
It's a strange thing to blog on the internet about starting a family. With an audience that, at times, feels more intimate than my own family. We started hotline fostering around the same time we were tracking our cycles and thinking about getting pregnant. We said yes to long-term fostering Tiny on the very same day I started a new job, in a new career, on a new path. In many ways this is how I've always lived my life; tenacious, scattered, determined, creative. I suppose it makes sense that this is also how I would start my family. That what felt impossible and remarkable and beautiful would also feel normal and right.
-Foster Mom (the artist)