If you know anything about our family, then you are aware we did not expect to adopt from foster care — we were foster parents focused on family preservation & permanency. You probably also know that we are full swing into our next big transitional moment as a result of becoming a family in the ways that we did — which means we've been working nonstop for the past month to sell our house and move. You've seen fragments of this play out on social media with some additional context last week.
Well, the work is done. The house is listed. Open house is tomorrow. And the before/after photos are here. But before I go there, I want to go somewhere else for a minute.
On this concept of home.
For those of us who did not grow up in safe homes, creating one as an adult finding my way, then as a parent responsible for the lives of little ones whom also come from hard places will be my life's work. A lot has transpired in a short 4 years here, and my body memory and mind have to work overtime to sync it all while evolving as a person, parent, partner, someone on my own healing journey. I lived in over 30 homes before feeling like I actually created a home, this one:
Our first home as a couple with our dogs. It was 650 square feet with pink carpet, pink flower boxes and pink shutters - it looked like a candy shop and felt magical. We rented there while deepening our love for one another and firming up plans for the future. It's also the place we began the paperwork to become emergency foster parents - a 2 year process.
We gutted it without permission and when we moved out the owners, who'd inherited the property and felt it was a burden, were not angry at the beautiful hardwood floors we unearthed and polished, the built-in bookshelves & closets we added, the stripped floral wallpaper and freshly painted walls. We were clearly nesting for something bigger.
Bigger came in the form of our current home in the summer of 2014 (seen below). Nestled alongside a salt marsh a few miles outside a major city, we fell in love with the proximity, the huge master bedroom and the view of the ocean off the second story deck. We envisioned creating a nurturing home with a revolving door for kids in transition. The plan was to live here a few years while I fixed up my credit, changed careers, we'd start fostering and work toward getting pregnant. We nailed 75% of that.
And there's this, as I've spent much time now reflecting (in therapy and while painting, of course) on how we got to where we are.
When you become connected to families involved with foster care, you find yourself in the mix of competing needs playing out in real time. Families made up of human beings — children and their parents — whose lives are mixed up with the complicated socioeconomic, spiritual, emotional, psychological and physical layers of multi-generational transmissions of trauma. Folks whom, for one reason or a million others, often lack access to the resources that would lift families out of that cycle; equity, safe and secure housing, transportation, nutritional food, food security, career opportunities, a reformed criminal justice system, quality education, a community of support, mentorship opportunities, quality medical and mental health providers, and an invested government, to name a few. The system is not designed to help families stay together. Add to that, folks are up against the bureaucracies charged both with protecting parents' rights and keeping kids safe — the latter of which often gets short-changed for the former. It's complicated and unjust more often than not any way you slice it. Anyone who argues otherwise is not confronting their own privilege in America.
So in 2014, after we had just moved into our new home, when the department asked us to consider fostering long-term the youngest child in a sibling group of 4, a newborn, we thought deeply about what role we might play at the onset of his life. Which is to say, we considered the resources we could offer in the earliest days of his developing body and mind. We also knew there was a very good chance he would not be returning to his mom. At a time in our own lives when we were only set up to foster school-age kids for the weekend, I cannot say what compelled us to say yes, except to acknowledge openly that we were very aware that this kid, now our 3 1/2 year old son, had the right to a life not available to his 3 older siblings which we believed we were resourced to offer, and we simply could not morally, ethically or emotionally turn away.
Just as we could not walk away when they called again 2 weeks later to ask if we'd consider fostering his 2 year old brother.
Just as we could not walk away when the boys needed permanency and we inched toward adoption.
Just as we could not walk away the next summer, when the boys' big brother and sister were kicked out of their foster home.
Just as we could not walk away the summer after, when we made the choice to adopt our daughter.
2014. 2015. 2016. 2017. 2018.
We haven't stopped running a marathon inside a marathon in all that time.
Now a transracial family of 5, headed by two white moms — 1 full-time working parent out of the house, 1 full-time parent working from home and 3 kiddos who are not neurotypical; 3, 5, 9 — our most important job right now as the parents steering this ship is to leave this house we've turned into our home and move somewhere safer with a neighborhood school system that can serve the unique needs of all our kiddos, and where we can have more day-to-day friends and family support. A lot has to happen in a short period of time in order to sell, buy and move.
So, after 3 ridiculous weeks of sanding, scraping, hammering, building, packing, purging and painting non-stop (thanks to Sherwin Williams), without further adieu, I bring you the before and after of a house that shined up real nice.
Thanks for witnessing the unfolding of all this and cheering us on along the way.