Tag Archives: waiting to adopt

For Keeps: the Big Day Arrives

My son is 25% boy and 75% snot. Although we were finally getting the hang of sleep at night, all night long, today we are bleary-eyed and grumpy. And slimy (see above re: snot).

It’s not what I pictured when I imagined this day. In my daydreams we are smiley and dressed in our best (and naturally I’m 20 lbs skinnier). We stand before a stern but fatherly judge and solemnly vow to love, honour and cherish our son forever and ever amen. The audience of happy, tearful friends and family cheers wildly. The sky is filled with fireworks and/or flower petals floating in the wind (I can’t decide), as our family walks arm in arm out the front door of a quaint old courthouse.

Choruses of angels sing. A flock of doves bursts into flight. Adoption Finalized!

Roll the credits.

Reality is a lot less like the wrap-up of a sitcom. Today, at 11:41 a.m. on a Tuesday, we get an email from the Social Worker. “Congratulations! It’s official. His new birth certificate is in the mail.”

No fireworks. No cheering audience. No solemn vows. Just a lot of paperwork and waiting and an anti-climatic finish.adoption-Paperwork

“What to Expect When You’re Adopting” has a lot more blank pages than traditional family growth. There’s no standard 9+month timetable. No firmly established rituals as we transition into a new version of us. We make it up as we go along. And I wonder if the rest of the world realizes that it’s every bit as Miraculous, Thrilling, and Magical.

We were “expecting” for almost 3 years. The labour and delivery wasn’t quite as bloody as most, but terribly hard work. We don’t track it in hours or even days, but months. 7 1/2 months since we brought him home. 7 1/2 months of making him our own. 7 1/2 months of making us his own. Until today, at 11:41 a.m. on a Tuesday. Adoption Finalized.

We’ve been a family for a long time. I wondered if this would make any difference at all. Would it calm the last vestiges of irrational “what-ifs” in my mind? Would it matter?

Despite the lack of fanfare, the answer is: absolutely.

Another heart clenching, surreal, overload of emotion as we close this chapter. And I held him extra tight, snot and all, in the middle of our everyday, hustle-bustle life. You might not know it to look at us, but something amazing happened today!

So here’s us, officially, legally, forever a family.

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The Why of Adoption

The mother and daughter sat silently at the table rolling out play dough and carefully cutting it into shapes, while I chased my boy. He stole stickers off the craft table and stuck them on the walls, jammed a piece of plastic ham in the mailbox, snatched a ball from the curly-haired toddler, tried to climb the gate and bounced around the room shrieking with happiness. The quiet Mom caught my eye and asked, “Why?”

She was asking what most people think, but few actually ask. Especially when they hear that he has three older sisters. Why another? Why adoption?

why

Why DID we adopt the boy?
Because he needed us.

We are so blessed. We want to give back. We want to make a difference. We believe we were put on this earth to make it better.

Parenting is one of the most meaningful things we do. We enjoy it. We’re not perfect, but we’re not Springer material most days. We have a special skill set as parents of a special needs child. We experience a level of chaos and neediness in our home that is not going away anytime soon. Why not add another one to the mix?

There are so many children who need stable, loving homes.

We have a stable, loving home.

Why did we adopt the boy?
Because we needed him.

We had always planned to have more children, but after B I wasn’t able to. That agreement we made in high school to have 4-5 kids certainly wasn’t binding, but I had a deep longing for another child; Glen had a deep longing to keep me happy.

We had discussed adoption since Glen’s first visit to a Russian orphanage. I have several cousins who are adopted through foster care. It was always an option for us. It had intrigued us from the beginning.

No matter how many times we tried to scuttle this crazy adoption dream, it wouldn’t go away. Our family didn’t seem finished.

We were missing someone.

Why did we adopt the boy?

Because we wanted to.

Because we had room.

Because it seemed like a good idea at the time.

I flipped through my mental rolladex, trying to come up with the right answer for Playgroup Mom. I’m pretty sure I stuttered out some combination of all the above. Because the answer that popped into my head right away would have made little sense to her.

We adopted him

Because he’s our son.

All the reasons we had to start out with are still valid, but on this side of adoption they seem too small. It isn’t just about us. It isn’t just about him. He is ours, because it was meant to be.

It was God’s plan.

This is a phrase that has been so often misused and misunderstood that it makes my skin crawl to write it. But there’s no better way to express the strange sense of “rightness” we feel.

We didn’t receive any signs from above. We didn’t have a mystical experience. We could have, and almost did, walk away from the process. We stuck it out, with all our uncertainty, until we read about THIS toddler. Then we knew. By the time we brought our boy home, we knew he had been ours all along.

When he was conceived, we were just finishing up our application for social services.

When he was developing in the womb, we were sitting in parent education classes.

When he was born, we were renovating our house to make room.

When he was being rocked by foster mom for the first time, we were waiting for our social worker to call.

When he was celebrating his first birthday, we were sweating our way through home study visits.

When he was pulling himself up to stand for the first time, we were disappointed with another adoption lead that went nowhere, and beginning to wonder if there was a child for us at all.

When he was taking his first step, we were reading an email about a little boy with a big smile and energy to spare, who seemed like just the right fit.

Grandma found these PJ's for the boy: our "Best Gift Ever!"

Grandma found these PJ’s for the boy:
our “Best Gift Ever!”

Mary Hopkins-Best studied hundreds of adoptive families for Toddler Adoption: The Weaver’s Craft. She found that one of the clearest factors associated with a highly satisfied adoptive family is the “intuitive belief in the rightness of their adoption.” This held true regardless of how difficult the process or how challenging the transition or how extensive the needs of the child. Whether families trust in God or fate or instinct, believing that this is the best decision you have ever made makes all the difference.

So here’s me, where hindsight gives a new perspective. Adoption is about giving. Adoption is about getting. But more than that, somehow, mysteriously, adoption is about finding each other.


The Language of Belonging

It’s called “claiming behavior.” It’s a big part of adoption, especially with an older child. Intentional actions to physically demonstrate belonging, not just for the child, but for our whole family.

We put pictures of him on the wall, alongside our other children.

We made sure his room was ready for him.

We put his old toys from foster family alongside his new toys on the shelf.

We talk about “our family” a lot and include him in all our traditions.

We got him a health card with his new name on it.

We insisted that the hospital change the name on his file, even if they weren’t willing to change the number “until it is final.”

Last week, I bought him a stocking that matches all the rest.

Nothing tentative. Nothing temporary. This is home and he’s here to stay. Of course, he’s only 2, so I’m not sure how much of that translates. But his sisters heard it loud and clear. And we did too.

The first six months of an adoption placement are viewed by some as a trial period; a see-how-it-goes-and-if-this-thing-takes time. But we’re not wired that way. You can’t practice commitment. And parenting requires commitment.

You never know what you are going to get (not with adoptive or birth children), but parents weather the storm. And even when things take a turn for the worst, even if you can’t be everything they need, even if they have to live elsewhere or are out of your control or screw everything up in the scariest ways… you don’t bail. You scramble and fumble and give tough love and soft love and why-isn’t-this-enough-to-fix-you love, until the end. The parents I see in the most painful situations with the most at risk kids are ones I admire most. Not because they are perfect or do everything right, but because they are there. Parenting requires commitment.

This is the part where it would be so easy for me to devolve into a rant about adoption dissolution. Remember the mother who put her young son on a plane to Russia, returning him to his country of origin like he was a malfunctioning toaster? I was gratified to hear she was charged with child neglect and abandonment. This type of thing is a sadly common story, and that is probably the reason for six months of custody before finalization of an adoption.

Heaping trauma onto an already hurting child seems unconscionable, no matter how difficult they may be. Yet, I can’t sit here, with my happily-ever-after story, and judge these overwhelmed parents. I don’t know what it is like for them or why their families fell apart. I just know it’s devastating all around.

When we brought our boy home, we brought him home for good. I’ve had my moments of paranoia and anxiety: that unhappy birth family may contest the placement, that social workers may decide they’ve found a better match, that aliens would steal our bodies and replace our consciousness with their own… None of them likely scenarios. Still, it is haunting when we have made an absolute commitment to parenting, but aren’t legally his parents yet.

Right now, we share custody with the ministry. Officially, he is a ward of the state. We are required to inform them of any major changes in situation or health problems. They have to sign off on significant paperwork. We do not have a birth certificate or identification for him. Obviously, they hold this lightly; they WANT us to step up and parent and leave them out of it all.

But I will breathe easier when we are officially the sole guardians of our son. It’s more than just a piece of paper. It will give us all the rights and responsibilities of any parent, exactly the same as our other children. And it is on the way.

Today it is six months since we brought our son home. Today our social worker is applying to finalize (which usually takes 2-3 months). Today we begin the last leg of our journey, and when it is over we are going to have a HUGE party! Today we celebrate 183 days of rough and tumble, snuggly and sweet, loud and crazy!

What better way than with this modern-day ritual – another claiming behaviour for all the world to see.

stickfam

So here’s us, in cheesy stick family format on the back of our mini van.


Losing My Cool

Turns out, I’m not as cool in real life as I am in theory.

I’m talking about the kind of cool that stays calm and collected in the face of a challenge. The serene, unflappable cool that takes life as it comes and assumes that God is in control and everything is going to work out.

If you’ve read this blog before, I’m sure this doesn’t come as a surprise.

But it’s caught me off guard this week. You see, I was sure I knew how I felt about my son’s birth family. I was adamant that they are an important part of my child’s life and therefore, important to me. I was compassionate about their struggles and their losses. I was encouraged by every indication they gave of love and interest in S. I was cautiously optimistic about openness and a continuing relationship with them; regular updates, pictures, and biannual meetings on neutral ground did not seem much to ask. I was secure enough and mature enough to face their angst and anger without taking it personally.

Until we actually set the time for the meeting. Suddenly my high-minded ideals seem naive and impossible. Though my mind continues to believe the truth of it, my heart revolts. I am sad. I am threatened. I am afraid. And I am, inexplicably, angry.

This week I will finally meet the mother of my son.

That sentence doesn’t even make sense. It is unnatural and strange. I share this incredibly intimate bond with a woman I have never met. I know heartbreaking details of her most difficult struggles. I know as much about her medical history as any doctor. And her child is now my child.

She carried him in her body. She felt his first kicks. Her voice was one of the first sounds his ears heard. She held him in the NICU. But she was young and broken and overwhelmed. She could not be what he needed.

Unlike many adoptions nowadays, she did not choose us. Nor did she choose adoption for her child, though she agreed not to fight the ministry on it. So far.

Our adoption is not finalized yet.

After 6 months in our custody, the government will apply to make it permanent (this takes another 2-3 months). It is extremely unlikely that anything should threaten this, but not impossible. Someone could petition the court to overturn the placement. Someone could try to take our boy.

Friends of ours recently lost the child they are desperate to adopt, abruptly taken and returned to his birth mom. Their grief and very real concern about his safety is palpable. Legal or not, he is their son. And they are devastated.

My cool, rational brain recognizes that this is not a realistic worry for us. But my heart isn’t always rational. And I won’t breathe easy until we hold the final papers in our hands.

Birth family is not our enemy.

This is the family that brought our beautiful boy into the world. They gave him a name. They dreamed dreams for him.

We have a plastic-covered book of pictures which we call “Everyone Loves S.” The first page is a picture of our family, the next section contains pictures of foster family and the last pages are pictures of Birth Mommy and brothers and grandparents. As we look through it with him, we name each face and tell him “Nana loves S, Poppa loves S… Everyone loves S.”

It’s true. They really do. As best they can. And we know enough of their story to understand where things have fallen apart for them. They are not evil, heartless villains, just flesh and blood people who are in over their heads.

And some part of me is glad, because now I have the son I wanted so badly. This competitive streak is alarming. I examine their shortcomings and am reassured that we can do a better job as parents. Mine! I see their dark hair and eyes, noticing that S looks more like my children than theirs. Mine! And I know it is ridiculous to be this petty and insecure, but he is mine, mine, mine…

I guess I’m not as mature and confident as I thought.

But I can play it cool.

I will let my mind and not my heart guide me. I will set aside my fear and insecurity. I will keep mama bear in check. I will protect, but not attack. I will pray when I want to obsess and forgive when I want to judge and trust when I am overwhelmed.

Adoption has enough losses already. This week we will try to build something positive and redeem some connection with his past. Because that is what my son deserves.

So here’s me, and I know it’s not a competition. I read “Percival the Plain Little Cattepillar” 7 times a day. I catch him when he leaps off the monkey bars. I wipe his nose and change his diaper. I teach him to sign “please” when he wants ANOTHER handful of blueberries. I rock him to sleep every night. I’m his Mom.


Finding Mommy

He’s teething.

It makes perfect sense. The gnawing on his soother, his toys, his fingers, the t.v. remote… The excessive drool, so much so that Daddy suggested “Hooch” as a new nickname. The fussy night-time waking, for the past few nights anyway. The vampiric tendencies: “Mommy doesn’t LIKE it when you bite her shoulder sweetie.”

Except, my notes say he has all his teeth. It’s in his file. I clearly remember that.

“Must be his two-year molars,” says Foster Mom. At his second birthday party – which, you know, should have also been a clue.

Duh.

I am a Mom several times over. I was a daycare teacher, in the two to three year-old class, no less. How did I forget about two-year-old molars? What am I, new?

Ummm…. ya.

He may be number four. And I may have oodles of experience, even special needs experience. But, I’ve only been parenting HIM for less than a month. I’m new. And some days it feels like I’m starting all over again.

Once again, I’m that awkward, but endearing new mom who packs WAY too much in the diaper bag, but forgets the diapers. Or pull-ups in our case, which is how B ended up wearing her little bro’s tiny diapers to church. At least we had pjs, four snacks, a list of emergency numbers and plastic rain ponchos… just in case.

Once again, I’m the eager rookie for whom every decision is absolutely crucial and the subject of endless research. You know the ones, who quote parenting books verbatum, desperate to do things “right.” Except in our case it’s adoption books, but I suspect this is equally obnoxious.

Once again, I’m the anxious helicopter parent who never completely relaxes at a playdate. Humming with a constant, low-level stress the minute we step foot outside the house. So not my usual style, but here I am: sterilizing soothers! The last one was lucky if I licked it off after it fell on the ground.

There are so many firsts these days: first meetings with cousins, first restaurant fiasco (outing, I meant outing), first taste of peanut butter, first trip to the zoo… with so much uncharted territory still ahead.

Despite hundreds of pages of information, hours of discussion with Foster Mom and somewhat stalkerish observation of the boy at all times, we don’t know each other the way most Mother-and-Son teams do. I don’t instictively know what he needs or wants. He doesn’t instinctively know what to expect from me.

But we are finding our way.

On Saturday, we had foster family over for a backyard BBQ and, as B put it, “super-fun-happy-birthday-cupcakes.” He was surprised to see them at first, but soon he was making the rounds, getting hugs from everyone. With a smile so big it MUST have hurt his face. Eyes constantly darting around the yard to make sure that everyone, yes, ALL his family from then and now, was here. He laughed and played and generally put on a charming show for us all.

And every once in a while he would check in for a little cuddle and reassurance. Not from foster mom (whom he obviously still adores). Not from Daddy (who usually gets top billing). From me.

And for the first time I FELT like I was the Mommy. Not by sheer strength of will, because I love him and want this so much. Not by order of the great province of British Columbia. Not in theory or in circumstance, but instinctively, in both our hearts.

I have faith that these moments will come more and more frequently until they melt together into a constant reality. That there will be days when I can’t remember NOT being his Mommy. And it won’t seem surreal and strange to have this little man in our lives, but so normal that adoption and its drama fades to the background.

So here’s me and my boy, slowly, but surely, finding our way into each other’s hearts.


You’ll See…

Many, many, many moons ago… in the ancient days… B.C. (Before Children) we knew a young couple who had a baby. We had hung out with them before and found them to be interesting, intelligent and fun people.

Our first Post-Baby dinner party was revelatory. Now, I’m a “kid person” to say the least, and am particularly crazy about babies. At this point in time, I was a daycare teacher. Suffice it to say, I considered myself very child-friendly.

But even I can acknowledge that infants, apart from their considerable aesthetic appeal, are somewhat dull in the first few months.

However, our once interesting friends seemed oblivious to this fact. We spent the entire evening looking at the baby, browsing through endless pictures of the baby (and btw, new parents, changing the hat/hairdo/barrette on the exact same angle does not actually make for a new “look”), talking about the baby and generally admiring every little thing the baby did.

But the highest praise of the night was reserved for the earthshaking gas passed by the tiny child. He was lauded for his valiant contribution to the evening. Our hosts proceeded to share with us about his ongoing struggle with constipation, quite exhaustively.

Dessert, drinks and details about baby’s latest and greatest poops. Consistency, frequency, colour… nothing was sacred. I could see Glen turning green as they enthusiastically discussed the benefits of suppositories. Finally, we were given a real life demo, as a particularly rank diaper was changed right there on the floor in front of us, as we ate our dessert.

As their front door closed behind us that night, we had one of those symbiotic marital moments. Turning to look in each others’ eyes, we said in unison, “that will NEVER be us.”

Repeatedly they told us, YOU’LL SEE… Someday, when you have kids, YOU’LL SEE.

It’s something we hear all the time:

…when you meet that special someone, YOU’LL SEE.

…when you’re married, YOU’LL SEE.

…when you get your own place, YOU’LL SEE.

…when you get to high school, YOU’LL SEE.

Because certain kinds of education only experience can provide. Because part of us can’t believe we will ever change like that, feel like that, or act like that. Because life alters us in ways we don’t expect, no matter how many times we are told to expect it.

Sure enough, one day a few years later, Glen walked through our front door, looked over at me and said “Well?” and I immediately knew he was asking if our baby had had a good poop that day. We try not to discuss it with non-parents or over chocolate ice cream, but poop is now a common topic of discussion. Because constipation is a big deal for a baby. Because parental love trumps gross factor. Because living it is vastly different from hearing about it.

This week, we are experiencing a lot of those as adoptive parents. Things we were told to expect, things we had read about, things we knew, but didn’t understand until now, as we are living it.

For instance:

  • Boys are different. Not a universal truth, but in our family the stereotype fits. We’ve never experienced the constant desire to wrestle, the risk taking, the climbing on everything in sight, the tough guy who bounces back immediately from all but the most serious injuries…
  • People don’t really understand adoption. And who can blame them; it is full of strange paradoxes. It is completely different from giving birth. It is the same as bringing home any of my children. This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. This is one of the best things I’ve ever done. My experience as a parent has prepared me. My inexperience in parenting THIS child leaves me feeling unprepared.
  • Adoptive parents feel isolated. Some of the people you expect support and encouragement from do not “get it,” and often adoption is treated as “less” than giving birth. Which would probably seem like a mild disappointment, if we weren’t so tired and overwhelmed.
  • Rejection is hard to take. Whether learning to build attachment for the first time, or transferring from the old caregiver, this is a difficult time, and quite often during toddler adoption, one parent is “rejected” in favour of the other (usually Mom). I had read about this. I had heard of it from friends. But I was sure that my Mommy-love was strong enough and rational enough to take it on the chin, and look beyond it to the big picture. And it usually is. Except when it’s not. Those rejections are fewer and farther between these days, but they still prick.
  • Toddlers grieve. We have seen flashes of it this week – the yearning, the sadness, the frustration… it passes quickly, but it is heartbreaking.
  • Adoption draws our family together. We are closer than ever. Even with the grumpy times and the crazy times, our family time has been closer, more fun and more meaningful than ever. We’re being stretched, but we’re pretty short, so we could use the growth.

So here’s me, and if you’ve ever wondered about adoption I can tell you all about it, but most of it… YOU’LL SEE.


Today is The Day

So… today, this happened:

We added a new pair of shoes to the blog.

This sentence is meaningless to most people, but to us, it means that today is The Day We Have Been Waiting For, for three years. Today we became the proud parents of a bouncing baby boy!

Actually, a bouncing toddler boy, and I really must emphasize the bouncing… lots and lots of bouncing from our little live wire!

Today we brought the boy home. We filled drawers with tiny shirts and pants, unpacked baby snacks and plastic bottles, played a rousing family game of mini-hockey, and waited for it to finally sink in.

There is no one waiting for him to come back at the end of the day. No more schedules and no more handoffs and no more shared parenting. Only friendship and occasional visits with those who have carried him this far and are an important part of his story.

But this is his home now. The boy is ours. And we are his.

Because forever family goes both ways.

This January, I joined the One Word project, choosing one word to pursue for the year (a sort of abbreviated new years resolution). My word for 2012: DREAM.

I expected I would be finding a new dream for my life, since adoption was so clearly not working out. I expected soul-searching and Plan B’s and making the best of things. I expected less… less than I wanted and less than I hoped for.

Instead, I get everything I dreamt of and more. Instead, I get wrestling matches and grass stains and 2 am wake up calls and sticky hugs. Instead, I am overwhelmed with the depth and width of this dream come true – our very own boy.

So here’s me, tired and nervous… and so very grateful to God and foster family and everyone who gave us today!


Happy Family Honeymoon

I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. Or maybe even the first one. There will definitely be shoes. And they will be dropping.

I’m not sure where this saying came from or why the dropping of shoes sounds so ominous, but it’s the best way I can think to explain the mild concern I have lurking in my subconscious. I’m holding my breath, because everything is going so well right now.

The boy prince (aka – my son, the little brother and Daddy’s new best friend) has been making himself at home with us. Last night was our first sleepover and he did remarkably well. There is an occasional wariness and some quiet, somber moments, but he rallies quickly and jumps right back into the fray.

Things have been going so well, we’ve been able to move the transition forward. He’ll be back again tomorrow night for the whole weekend. So many exciting firsts to look forward to: lazy Saturday mornings on the couch, Father’s Day with his new Daddy, and our whole family to church for the first time!

So, what’s with the dread?

This is a honeymoon period.

Right now, Daddy is the star of the show! He is working from home and taking time off whenever S is with us. I’m still the second string parent: okay for a few laughs, but not the go-to comforter or cuddler. When all else fails, Daddy to the rescue! We double-team the chaos. When we’re not sure what to do, we bounce the questions back and forth: Do you think he’ll eat this? Is he getting overstimulated? What IS that smell?

That’ll end.

Right now, he is the most exciting new toy our girls have ever gotten! The big girls debate who “gets” to play with him while I get dressed and clean the kitchen. They spend hours crawling around on the floor with him. They compete to coax the biggest laugh out of him. Even B, who is needing a lot of extra attention and playing “baby” right alongside her brother, is happy to share her favourite toys and pose for the endless photo shoot that is now our life.

That’ll end.

Right now, everything he does is charming! Even the occasional temper tantrum is pretty darn adorable: “Look how determined he is! Did you feel that grip… he’s super strong!” But most of the time he is full of smiles and soaks up the attention. All the toys and games are new and exciting to him. He is sleeping and eating and feeling just fine. He fusses a little bit when foster Mom drops him off, but is quickly distracted by all the fun times. Although we’ve talked about it and show him pictures and put words to what is happening, he doesn’t really understand that his whole world is about to change.

That’ll end.

Someday, it will be just he and I. And I will scramble around trying to figure out what he needs, and what he wants, and what to do with a toddler all day long, and how to be the safe person that he can always rely on. Praying that he will realize that this makes me “Mommy”, not just because it’s my name, but because I am HIS person, the one that will ALWAYS take care of him. Even if that means putting playtime on hold to change a diaper or making the busy road off-limits or collecting rent from him at age 20-something.

Someday, his sisters will realize that little brothers can be a real pain. And a busy pre-teen calendar of primping and bickering and thinking up new strategies to convince the parental units that texting is, like, ESSENTIAL at age 11… will seem more important than playing with the boy. And he will get into their stuff and decorate their new outfits with snot and throw their iPods down the stairs. And the child formerly known as “the baby” will realize that the competition is getting attention when she wants it (or possibly getting attention and THEN she’ll decide she wants it), and the fireworks will begin.

Someday, he will notice that this is more than just a visit. Perhaps when his foster family says good-bye and hands him over to us that last time. Perhaps when all his belongings are here. Perhaps when he stays night after night after night with no sign of return. Perhaps when they visit a couple of weeks later, but he stays here with us… Who can know? But toddlers do grieve. It’s part of a healthy transition and there is no short cut. He may not have the language to express it, but his heart and mind are mature enough to feel it. So it is coming.

Honeymoons don’t last forever!

BUT, they are meant to be enjoyed. Why focus on someday, when today, everything is going so well?

So I will breathe. I will enjoy. I will quit searching for signs of trouble and jump into the fray myself. Because everything is going so well and we are ridiculously happy.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.

Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:34

The Message paraphrase says “give your entire attention to what God is doing right now” and I can’t think of better advice for parenting, or work, or life for that matter. Right now, that means attention on our changing family and all the fun we are having discovering each other.

So here’s me, letting the shoes drop where they may, because I’m not going to borrow any more trouble today!


Test Driving a Person

I test drove a human being today.

Or, to be more accurate, he test drove us.

Our first day spent together, just our family, in our own home.

Altogether, we handled beautifully.

Of course, there were a few glitches. For instance, we made him leave the park to go home for lunch… NOT cool. Also, Daddy ate the last bite of (his own) garlic bread, despite the fact that his son was clearly eyeing it for himself. To be fair, Daddy had shared almost everything on his plate already… but STILL.

It should be noted that this is a huge upgrade over the past versions of the man. 2000-2011 Daddy models DID NOT share food, AT ALL . He also brings some high-tech gadgets to the table (iPad, smart phone…), but it’s the standard features that we love best: swinging through the air, tickle games, carrying heavy things, general doting and, of course, keeping Mommy happy.

But the real question is: how does it idle? It’s one thing to fly down the highway of fun family time, but what about nap time? This is where the rubber really hits the road.

We used bedding from his other home. We stuck to the same routine. We followed the manual.

Superior engineering on the part of foster mom has ensured a set of reliable sleep cues: warm bottle, sleep sack, soother, blankies and lullaby music (Bach, because he’s classy like that).

Mom of the Year! A snuggle on the rocking chair and then right off to sleep. This was definitely the highpoint of MY day – holding a sleepy bundle of sweet, sweet boy in my arms, in the room we had so carefully prepared for him.

Pause to soak in this incredible moment…

He slept over 2 hours in his new bed, without complaint. Through the tantrum his big sister threw. Through the fight that ensued when she hit one of the other big sisters on the head with a book. Through the wailing. Through the extra tv/cuddle time as she changed into her pj’s and demanded milk in a sippy cup, along with HER blanket. It bodes well for us that he sleeps deeply.

There were several moments today that felt utterly surreal. We have been frustrated with the long wait periods, the endless streams of paperwork and the strange bureaucratic rituals we must complete. But suddenly they seem like so little, considering what’s at stake here. They are giving us a human being. And we get to keep him forever. How weird is that?

I remember feeling this same way at the hospital as we walked out with our brand new infant. “Seriously, they’re just going to let us walk out of here with this tiny person? They aren’t even blinking. It’s like it’s not even a big deal.”

But it is a big deal. Every time. And adoption is no different. In fact, it is a bigger deal, since our little person already has a personality and a routine and the ability to leap off the very top of the staircase and a desire to climb onto the counter and a need to rummage through every drawer in the house.

As we packed up all his things to take him back to his other home for the night, it was bittersweet. We’re big believers in the gradual transition, especially at this age, and so blessed that we are able to do it at all. But more than ever, it feels like he belongs here with us.

So here’s me, completely sold on the new kid. He does come with a warranty, right?


Snapshots of Adoption

Life is moving at warp speed these days. I should probably be running alongside, trying to keep up, instead of blogging. I should probably be doing the dishes or installing child proof latches on our valuables (by valuables I mean 23 Wiggles DVDs and 14 lbs of scrapbooking supplies I may never use again). I should probably try to catch up on sleep. I should probably be siphoning gas from our neighbours’ cars (driving 2-3 hours per day, often in two separate cars, is pricey).

But instead, I’m going to introduce you to the cast of a little show I like to call “Adoption Transition: Awkward is an Understatement.”

First up, Stranger Mommy

Not my favourite role, I’ll be honest, but a necessary part of the process. My son’s initial reaction to me was the same as to any stranger in his life. For a shy little boy with stranger anxiety, this means a few smiles and tolerating the briefest of touches. He doesn’t mind me, but he doesn’t welcome me either.

This is actually a good sign. He is very securely attached to his foster mom and caregiver. One day he will transfer that complete trust and reliance to me, which is infinitely easier than creating attachment where none has been before.

This is a test. I am not Mommy to meet my needs, but his.

The Other Women

Fortunately, I’m not the only one who feels this way. The other women in his life (foster mom, foster-sister and caregiver) are going against all their natural instincts: backing off so we can step in; spending time away so we can grow closer; letting him go so he can be part of our family. It is no small sacrifice, and they are grieving.

People who work in foster care have a bad rap. Some rightly so. But there are many others who are better than saints. Better because they are flesh and blood people who struggle and hurt and do their best and sign up to do it over and over again. All so children like my son can have what they need.

The Other Other Women

Three big sisters. An embarrassment of riches for any boy. They are getting a bit sick of playing the bit parts. The dialogue is repetitive “When do we get to see him? It’s not fair. You get to see him all the time… She took my iPod! It was just lying there. Moooooooom!”

The past 2 Saturdays have been spent with foster family, having a great time, sad to leave… B has decided her brother is okay, which is good since he is fascinated by her. L is angling for the role of second Mommy. C completely overlooked a TRAMPOLINE she was so focused on playing with her new brother. Now that’s love!

Reluctant Snuggler

Which brings us to the real star of our show – my son. He is charming. He is ridiculously cute. And he knows it. He can handle an adoring public, but he likes to stick close to home base.

Suddenly, we are changing the rules on him. And he’s not impressed, but he is beginning to rally.

Our first night alone got off to a rocky start: screaming and reaching for the door, then crying in heartbreak. But we both calmed down after about 15 minutes. He let me comfort him and there was some definite snuggle-age. We played and read books and sang songs until bedtime. After a brief protest, he cuddled with me and his bottle. And I rocked my boy to sleep in my arms! I can’t say that enough – I rocked him to sleep in my arms! And in fact I rocked this sleeping boy in my arms, long past him falling asleep.

The Daddy

Our final cast member is the hero of our story. On his second visit, his son went up to him, lifted up his arms and proceeded to snuggle with his new Daddy. That’s right, on day two! He still flinches away from me, but he LOVES his Daddy.

He runs to him when we arrive. He chooses him above everyone else. He climbs all over him. He plays “hockey” with the mini-sticks. He recruits him to swing him around in a big, green Rubbermaid. He rubs his scruffy face with his hands. Yesterday, he found a hairy belly under Daddy’s t-shirt and found that endlessly fascinating. This is the only Daddy he has ever known.

There are moments when I’m slightly envious, but altogether, I am thrilled! Glen was worried about bonding. He wondered if he would love this child the same as the others. He wondered if this child would love him.

When will he learn that I am ALWAYS right? 😉

So here’s me, at the end of our second week “visiting” S at his foster home. On Saturday, the whole family is coming to our house. The next two weeks, he will come home for increasing visits: 2 hours, 4, 7, overnight, 2 nights… until he comes home for good.

P.S. Sandra and John – I’m totally kidding about the siphoning gas thing, especially since I know you’re reading this. A dark parking lot where no one knows me is much more my style.


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