September 2. One year since our little dude walked into our house in his too-tight socks with pudge pooching out of the tops and his orange shirt. I can picture that child so clearly right now, the child that came in, looking around, scoping it out, probably checking the Toy Situation just like he would anywhere else, utterly clueless that this particular house was of any greater import than any other house he might walk into; unaware that this would be his home.
He’s the same kid that lives here now, except in about a million ways he is also an entirely completely different person. I have to sort of mentally flick through all the stuff that came in the middle, sometimes, just to make it real that it’s the same human being. Because, of course, now he’s almost 3, and I know just about every in and out of his personality and temperament, and also because now he is mine.
Does everyone else do this thing? I do this thing where I sometimes, especially in our (frankly quite limited) experience with foster care – which is chock full of frankly quite bizarre situations and circumstances – where I sort of wonder at certain moments whether or not I am giving them enough Weight and Significance, except I also know you kind of can’t DO that on purpose. But I kind of remember being like “I feel like I need to make sure I remember this moment, because it’s potentially a VERY BIG DEAL,” although at the same time I know that one particular moment doesn’t really need to be any more important than any other moment; it’s really about the infinity moments that come afterwards. And that none are ever more important than this one right here.
Except that I do, I remember it quite clearly. Him holding his sippy cup hooked under one arm, hip-height, the way he still does sometimes. Him on the heels of a CPS person and an ECI person, neither of whom I had ever met. Me vaguely back-of-the-mind trying to make sure I looked excited, but also chill and capable, but also warm and welcoming, but also in reality FEELING a smidgeon of a bit terrified.
I do actually remember looking at him and thinking, “This might possibly be our son for the rest of our entire lives. And I have never seen him before RIGHT NOW.” The thought may have crossed my mind, because I have such an icky habit of comparing, that a little red-cheeked dude in tennis shoes picking his knees up to belly-button height to clear our door frame, hardly giving me a passing glance as he sized up the place… that this was not entirely similar to how most of my friends had met their children for the first time. And yet realizing that truthfully, that does not really matter.
I have tried to give y’all a bit of a picture of what this is like, because most of you know us and love us, and you want to know, and often I write things because I feel like I have to. Sometimes this is the only way that processes it correctly in my head, somehow, and then sometimes I have to present that processing…process to my community and family and friends, because that makes it what it is. Writing it out clarifies, delineates.
I also somehow feel like the December-2012-through-September-2013 experiences of foster care that we shared were PROBABLY I DON’T KNOW in some ways maybe a “better” “commercial” for foster care. Snuggly, giggly baby who slept through the night, as it were. I felt then like I might have people ready to sign up, thanks to some of what I had shared about the process and demystifying and humanizing it a bit. Because I do – I want to help people want to do this great and full and necessary thing.
And then sometimes I felt this past year like I was probably making some people who had considered it….un-consider it.
Except that it’s kind of like Oz. You know?* She goes to Oz. She finds out there’s lush gardens, blossoming plants, exciting friends, gorgeous glowing cities, free makeovers, magic, choreographed musical numbers (instead of meditative solos on ye ole tractor), and oh also that little thing called COLOR.
She also finds out there are mean witches, and scary monkeys, angry forests, and smoke-and-mirrors disappointing heroes.
But do you really think after knowing there was all of that…. That she was content with brown-and-white Kansas? Do you think she would have been cool with saying goodbye forever to her proven-on-the-field-of-battle friends?
All I’m saying is… This past year was in some ways less munchkin-songs and bubble-princesses than the previous year, but it’s just a bit more of the deep, wide, dark-and-light, tragedy-and-redemption, real world.
A BIT more. I am not even beginning to pretend like I have done or experienced much, in the grand scheme of things. But (when my mind is clear) I don’t have the slightest inkling of a desire to un-know it, to un-experience it, to un-learn it. Not even close.
We had A toddler. Whom I found to be quite challenging at times. And we sent home our first-ever placement. People do this every day. I am someone who massively dramatizes and blows things out of proportion. Every tantrum has the potential to be an “I-will-never-connect-to-my-child-I-am-handling-this-wrong-and-ruining-his-life-bio-parents-never-go-through-this” kind of mess, if I’m not careful.
Every night-time cry was in danger of spiraling into “Why-is-the-world-so-broken-why-does-he-have-to-go-through-this-he-will-never-heal-I-will-never-handle-it-right” etc. etc. etc.
Every (ill-advised) Googling of our “reunified” baby’s bio parents…. Well, you can imagine.
Some of you are like “Geez I have eight special needs late-life-adopted kids from the DRC, what is she EVEN fussing about” and some of you are like “OMG I COULD NEVER EVEN REMOTELY BEGIN TO DO THAT SHE IS INSANE” and the thing is, I am trying to learn about how to love, and I hope that I can learn that from anyone, and maybe anyone can learn from me. Maybe? I tend to try to stay out of engaging in a sort of Challenging Life Olympics. All that accomplishes is isolation.
I didn’t necessarily think about it this way consciously, not at all, but I guess in a very abstract way I sort of saw this process as something where we would take these tiny little battered green shoots and we would plant and feed and water and nurture them, and they would grow or heal or flourish in this and that way, and we would have this and that effect on their lives.
What I failed to particularly conceptualize was the PROFOUND and incredible ways in which they (he) would change us. I am super, super different than I was a year ago, two years ago. I have fought that change tooth and nail, at times. But hear me now: he is shaping me as well.
Or maybe a better way to put it (a way that I desperately hope is more accurate) is that he is the means by which God is shaping me. Our little dude has managed to crack me open and show me what I really look like… better than anything or anyone else has ever been able to. And until I knew that, until I saw it, I couldn’t even begin to ask Jesus to make it better.
Anyway, from a barely-verbal, displaced stranger with three board books, 4 changes of clothes, a toy car and two ear infections; he is now Our Son. Our name is his name. Our home is his home. Our future is inextricably connected to his future. We share spoons. We take road trips. We change in the same room. We are His Parents.
He is curious, bright, and opinionated. (A bit like his mama.)
He needs a plan, a process, and reasons explained for every single activity or action. (Much like his mama.)
He is neurotic about catching other people’s verbal slip-ups and demanding an explanation. (Much like his mama.)
He seems to ascribe to the philosophy of work hard, play hard, dance hard, run hard, climb hard, eat HARD, sleep even harder, repeat. Eat it up, use it up, crash into bed at night, sleep like the dead. (Much like his mama.)
He is pedal-to-the-floor, 100mph, going places and getting stuff DID, with almost zero time for idling. (Kiiiinda like his mama.)
And like any vessel careening through life at 100mph, while it makes things interesting and makes things HAPPEN, it also means that if a wrench gets thrown in, you can probably expect something rather cataclysmic and explosive, more than a gentle course-correction. (I AM TOTALLY PERSONALLY UNFAMILIAR WITH THIS.) (NO I SWEAR.)
He is scared of or intimidated by stuff all the time. But basically it seems that the more nervous something makes him, or the more intimidating it is, the harder his little jaw sets itself, the more laser-focused his eyes become, and the more CERTAIN I can be that he will conquer that challenge before the day is out. He will ride that horse. He will jump into that water. He will climb that rock wall. He will pet that dog.
He spends approximately 98% of waking hours doing what my dad refers to as “testing the fences.” (Good thing this particular fence is not going anywhere and you can take that right to the bank.)
He loves to sing at the top of his lungs, arms flung up high, or dancing like a loony toon, and absolutely loves “muuskit”. (Much like his mama.)
He is spectacularly, consistently-surprisingly, age-defyingly coordinated and athletic. He picks up basically any physical activity or skill with incredible speed and agility. ( … )
He might be quick to fly off the handle but he is just as quick to kiss and snuggle and need me close by. (I can POSSIBLY relate.)
That’s my kid.
And here’s to year two.
*Except for being the exact complete and total opposite of the moral of the Wizard of Oz. I never quite QUITE got on board with the ultimate point of that particular tale. I mean kinda… like yes home is great and your family is irreplaceable but my particular preference is taking my family with me on the adventures and having my cake and eating it too.