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Five Years Ago Today

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Photo by Courtney

Five.

Five years ago today was also a Wednesday.

I remember that Wednesday, sharp and clear as a photograph.

I remember the warm, golden sunlight of a late Autumn afternoon streaming through the leaves, pulling them from the branches.

I remember the soft, caressing breeze teasing through my hair, wrapping through and past our little group.

I remember the strong hug as my friend, also a foster mom, dropped the kids at our back door.

I remember her fierce whisper. “You’re going to be a GREAT mom.”

I remember the tears stinging my eyes and the concerned little faces gazing up at me.

“Why are you crying?”

“Are you sad?”

It was their first introduction to what we call “happy tears.”

I remember the incessant chatter, the celebration of having “my own room in my favorite color” and the wonder of suddenly being “the four of us.”

My memories are colored by everything I knew in my heart to be true. From the moment we met, they belonged to us. I harbored no doubt. 

Funny, how shared memories of the same instant can be so different. 

In their perception, we were just another foster home. The seventh, to be exact, in just over two years. To them, we were nothing more than adults who would eventually give up and request their removal. A couple of unknown aliens.

My friend provided respite care for them twice and was kind enough to let us spend time with the kids, knowing we were in process with social services. The children were unaware but every time they saw us before our placement, they begged us to come let them live with us, especially after visiting our home. Looking back, I see all the signs of attachment deficiency. At the time, we thought it was a sign.

Meant to be.

In reality, they were desperate to find somewhere, anywhere other than their current foster home with the ten-year-old monster who threatened to kill them in their sleep.

Their attachment was so disrupted, they’d have willingly followed anyone who offered them cupcakes or soda.

Today, on the way to an appointment (car rides are the best discussion times), we reminisced. The children remembered the terror. The confusion. The adaptation to an unknown environment and new adult caregivers.

“I kept screaming because everything was new and it all hurt. Even taking a shower. That’s why I liked baths. I’m used to the shower now.” My daughter stated this with nonchalance. Old news, the months of screaming.

I cringed and gritted my teeth, thanking God we never have to endure that again.

“I don’t know why he screamed all the time,” she said, with a preteen eye-roll she’s beginning to perfect. “I only screamed when I didn’t want to do something. He just screamed for hours. For no reason.”

Her description was accurate.

I waited for his verbal retaliation. None came. I wished for the millionth time that science fiction memory-wipes were real. That we could erase the trauma.

“Can we go ride roller coasters again next summer?” His incongruous question signaled he’d had enough.

She wasn’t done.

“We had a lot of bad people before we came to you. I think today is something to celebrate.”

I agreed, and at the mention of celebrating, he rejoined the conversation.

“Can we get pizza?”

Absolutely. 

***

If you like, read a more detailed description of our first day, written two years ago. The napkin bit is sort of gross…sorry. 

 

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Adoption = Gotcha Day!

I’ve read several views on Gotcha Day (“adopted kids love it,” “adopted kids hate it,” “it’s really for the parents”). For us, making it to Gotcha Day (the day we got ya) hasn’t been a simple journey.

Our first Gotcha Day celebration happened 6 months before the actual adoption.

Our social worker had some kind of personal connection with our kids’ birth dad and made things extremely difficult for us, showing up unannounced (which sent the kids into a tail-spin emotionally and behaviorally) and delaying paperwork. (She’s also the one who called me “hyper-vigilant” when I tried to get her to do her job and show up for school meetings to secure extra help for the kids.) Not my favorite person in the world.

We were very concerned she might continue to delay the adoption, so we asked if it was okay to throw a “Gotcha Day” party near the target adoption date. Color me manipulative, but in addition to celebrating the upcoming adoption, scheduling the party was a way to test the waters. If she nixed it, we’d know we were in for more problems.

She asked us to put it off several times but finally agreed we could go ahead. So, hoping to adopt that month but having no definite date, we invited everyone we knew to officially introduce them to our children.

Our girl had a great time being the center of attention. It was probably her greatest moment thus far in our home. I was happy to see her interacting and having fun. Our guy…not so much. He ran around with his buddies for about an hour, then realized people were playing in his room. With his stuff. Breaking it (not intentionally). Once we closed off his room to the general public, he calmed down but still stuck by my side and wanted to be carried. He buried his face in my shoulder and ignored the strangers wishing him well. At the time, his PTSD was in full swing, so in hindsight, he did great.

Even after the Gotcha Day party, the social worker dragged things on another six months. I was beginning to worry that we’d have to return all the beautiful towels and the six irons (oh, wait, never mind…that’s a wedding). Having to return the kids, however, was a huge concern. I think she really was hoping to move the kids again and somehow return them to the people who hurt them.

She has since “retired,” so I assume she was throwing wrenches into other cases, as well.

Don’t get me wrong—I know that there ARE people who SHOULD have their children back. I’ve read about several nightmarish situations in which parents (or someone on their behalf) reached out for help and it ended with unfounded removal of the children.

Finally, she acquiesced and set a date. May 10, 2013, the Friday before Mother’s Day. It seemed appropriate.

We stood before a judge and prayed she wouldn’t change her mind mid-court session. We made vows similar to those in a marriage, then signed the paper. Unfortunately, the court did not allow pictures; I really wanted a photo of everyone signing. As soon as we finished, we scatted. (Not the animal-poo kind. The rushing-out-of-a-building kind. I think we’d have had repercussions if we did the other scat.)

So, for the past two years, we’ve had a quiet family Gotcha Day celebration, just the four of us. The kids talked about our Big Gotcha Day, asking when we’ll have another, but I finally realized they aren’t actually into the big celebration. They just want another big cake. Instead, we go out to eat (their choice) and let them pick something from the Big People’s Menu instead of the Kid’s Menu (which completely blows their minds; so many choices!?!?!).

Today, Gotcha Day happened to fall ON Mother’s Day. Hubby and I decided to celebrate Mother’s Day on Saturday (more on that later) to give the kids their own day, and I’m so glad we did.

As we checked out at the restaurant, I said, “Happy Mother’s Day!” to a great-grandmother-aged lady waiting to be seated. She said, “Happy Mother’s Day to you, too,” paused, then finished, “if it applies.” I knew she didn’t mean anything nasty, but it made me pause (especially considering my earlier post). I kindly told her that I think all women should be celebrated on Mother’s Day. I did not tell her the rest of my thoughts: “Lady, you have no idea how MUCH it applies.” 

Sometimes, adoption is very difficult. The adoption process is overwhelming, but the even harder part comes as children attempt to wrangle emotions and mindsets to become part of a new family.

On days like today, though, it’s easy to forget the crazy mess. I am so thankful for both of my kiddos, and for Hubby. I can’t imagine my life without them, and I’m so glad to have a reason to celebrate finally getting from Maybe to Gotcha.

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