Baby Steps

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to my blog world! Finally arriving at winter break after a chaotic fall has been glorious. During the school year that nagging stress of always having something to do for work becomes such a permanent part of myself that after a while I stop noticing it, that is, until it’s gone. Suddenly I can breath easier, the tension in my neck and shoulders loosens, my brain sighs and stretches like a cat waking up from a nap in the sunshine and I am free to explore the other recreational parts of my life that get buried by the needs of my 20 second graders. 

After our October orientation at the foster care agency I was simmering. Too busy or too stressed to even imagine a life with more responsibility, our Tiny Human Project slipped into the back of my mind once again. However, after a few weeks, it became apparent what was holding me up. It was the thought of Mr. Something’s cousin that we met over the summer. (See the story here.) In the little imaginary world that exists only in my “stuck in traffic” daydreams, Mr. Something’s cousin and girlfriend would realize that we could provide so much more for the daughter they were turning their backs on. Her grandmother would admit that she never wanted to or planned on raising a child at this point in her life and we would whisk that sweet little girl back to our home and show her the kindness and magic that can exist in the world. We’d, of course, want her to maintain a relationship with her grandmother and parents if possible, and would plan regular trips to her home state. It seemed like destiny that we began researching our Tiny Human Project just months before meeting her for the first time. What a sweet little imaginary world I had built for myself, but that sweet un-reality was keeping me from moving forward in our very real reality. We had to share our thoughts with the family. We had to offer to help our own family before we could ever think of helping another.

It was Thanksgiving. Mr. Something’s aunt, who is raising this little cousin, doesn’t have a phone but would be spending the holiday at his uncle’s house. It was our chance to talk to her, tell her our plans to help children in need and offer our own help to her. It’s not everyday that you call up a family member and say, “Hey! Would you like to give us your granddaughter?” Mr. Something had a bit more tact than that, something along the lines of “If we can help family first, that’s what we want to do.” But, as any person not caught up in tidy imaginary worlds would expect, she thanked us for offering but said she could never give her up.

It’s extremely hard to not pass judgement. I know that this won’t be the only time in this process that the idea of what is “best” for a child is in debate. Where she’s living, how she’s living, what experiences is she getting or not getting? That’s not for us to decide. Could we provide more? Yes. Is more better? It’s such a grey area. The hardest part is knowing that we will be spectators to this young girl’s life from now on. If her future is anything less than bright, the refusal of our offer will hurt even more. 

As hard as it was seeing the door to that possibility close, it was necessary. My imaginary world blurred and the faces of other children took her place. Mr. Something and I have some time off together this week. It’s our goal to fill out the application for the foster care agency and move forward into 2013. With that I wish you and your families all the best in the new year!

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…Continued

I left my story half told and it’s been nagging at me for over a month. After the turbulence of going on strike, I had to hit the ground running. My district was nearing the end of its first trimester, there were assessments to administer, report cards and portfolios to prepare, parent/teacher conferences to schedule, not to mention the chaos outside of my professional life, a week of jury duty and a solo part at my next orchestra concert. All of my attention and energy was going toward surviving until Thanksgiving. No, I had to do more than survive, I had to succeed, and I had to do it well. Needless to say my tiny blog slipped further and further down on my “to do” list.

I left my story off as Mr. Something and I were heading to an agency orientation. The agency focused on foster care and dabbled in infant adoption of the domestic and foreign kind. There was a decently sized group of us attending the orientation, a smattering of demographics. We all shyly introduced ourselves, a few people stammering over the introductions. Nervous.  There were furtive glances in each other’s direction, wondering at the stories, the paths that lead us all to that conference room on a rainy Wednesday evening.

It was reassuring that most of the information did not come as a surprise. Mr. Something and I had done our homework. One major clarification that came our way was the idea of foster care adoption. It seems that most cases begin with some level of fostering before the adoption takes place. I was under the impression that going right into adoption for those children whose parents’ rights have been terminated. There was a distinction between high risk foster placements (most likely to return to their family) and low risk foster placements (unlikely to return to their family) which was encouraging to hear. From the beginning we have known that we are not the type of people to serve as merely a foster home and work toward reunification. Maybe someday, but our first experience into this world is going to be for keeps. 🙂

The meeting was run by a handful of the agency’s case workers. It was amusing to see how their presentation of foster care differed. One woman was very straightforward. She wasn’t sugarcoating any detail of the situations these children are coming from, not that she should, but it seemed as if she was trying to weed the faint-of-heart out of the group. The other main presenter seemed to be fighting this yang with her own yin. “It’s the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do…” I found the entire exchange amusing because I’m sure every person in that room had the same pro and con conversation with themselves prior to arriving at the orientation.

Throughout the meeting I was trying to get a read on Mr. Something. Although we had read a few books together and I readily shared information as I found it, this was definitely my pet project over the last few months and I wasn’t sure if I had covered all of the bases. He remained impassive, asked a few pointed questions as everyone was filing out, and before I knew it, we were on our way back to the car.

“Well…?” I tentatively glanced up at him and we took long strides over puddles in the parking lot.

“Let’s do it.”

I was a bit shocked at his conviction and a bit more so at my own lackluster reaction. I felt like I had built up this moment for so long. We were finally taking a real step. We were going to start telling people. Yes. This is who we are. But somehow it wasn’t the momentous occasion that I had been anticipating. It’s not that I didn’t want to pursue foster care adoption after this meeting, it’s just that I expected something more from this moment of decision. I have a tendency to do this in my life. I build moments or occasions up in my mind to the point where reality doesn’t have a chance of competing. Inevitable, self-made disappointment always follows. However, I wasn’t even disappointed, I was indifferent. I chocked it up to needing time to digest the information and ease into the decision.

Another undeniable part of my personality. I don’t like change. Never have. My immediate reaction to any sort of change whether it’s a major life decision or simply moving the microwave from one end of the kitchen counter to the other, tends to be knee-jerk negativity. Being in a loving, supportive marriage I have since learned to reign in this initial reaction and trust that in time my actual opinion will surface. (I have absolutely no problem with the new location of the microwave.) tumblr_m3pmopkYYB1ru79fuo1_400I’ve never been the person to canon-ball into a pool, it’s one toe at a time for me. I’m a private person and I will roll my feelings around until I am familiar with every facet before I can share it. This decision needed to simmer before I could react.

It was still October. The burner was turned to low. I was simmering.