This is Your Life!

Three weeks ago we had our second meeting with Licensing Rep No. 2. We didn’t know what to expect. We had set the date at our previous (and first) meeting with her where we were given a new stack of paperwork and gave her a tour of our house. We were prepared to hand over our newly completed forms but were at a loss for what else we might do.

Upon arriving, as laid back as ever, she announced, “Well, I figured we could start the home study questions.” Surprised, but ready to jump in, Mr. Something volunteered to go first. So, sitting around the end of our dining room table, lead by Rep 2’s questions, Mr. Something recounted his childhood. Who were the people that made up his immediate and extended family? How was he disciplined? How did he know he was loved? What were his parents views on education? What are his? What is his highest degree?  What was the demographic of his school? Did anyone in his family have substance abuse problems? Did he ever make reckless decisions?

blogger-therapy-gary-larsonWe joked that perhaps he should lie down on the couch or perhaps share a bottle of wine with Rep 2 to ease this seemingly one-sided first date conversation. We jested that it wasn’t quite fair that she was getting to the very core of who we are and, yet, we knew next to nothing about her. She tossed it right back at us saying that she actually wasn’t with the agency but just showed up at our door to learn about every tedious detail of our lives. Again, I was relieved that she shares our knack for sarcasm and relaxed nature.

After two hours she drew the evening to a close, with still uncompleted questions for Mr. Something and my own questions untouched. We set another date on the calendar to continue and our evening came to a close.

Rep 2 has shared with us that she has never licensed anyone before. She is predominately a caseworker for the agency and works with families and children after placement. She would make side comments about the questions she had to ask us, many became redundant or were just worded strangely. As tedious as it was, I was constantly aware that she was working to build a profile of us as individuals and as a family, a profile that would be the first impression of us that a caseworker would receive when deciding if we would be a good fit for a child or children in need of a home and care. Suddenly, poorly worded questions and jokes about this impromptu therapy session became very real and very heavy.

Our followup meeting got cancelled and rescheduled just once, so after a few weeks when she returned I knew it was my turn to share. Before she arrived we did a quick cleanup of the house. The weekend before we had hosted our annual Halloween Party for 31 of our closest friends and family. Halloween is a serious holiday in our circle of friends and we tend to go all out.

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This year I dressed as the woman in a painting that we have in our living room. Everyone always thinks that she is me so for one night I got to be her!Mr. Something went as the “genius billionaire playboy philanthropist” Tony Stark aka Ironman. (Nerdom runs rampant in my house and I love it!) 1457679_10151655107800044_1898175691_n

So, Wednesday night, as I pulled shot glasses out of the dishwasher and stowed bottles and bottles of alcohol back on the top of the fridge, I couldn’t help but be slightly amused. Our Halloween parties tend to be far from tame, not that we partake in anything illegal, but no less than five people ended up getting sick before the end of the night. Our final guests went home around 4am (that was old time, daylight savings turned it into 3am but my brain was still saying 4.) We had guests for over 9 hours, not counting the friend that spent the night, and just four days later we were preparing take another step toward proving that we are suitable for raising children with special needs.  The juxtaposition of these two sides of ourselves were amusing at the time, if nothing else. Mr. Something and I discussed before the party on Saturday that next year might look very different. There are so many unknowns about the children that may end up with us and the timing of it all that we must simply be prepared for things to be different and take it all as it comes.

Knowing that this meeting would be another lengthy evening, we included Rep 2 on our pizza order and planned to continue the home study over dinner. I set the table, leaving enough room for papers and notepads. We checked and double checked the plates and silverware for spots or food that somehow survived the dishwasher as if the completion of our licensing depended upon clean dishes. Some day she will be coming by to check up on our foster children and I know that spotty glasses will be the furthest thing from my mind.

She wanted to start my questions to get me caught up to Mr. Something and then we’d do the remainder of the questions together. Either she was abbreviating the questions or I am simply not as wordy as Mr. Something but mine went by much quicker. It was still interesting to walk through the halls of my past. Thinking about what did my parents do exactly to make me feel loved. How did I know the difference between right and wrong? And the million dollar question, “Who was the single most influential person in your life?” Talk about loaded! Even then I had to say, “Aren’t we all the product of everyone we have encountered in our lives?” I could easily answer it if you asked me, “Who is the single most influential person of your professional life? Or in terms of your educational career?” But when it comes down to the fabric of family, and your own parenting philosophies (which we had to define by the way) we are a tapestry of both of our parents, our friends’ parents, our grandparents, our aunts and uncles, and siblings. We have grown our ideals through watching peers enter into parenthood and endless discussions about, what would you do if that was your child, your situation? I was surprised by my final answer and not sure if it really answered the question but, no matter what, it gave her an additional window in who I am and that really is the ultimate goal of the home study.

After I caught up to Mr. Something the questions continued about our current relationship and parenting philosophies. At one point when answering a question about how we communicate or deal with conflict in our relationship, Rep 2 said, “That’s very insightful, you could be a therapist.”  I had to laugh, having a sister that is a mental health counselor for adults with developmental disabilities shows that perhaps insight runs in the family but it also proves that we really are a tapestry of everyone in our lives.

At this point we also got to exercise some of the knowledge we gained during our 27 hours of PRIDE class that we completed over the summer. There were questions about how we felt about maintaining contact with birthparents/families, how we would handle having a child that might require an IEP (Hah! As a teacher I live in the land of IEPs and have often battled to get students on them to get them what they need for the future. Cake and pie.) and what we would do to accommodate a child living with trauma and grief.

After three hours I was mentally exhausted and felt like I had relived the last 31 years of my life and then some! It reminded me of “This is Your Life” which, sadly, I don’t have the real-life connection to but the Sesame Street parody was a regular clip during my PBS watching days.

We went from laughing about childhood memories to waves of emotions recalling some of the more difficult lessons learned. Another checkmark on the list. Rep 2 left us with a bit of homework, charged with taking her pages and pages of hand scribbled notes and turning it into a veritable term paper on “The Somethings” All I can do is hope that we were honest and clear and that she was able to build a picture of us in order to match us with the children that are meant to be our forever children. So for now, we wait.

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