Idea-versary

Yesterday marked the three month anniversary of our THP idea. It is so hard to believe that it has only been three months. I feel like I have learned so much about the process, these children, and the amazing families that take them in. However, tonight as I sit here there is a sour pit in my stomach. As I have blogged about before, Mr. Something and I are not living in the house that we planned on having children in. Because of the ever downward falling market, our 5-7 year plan is being stretched to it’s limits. As the reality of our investment loss settled in I began to see ways to make our home “work” with kids, but as the image of our future family shifted, so did my opinion of starting a family in this house. It’s not a bad house, not too small, but it currently sits an hour (or more) from my work. I knew what type of commute I was getting into when we bought it but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it hasn’t been wearing on me. I am currently teaching in a great district, at a school I love, comfortably secure in tenure. Changing jobs is not an option. So say we start a family here through foster care adoption. Suddenly, instead of starting a family naturally and having 5 or 6 years before our child starts school, we could very well have a school-aged child on day 1. We currently don’t live in the best of school districts, especially when looking at bringing in children that are going to need support whether it’s just social work and speech or as much as resource/special ed. So, Big Issue Number 1: I’m not comfortable with the school district we are in.

Big Issue Number 2: The idea of moving after we bring children into our home. One of the most motivating factors behind THP is being able to provide security and stability for a child or children that are coming from a background with a lack thereof. So, say we pursue THP in the house we are in but after another 5 years we are able to move to our “forever” home. Suddenly we are uprooting our kids from what could potentially be the most stable home they have had yet. Growing up, I saw friends struggle with moves in middle school and high school and they had a stable childhood and family structure. The idea of moving after we’ve settled in with adopted foster kids is not something that sits well with me.

So we wait. Mr. Something threw the idea of waiting ten years before pursuing this idea. (What if it’s that long before we can financially get away from our house?) All I knew was that I definitely did not like the idea of going the next ten years without a family. I don’t know how soon I’d like it to be yet, but I know that ten years was like a punch in the gut. So we reached our 3 month idea-versary on a blue note. Mr. Something still suggests that we start looking into finding an agency but I’m afraid that it will be even harder to put the breaks on the process once we’ve started. *sigh* Defeated and frustrated tonight.

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Putting the Cart Before the Horse?

A little over four years ago Mr. Something and I were newly engaged and both still living at home with our parents. We decided to do the “smart” thing and look for a starter home instead of paying rent. We ended up buying a duplex in a new development, lured by the idea of new construction, (hopefully) no hidden problems, and the freedom to make our home the way we wanted it. It was a little further out than we had originally wanted but looking within our price range, closer to where we work, we could have only afforded a thirty year old condo with one bedroom and a parking place. Knowing it was our 5-7 year plan we didn’t want to bank on having decent resale for such a place and thought that a two bedroom, 2.5 bath, duplex with a 2 car garage and a nice yard would be easier to sell when we were ready for the next step.

At the time, 5-7 years seemed like a long way off. Yet, here we sit, 4 years later knowing that we are, and will be for a while, in the same situation as many people. Stuck. Our developer has even stopped building duplexes because they can now build the single family homes for the what the duplexes once sold for! So we sit on an unfinished street knowing that people are coming into our neighborhood with the budget we had, and affording 4 bedroom single family homes… forever homes.

We never intended this to be our forever home, especially since we are both commuting 45-60 minutes each way to work. With only two bedrooms and zero storage, I never imagined having children in this house. I know many people have made happy families in homes much smaller than ours but I don’t think I could handle both of us being an hour away from our kids while they are at school.

The excitement that THP now brings to me has begun to alter that image. Still certain that this is not our forever home but thinking of ways to “make it work.” I can’t help but wondering if I am getting ahead of myself.

Last weekend we were invited to our friends’ new home for a bonfire. It’s a beautiful old ranch with a big yard in a top school district. My friend made the jape, “Yeah we learned from your mistake and held out for our forever home. We’ll be here until we are 60.” I know she didn’t mean to insult and I really am so very happy for them, on the doorstep of their own somedays. Yet, part of me ached to be there. My 30 mile commute has worn on me over the last few years but now that our next step is slowly becoming clearer, the ever-elusive forever home seems so far away. I am not, by any means, ungrateful for the beautiful home that I have, and as I mentioned, the picture of this home is changing. But I feel like I’m stuck walking in too-small shoes and there’s a marathon on the horizon. I’m jealous of my friend’s just-right shoes as I see her up there, toeing the starting line.

It’s a wrench in the timeline. We are, of course, still in the “Educate Yourself” step in this process. We have not, in fact, decided on anything for sure yet. But children, adopted or not, would stretch our current shoes uncomfortably. Perhaps I need to be browsing for a realtor instead of adoption agencies. The cart can’t pull the horse.

Flying Pink Elephants

I am only about two dozen pages into Dr. Ray Guarendi’s Adoption: Choosing It, Living It, Loving It but I am already enjoying his easy manner and sense of humor. The book is organized into a question and answer format which makes skipping over sections that don’t apply to us (international adoption or infant adoption) really easy. He takes a no nonsense look at raising foster care children and addresses a question about whether or not six is the age where children become “too old” to adopt because their personalities are set. His quick reply of “No,” feels so common sense. Are any of us the same people we were when we were six? This is not to undermine the lasting effects that abuse or neglect have on a child but it makes tackling them not seem so daunting or impossible. It’s the age old question of nature vs. nurture and I have remained firmly in the world of “both” since my psych 101 course in undergrad.

Day after day during my stolen moments of reflection I always come back to the same question, am I strong enough? I like to think that there is something within me that has taken me this far. Which is really not so far at all. It’s the life equivalent of window shopping at this point. Maybe not even windows, I think I’m just flipping through the catalogue. The catalogue didn’t even arrive in my own mailbox. Perhaps it’s a few months old sitting in the magazine rack in the waiting room at the doctor’s office! Am I going to toss it aside the moment my name is called and move on with my life? What if nothing ever feels right? What if we move forward and have nothing but regrets? I suppose I could play the “What if” game until the cows come home, it’s something that I have very little patience for with my own students. I always throw “What if a pink elephant flys through the window?” at them to throw them off.  I suppose I should take my own advice every now and then. “What if’s” are never ending and will get you nowhere.

For now I’ll continue to leaf through that catalogue, maybe dog-ear a few pages. Thanks for listening.

Instant Family! Just Add Water!

A smattering of THP conversations ensued over the last few days. I love how Mr. Something or I will bring it up like we are already in the middle of the conversation even if it is the first mention of it that day. “So… how would you feel about a sibling group? Like two at once?” Certain he was going to call me crazy, I was surprised when he was totally open to the idea. (I really need to give Mr. Something more credit!) I have been reading many stories written by adults that were adopted as a children and there is always an underlying theme of not fitting in or wondering about the unknown genes that made them who they are. Wouldn’t the journey be eased if you had a sibling by your side? A blood sibling that shares your past, however harmful or painful it may have been. I had a perfectly delightful upbringing but I still couldn’t imagine going through it without my sister by my side. So, perhaps our options have grown. We have always agreed that two would be a great number, why do they have to be one at a time?

I have spent a fair amount of time on www.adoptuskids.org and have found it to be incredibly helpful and informative resource. They lay out seven steps in the adoption process, the first being to educate yourself. We are firmly lodged in that step. Today we took our education beyond my laptop screen and wandered into the parenting section of our local bookstore. Image Just standing in that particular section made me feel like I was playing dress-up in my mom’s too-big high heels and costume jewelry. Yes, I’m almost thirty but I still have difficulty thinking of myself as an adult, forget about considering myself as someone’s mother! There was a small but good selection of books on adoption. I quickly scanned the back covers and weeded out the international adoption guides, the infant adoptions, and the “Idiot’s Guide…” (I know they can be a great resource but Mr. Something and I agreed that wasn’t quite where we wanted to start.) I settled on Adoption; Choosing It, Living It, Loving It by Dr. Ray Guarendi, it seems to be a great overview of the entire process without focusing too much on one area. Mr. Something and I are looking forward to reading it together. If anyone has any additional resource recommendations to help us “get our feet wet” it would be greatly appreciated!

ImageAs we stepped up to the cashier the man ringing us up looked over our purchase. “Adoption, huh?” I smiled a nodded, not sure where the conversation was going to go. He proceeded to share with us that him and his wife adopted an infant girl six years ago. They received the call that they had been selected on the day she was born and hurried off to welcome her into their family without so much as a crib ready to go. He also shared that they have now been waiting for four years for child number two to join their family. He asked if we were interested in domestic or international adoption and we were quick to share our thoughts about foster care adoption. He wished us luck and we were on our way. It was my first real live conversation about the THP and I was immediately grateful for the book in my bag. I want to know more, I want to talk more. I want to discover if this is to be our story.

Strong Enough?

Mr. Something read through my posts yesterday and when I asked him if he had anything thoughts on my musings his one comment was, “I guess I just didn’t realize how decided you were.” I was a bit surprised by this because I don’t feel decided at all but I do know that every time I have come up with a point for the “con” list I immediately come back with a “pro.”

Today’s thoughts are all about age. When we originally talked about the idea of foster care adoption we both loved the idea of a child between four and nine years old. This goes back to my original feelings of not ever feeling compelled to have a baby in my life. Since this idea has been on the table my kid radar has definitely been turned up. Every interaction I have with a child I find myself thinking, “What if this child was the one that was available for adoption? How would I feel about it then?” Mr. Something says that I’m shopping for children but I’ve never given children younger than my own elementary students much notice. What I see it as is careful data collection.

Maybe I’m getting scared of the challenge of a child with eight or nine years of life with another family (or families.) The trauma of being taken away from their families and homes is unimaginable to me. Children don’t understand that a different placement could be “for the better.” When you are a child you think that everyone’s home and family is like your own, they don’t understand abuse or neglect because in many cases they don’t know life any differently. Am I strong enough to take on these challenges?

Family Stick Figure

I told Mr. Something that I’m starting to think of younger children (two through four years old) and he was a bit taken aback. His taken aback-ness was great though, he feels strongly about helping an older child and his conviction was affirming. I immediately felt myself leaning back toward our original THP idea. Although, I’m not closing any possibilities, I just know that I have a lot more self-exploration to do. I would love feedback from anyone that has experience with opening their home to an “older” foster child (five and up?) Looking for guidance!

What’s in a name?

I was never the sort of girl that dreamed about her wedding day. I didn’t know what sort of dress I wanted, colors, flowers, or cake until the ring was on my finger and I started picking up wedding magazines at the grocery store. Nope, I always skipped over the wedding in my daydreams and went straight to the life beyond. The house was nothing short of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s legendary Green Gables, with perhaps a little less ocean and a few more mountains. There was always a smattering of animals, definitely a dog and a cat, maybe a horse and some chickens or ducks? There was a loyal, romantic, hard-working husband… always a faceless shadow in the daydreams, and there were children, two children. I’ve named these children hundreds of times in those daydreams. In high school their names were Brooke and Elliot, later their names evolved through stages of unique and contemporary to timeless and classic. I’ve looked up meanings and followed ancient legends and lore, determined to find names that my maybe someday children would be proud of and love.

With this latest someday idea of foster care adoption and all of the thoughts and concerns that come with it, I realized yesterday that I would be giving up that simple gift of bestowing a name on another human being. It seems like such a small thing but I’ve seen those bridezillas on T.V. that have been dreaming of their wedding dress since they were four years old and if they can lose their minds over a sweetheart neckline or a halter then I am justified in letting this worry at me a bit.

My husband and I are in a unique position, as far as we know, we are fertile. At that many people would say that we are crazy to be considering foster care adoption over having our own children. I think it makes it more excusable for many people… Well, they had to adopt since they can’t have children of their own. Not that I’m going to let other people make this decision for me, but we have two very different sides of the same coin here. Biological children or adoption? If the decision was between IVF or adoption then other cut and dry factors could be brought into play. Cost, emotional toll, health concerns, etc. Our options, as of right now, are wide open so something like naming my own children is a factor, as small as it may seem in the grande scheme of things.

I have been reaching out into the blogging world to hear the stories of others that have pursued adoption for various reasons. One blogger was building a list of reasons to adopt (I wish I had saved the link so I could give credit where credit is due but as I’m reading under the covers on my iPhone in the wee hours of the night I’m not always so organized with my thinking.) She wrote that she’s looking forward to not expecting her children to be like her but being able to help them discover who they are along with them. I love this! This should be written on the wall in any home with children, biological or not!

So what’s in a name? Is there a neatly planned garden in my future with plants sprouting up next to their meticulously labeled stakes or is it a field of wildflowers blooming unexpectedly in the sunshine? I never have been much of a gardener…

The next great [fill in the blank]

We have agreed to each tell one friend, for now, about our idea of pursuing foster care adoption. I can’t see our families being anything but supportive but we want to be more sure before the world knows. We want to make up our minds for ourselves. Mr. Something ended up talking to a work friend who is engaged to a woman that has two preteen children from a previous marriage. He provided fabulous insight and answered tricky questions like, “Do you think they will ever feel like yours?” I have yet to tell a friend, the moment, the conversation hasn’t presented itself yet. I am excited to talk about it, which is probably why I have pursued this blog.

A few days ago, we had friends of ours over for dinner and board games. One of the games we played involved a certain amount of drawing. My husband, having gone to art Man Drawing Clip Artschool, is extremely creative and artistic. I have also always had quite the imagination and a fair amount of natural artistic talent. Our friends made a comment something like, “Man, your children are going to be ridiculously talented!” Mr. Something and I exchanged a quiet look and we had our first THP moment that didn’t inspire a secret high-five. The potential of maybe someday biological children is a very real “con” on the list. What if our own biological children could be the next great [fill in the blank]? Art school, film school, music, design, the possibilities are endless… we can’t deny our own innate creativity what would that look like doubled and and divided into a miniature us?

comets,doors,key to the future,metaphors,shooting stars,skeleton keysThe argument goes the other way as well. I look at the faces of the children in the photolisting and think, “What could they make of themselves if they had the comfort and stability of a forever home?” How much more rewarding would it be to know that you are opening doors for a child that might otherwise be backed into a corner?I’m not setting out to be named a Saint but the selflessness of this option stirs something within me like no other someday does.

I have always had a certain amount of curiosity in what our own biological children could be like. Would they get his hazel eyes and my curly hair? It was always a curiosity more akin to a science experiment than a life decision. Am I really willing to walk away from that curiosity? Couldn’t we always start with foster care adoption and expand our family with a biological child later or would that be detrimental to the well-being and stability of the child we adopted into our home? I don’t know how I feel about that.

Questions. Questions. Thoughts. Thoughts…