It was like a Hallmark movie: family and friends were gathered around, the judge came off her stand to hold hands with the kids and have us recite our vows. Much like at a wedding, my husband and I were asked to recite that we would love and care for these people there rest of our lives to the best of our ability. On that happy day, similarly to our wedding day as well, we didn’t realize just what that would entail.
We had been a foster family up until adoption day. Our lives changed dramatically and not so dramatically from the second the judge’s gavel dropped.
For the past few years, we had two caseworkers in and out of our lives on a monthly basis. It was by turns a hassle and a blessing. We had someone on call 24/7 if a kid was off the rails freaking out, having a hard time, was sick, or I had just had a really hard day and I needed to talk to someone that understood my kid. They were obligated to answer the call at all hours. That went away immediately. I will admit it was really nice to not have to deep clean my house on the fly to get ready for a surprise home visit while caring for a toddler and two preteens anymore. However, now no one had to answer their phones at 3 a.m. because my kid (my kid?! Hey, he’s mine! Yay!) was having a nervous breakdown over his nightmares. What?! Who left me in charge of a child, all by myself?! Apparently they thought after almost 2 years of constant support, wanted or otherwise, we could do this on our own now. And we have. They gave us the tools to succeed and my family is doing awesome (most days). But the sudden floor-falling-out-from-under-you feeling of a carnival ride was present for the first three months or more after adoption. Every time I went to a doctor and didn’t have to fill out some paperwork to turn into the caseworkers I’d tear up (they’re ours now!). My toddler would do a normal toddler thing like run into a wall, fall down and cry and my first thought was still “Ok, got to fill out an incident report. Oh, wait, no I don’t!” My big boys would want to play a sport and I didn’t have to consult anyone about it (besides my husband).
We are all a bit off balance from all the transitions. Some days that looks like temper tantrums in the 13-year-old that remind us of a temper tantrum of a two-year-old. And we remind ourselves again “He’s adjusting. This is harder for him than it is for us.” Other days, the three-year-old we have had practically since birth decides to baby talk and crawl on the floor. She’s feeling insecure and needs to be comforted and babied. So I stop what I’m doing and cradle her, soothe and rock her until she’s ok. Sometimes, though rarely, the 12-year-old needs the same thing.
Every day is something new. Some of it is beautiful: “Can we call you mom and dad now?”, “Thanks for loving us, mom and dad.”, “Look at how high I can swing!”, “I can read now!” Some days are devastating: “Can I tell you about the abuse my biological parents did to me?”, “I hate you!”, and “I won’t live here when I’m big! You’re stupid!” The days can be split between the two. Sometimes we feel so close and so connected it is like they have always been ours. In the next minute, probably because they have been feeling the same way and it makes them feel afraid or conflicted, they blow up and scream for an hour.
We have had things broken that were special to us, legos flushed down the toilet in anger, windows smashed in fear, and food hoarded in pillowcases and dresser drawers. We took them to ride on their first roller coasters and to see the ocean for the first time. Our lives are indescribably fuller because of our choice to adopt but it is not normal by most people’s standards. But it is our new normal and I wouldn’t have it any other way.