not the only one

February 20, 2009

I haven’t been writing here because there’s too much going on but it’s not anything I can talk about. Most of what’s going on is going on inside Lee and inside me, and I suppose in relation to what goes on inside Ezra. I really don’t want to talk about him in total specifics now because I haven’t met him, don’t know how to protect his privacy, don’t know what issues in his file are things we’re going to experience. So I’m sort of tongue-tied because my thinking is all tangled now and because I’ve moved from being relatively calm and positive to being pretty much edgy and scared. Lee, though, is getting calmer and seems fairly excited about the conversation we’ll have tomorrow night with the next of our expert friends, a former social worker who used to help place kids.

Most nights, Lee and I don’t mention Ezra or don’t go into any detail about what we’re thinking. She thinks I know what she’s thinking, what her concerns are and how they’ve changed. I don’t. I have ideas, but they’re guesswork on my part. One of her problems is that she hasn’t felt able to fully enunciate what she thinks or how she feels.

It feels very strange to be talking about this because I don’t remember reading about how other people manage these decisions. I know everyone says that you just know when you’ve found the right child, but I’m skeptical of that kind of thinking. (And Lee says she knows he’s ours but is still worried about whether we’re right for him, and I have no idea how to fully make sense of that!) I’m not sure if it just didn’t register to me at the time or if this isn’t something other bloggers have written about in depth to the extent it seems to be affecting us. I went back and reread Maggie’s archives from the time between when she started looking at profiles and the time she brought Slugger home. I think Yondalla probably got into their process in making a choice about Frankie’s placement. And Torina did pretty much have boys materialize out of thin air, I think….

I don’t feel totally alone, though. I’ve gotten great advice in comments here, in emails. I’ve gotten to hear about people’s experiences in pushing a partner too far, in being pushed too far, in having no details or the wrong details in their children’s files, so much more. But the one bit of truly good advice I’ve gotten from my mother is something my pediatrician told her after I was born. She was asking him to recommend some books she could read about infant development (okay, clearly I get that tendency from her, though also from my dad) and he said, “Well, the thing is, there are a lot of great baby books out there, but there aren’t any books about your baby.” So I’m getting lots of good advice and it’s all incredibly helpful — and I do make a point of going back and really focusing on the ones I initially think are not pertinent — but of course none of it is about Lee or Ezra or me.

I guess what I really need to do is hack out how I feel about this. It took me a long time to warm to the idea of Ezra, though I’m not sure why. I guess because after helping raise my three younger brothers I would have chosen a girl if it were just me, though Lee has always been pro-boy and I thought it would be fine to go with a boy as our default. And he’s a boyish boy, sporty and active and hyperactive. But mostly Lee wasn’t interested in him initially — it turns out because she was hoping to find a biracial boy who would resemble both of us, something that hadn’t really been a concern for me — and I was figuring there was no point having real emotions about anyone she wasn’t interested in parenting.

But after we our homestudy worker Kate (also his recruitment worker, which is why we got her copies of the photos she’d taken of him) recommended him as a good fit for us, I started thinking about what she said. After we talked to his worker — now our worker — Elizabeth about him, I warmed up to the idea even more. By the time I read his file, I already knew what I was worrying about and was delighted to be able to rule out the worst options.

And what I’m left with is a kid his foster mother describes as adorable and easy-going, but one who also tantrums. But he also tantrums sometimes because he’s teased by the foster brother who shares his room, and that’s one reason they’d like him moved into our house, where he’d get more attention. Everything there is about him is like that, something negative with some reasons why it’s not as good as it could be (like asthma medications that make him more hyper, but living with a chain smoker so that he requires multiple asthma meds) and yet of course no certainty about how we could change things since I’m just making guesses about the future.

His basic diagnoses are basically the same as those the oldest of my brothers have, asthma and ADHD. And as my mother pointed out, I always had trouble with my brother’s behavior. Of course, she’s talking about I was 8 and he was 5; we get along pretty well as adults. And being someone’s big sister — because all little brothers are annoying, right? — is absolutely not the same as being someone’s mom. But anyway, this is a plus and a minus. It’s familiar territory. I have strategies in mind that worked for my brother and ones I think would have worked for him. We can make a game plan. And maybe because he’s not my brother he won’t annoy me in the way that I do believe only a little brother can annoy a big sister.

But I don’t know if I’m in love with him. I am and I’m not. I see this little guy and his story as absolutely tugs at my heart, particularly because there were so many chances for things to go better for him while he was in care and things just didn’t work in his favor until he got to his current foster home, and even then he still didn’t find an adoptive placement. I can absolutely picture him sleeping down the hall from me, going to River City Waldorf and thriving there, fitting into our home and our activities, encouraging us to do lots of things we don’t already. He makes sense in a lot of ways as part of our family. His long name written in his best big kindergarten letters on his caseplan is the sweetest, saddest thing I’ve ever seen, and I guess that means it’s love.

But if Lee says for sure she can’t handle this or that she’s too scared to proceed, she has my heart already and I’ll go with her without arguing. I think. He deserves to be in a home with parents who can manage his issues and help him learn to manage them, and if we’re not up to that, then we’re not capable of parenting him. I told Lee the other day that maybe this is sort of like if they asked us to consider a child who speaks French. I’d be so excited initially — What a great chance to improve my French with daily use! What a lucky child that they’d be able to find a francophone adult! — but it would be absolutely the wrong choice for our family because Lee doesn’t speak any French at all. And maybe having to see an attachment specialist or deal with a temper tantrum is like that, like asking her to learn French. Sure it seems easy to me because I can already do it, because I learned a long time ago, but she doesn’t have a brain for languages and it would never work for her.

The reason I’m pushing Lee on this is not for Ezra but for her. I think she needs to really think about what she can handle and not, and the only way to get her to do that is drill down on his information and figure out all we can about her preferences. I also think Ezra’s on the easier side of the spectrum and missing some major scary diagnoses, which is a benefit. But I’m afraid to her it does feel like everyone else in the world thinks Ezra belongs with us and she’s being pressured into it, which is absolutely not what I want. She knows I’m not willing to move forward unless it’s clear the yes is coming from her heart and mind, not some sense of duty or pressure. But her no can come from anywhere and I’ll accept it, even though right now it seems she’s trending toward yes.

I don’t know how much I’ll need to grieve if we say no to his file. I already grieve for Ezra because he’s been let down by the system that is supposed to be protecting him, though lots of people are doing their best to take care of him now. And all of this is tied up in my grandfather dying back in January as we geared up for our approval and now my other grandfather dying while we make a decision about Ezra. I have a lot of bubbling and unresolved feelings about family and grief right now, and that’s just the way it is.

I said I’m a fan of signs and I used to say I was a big fan of uncertainty, too. I suppose in a philosophical and literary sense I still am. Right now, though, I’m not so sure. I like a fair amount of it, but I want to have something real to hold onto too. Some days are better than others in terms of how I feel about myself, our prospects, the future. Some days I end up with a bit of panic. It could be a lot worse, though, and we’re sticking together and writing our own book. And soon I’ll know how this bit of plot turns out.

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  1. I wonder if you get more anxious when she is less anxious because it becomes more likely.

    I don’t think that means anything, just that if you think there is a good chance she will say no there is less for you to worry about.

    Oh, and I never believed I “just knew” some kid was a good fit. I’ve learned not to trust those early emotions. It’s most difficult the first time because you really don’t know what you can handle until you are faced with it.

  2. I think right now I’m more nervous because I’m afraid I’m coercing or influencing her, although I’m pretty sure I’m not. See, this is what my brain is like right now!

    I do think you’re right about the likelihoods and how I’m impacted by them, though.

  3. I’m such an over-thinker, too. And it’s not that you shouldn’t think (and think and think!) about this but sometimes stressing over ever possible eventuality just winds up driving you crazy. Adoption is such a leap of faith. There are no guarantees, no way to predict what the future holds no matter how many psych evals and school records you read. Is it possible you’re projecting your own ambivelance onto Lee? It’s certainly normal to be unsure and even to have moments where you just want to call it off and get another cat instead. Especially when the face on the photolisting becomes an actual human being. Don’t beat yourself up about being nervous. It would be weird if you weren’t.

    Oh, and for what it’s worth, I didn’t “just know” either. I think I just ended up with the kid I was supposed to get and so will you. Or you’ll just get another cat!

    Hang in there, it will work out!

  4. I agree with Yondalla…when it is not your first kid, it is easier to know what you feel comfortable parenting. With Tara, it was SCARY. Not a little bit. A lot. We knew we wanted her but that didn’t make it less scary. Heck, I still get scared on a regular basis of what to expect with her :) And her diagnoses were downgraded and dismissed by quite a few people before we got her. But, I don’t have any regrets.

    With the boys, they essentially came with the same diagnoses as Tara but I figured, ah, what the hell. Weeee. And here we are. They are nothing, not even a tiny bit, the level of difficulty that was predicted for them.

    It is a crapshoot. You just never know until that kid is sleeping in that bedroom down the hall how it is going to go.

  5. I get scary! (smile) What I said to K and myself to calm us down after we were matched was that if either one of us had a bio kid we would not have been able to say “well I can’t deal with diagnosis x y and z but if he/se has this instead, well that would be okay.” Also when we adopted Chet he was supposed to be a “totally normal” (whatever that is) healthy baby. Nothing about autism issues that would impact our lives so dramatically. Hang in there, I think this will all come round as it is supposed to. . .

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