We got Rowan back to his RTC this afternoon and we just now got back home. I don’t know that I’d say the house feels empty without him, but his room certainly feels like his room. I think our cat Thing One slept on his bed all evening, which he’s been doing most of the day after sneaking in this morning to surprise Rowan while he was sleeping. That’s what he gets for watching scary movies before bed; he freaked out when the cat hopped up on him because in his sleepy state he thought it was a giant snake! We reiterated that he’s always free to throw the cat away from him or shut him out, but apparently he’d been happy to have the cat around once the surprise passed. While he’d told us he was a light sleeper now that he’s not on sleeping pills, he was definitely out cold while he was here, which we take as a good sign.
The same staffer who signed Rowan over to us came over from his cottage to pick him up. This guy was visibly moved to see Rowan’s big grin and he nodded happily to us when Rowan picked up his new duffel bag to bring his stuff back to his room. Apparently Rowan’s worker (my high school friend I’ll call Angela) and his Court-Appointed Special Advocate will be seeing him on Monday or Tuesday and his first court appearance up here will be in less than two weeks. Then the bulk of the court case will occur sometime in January. When I’d talked to Angela about him initially, she’d thought he was on track to graduate from the RTC program in January, but I don’t know if they’re going to want to keep him through the duration of the trial or what. We’d already explicitly told his counselor and staffer down there (and Angela already knew) that if he has to stay in our area for multiple days of testimony during the trial(s?), he’s welcome to be here.
I just called Angela’s cell phone to check in and let her know we’d dropped him off. I also told her what we’d talked about on the drive back, that we think this kid fits as close to seamlessly as we can imagine into our lives. We can totally envision him flourishing at our close-knit local public school, where he’s benefit by being a star athlete in the small pond and also be eligible for the kind of one-on-one support he clearly needs in certain subjects, and then maybe doing two years at Lee’s community college (with free tuition for faculty children) before taking advantage of the money the state offers foster care alumni for college. I can imagine sadder outcomes too, of course, but he shows unbelievable personal strength and tenacity in the face of a truly awful personal history, and this was one point everyone we’ve talked to about him conveyed again and again.
So we told Angela that regardless of whether he’s gone through TPR, we want her to know we’re interested in being his next placement when he leaves the RTC. There’s virtually no way his parents (who are not his biological parents; this is a failed adoption) will retain legal rights to him, but it could still be a while before the issue is decided. If that means we become his adoptive parents (well, Lee becomes his legal mother) that’ll be great. If it means the judge orders that he and his brother (16 and from what I gather violent, in a different RTC) must be adopted together, we’d be willing to stay his foster parents until he ages out of the system or his brother does and he’s available for adoption on his own. If somehow there’s a family ready to adopt the two of them, we’d support that placement as best we could and let him know he has us as backup, as people who care about him and want him to succeed. It means, regardless, that we’ll be open to driving him an hour from here to see his brother regularly; they’ve only visited once in the last year and this is something that really bothers him. It could mean we’d be his foster parents and then someone in his extended family would be approved as a placement, in which case he’d at least be local and again we could serve as mentors and supports for him. We just want to be there however he needs us to be there, however we can help make his life better. There are so many things that could happen or change, but we think he’s incredible and want to be in his life.
This is not exactly what we planned. Lee had gone through all of this with her heart set on the biracial three-year-old boy she’d imagined for so long, though I’ve long thought that a teenager would be a better fit for her. We’d talked about not being a pure foster family because her attachment issues would cause her to fall in love immediately and not be able to disconnect in a way that’s healthy for her if the placement isn’t permanent. She’s impressed me so much with her ability to show Rowan that she loves him with her actions, knowing that saying it wouldn’t be appropriate now and might be sort of scary for him. She’d whisper to me every night that she loves him and that he’s such a good boy, but I’m so proud of how she was able to put his needs before her own. And because she was calling her biological mother Leah and her biological half-sister Shasta to wish them both happy Thanksgivings, she got to explain her adoption story to him, which led to him sharing the bones of his adoption story with us. He certainly saw it as a connection between them, and so just as I think it was good for him to see a loving same-sex couple, I think it may have been good for him to see siblings who hadn’t even known each other as children love and support each other (Shasta’s having a hard time and called back later for some advice) because this is something that with one bio-brother in an RTC and another living with family he might be dealing with down the line.
I’ve said before I’m not a believer in things happening for a reason, but I know Lee is. I’d talked to her when our kitten Thing Two died about how maybe his loss would make room in our life for someone else to love. On our drive home, we talked about how Thing One had someone to cuddle with and nap on when Rowan was here. Our dog Pocky, while she respected him as a human as far as pack issues go, seemed to know he was a child and was somehow fragile and thus played the loving and responsible protector role she’d played with her beloved Thing Two. And after weeks in which the last thing Lee said as she was going to bed was that she loved and missed Thing Two, it was quite noticeable to hear her whisper to me that she loves Rowan and she hopes he knows it. It’s exactly what she used to say about the kitten, silly as that sounds. And me, I’m still being the proud, loving, responsible one, making sure everyone gets fed and has room to play. I’m so proud of every member of our family of choice, and Rowan fits that category now.
Lee kept saying that this weekend couldn’t have been more perfect, and while I’d have been quite happy to avoid this cough, I think she’s right that Rowan was wonderful. I don’t think ti’s just that he was trying to be good; we got to see plenty of his true personality. We talked about how it won’t always be this easy and this pleasant, how we’ll have to tell him to get his socks off the floor and we’ll have to figure out what consequences there are when he breaks curfew and we’ll definitely have to work on helping him read better, because he’s got such a great mind and wonderful listening skills that he’s clearly been covering his deficits for too long…. But as everyone who’s been reading this while he’s been here probably knows, we think this is it. I believe we can do this whole parenting thing. And so now we’ve given our official notice that we want to try. The rest we’ll have to figure out as we go along. Thanks to all of you who’ve given me supportive comments, who’ve written useful blog posts even if you don’t read or comment here. I feel so much better prepared than I’d have been otherwise, and I hope Rowan’s life will be improved because of you. I agree with all his workers, too, that no kid could deserve that more. He’s awesome and I’d be proud to be his parent. I got to shake his hand goodbye today and squeeze his shoulder and I think he knows that. I know we do.