Archive for December, 2009

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the year that was

December 31, 2009

So, 2009 was pretty big for us and as a result I don’t want to go back and link to all the things I’m going to reference!

It started out with us finally getting our homestudy written and approved at the state level, though we found out maybe six months later that there were substantial errors in it and those errors have still not been corrected. As soon as we were approved, we were offered a chance to adopt Ezra, who was six at the time and had a fairly high level of special needs compared to what we thought we could handle. After much thought and agonizing, we told our workers that we just couldn’t commit to him. Since then, the woman who’s been his foster mother for the last 3+ years has decided to adopt him, which is absolutely what we hoped would happen to him.

In the midst of all of that, both of my grandfathers died within six weeks of each other. It meant I got to make two trips to snowy areas of the country at extra snowy times and see my family, but it was also the first time I’d had to deal with death so close to home. Lee accompanied me on the first trip for my paternal grandfather’s funeral, and just as we started our drive home her car was hit and totaled. Her new car is very nice, but that was one extra stress we didn’t especially need, and it kicked my anxiety and post-traumatic stress stuff up a notch.

We started sending out for information on more kids available for adoption in our state, but it was very hard to get responses. We focused on getting a lot of repairs made to our house, since that was something we could actually control. Our file went out on a boy who was 11 at the time, Mychael, and it took something like two months to hear back that we weren’t selected for him. We’ve gotten oblique confirmation that the problem was that we’re a same-sex couple and his worker/region doesn’t approve of that. He’s still waiting for a family.

Claudia recommended that we work with her and Adopt America Network to find a match with a child or sibling group outside our state. We sent out our homestudy many times and Claudia featured us as her family of the month for the workers she knows, but we only made any kind of match with one child in the two months we spent trying. His worker was supposed to be making a decision in December, but we’ve never heard any more about that.

Our little cat, Thing Two, died unexpectedly at about age 2, and that left us reeling and re-evaluating how our family worked and what it should look like. In October, a high school classmate of mine made contact with me and asked about our adoption plans. She asked if we’d be interested in a boy on her caseload, Rowan, who had just turned 15. He came to stay with us at Thanksgiving and we all had a good time. Plans were made for a Christmas visit and for him to transition to living with us full-time early in 2010. We had Adopt America Network put us on hold while we focused on Rowan, once we’d met him and cared about him so much.

And then this past week, Rowan came to stay with us but told us how scary it was for him to be back in our region of the state, where his bad memories and bad influences are. He told us that he doesn’t want to be in a family, which I realize is typical for a kid his age who’s had the background he’s had and I don’t take personally at all. I think he liked being part of our little family, but it was also obviously hard on him. On the day after Christmas, he went AWOL for 26 hours. We had to return him to his Residential Treatment Center early and while we haven’t heard any updates on his placement plans, we’re assuming that there’s no longer hope he’ll be with us any time soon.

We started going to the church we now attend in summer of 2009, and there’s pressure on us to join church (which I can’t since I’m not a Christian!) because the general impression is that we’re more involved than a lot of the people who are members, which is flattering. I’ll be at the soup kitchen with them again tomorrow and I’m looking forward to more tutoring for the rest of the school year. We’ve made some very good friends and opened our lives to something new.

But more important than all those events was how we changed and grew as people over the year. I do think that has been noteworthy and impressive, though I’m not sure it’s something people reading the blog can tell. Lee and I had some real lows during the year, plus times when we were annoyed or annoying. But we’re also learning to be better partners as a result of the hard bits. We’re learning more about what we can actually manage. I can’t wait to spend a quiet evening with her (our current plan, though subject to change if the need for socializing takes her, as it sometimes does) and look forward to a new year together. I’ll be turning 30. We’ll be spending the first half of the year trying to find a child we can adopt.

I’ll also be keeping this blog going and enjoying the connections I’ve made through it. There are some wonderful people out there in the online world and I’m so glad that in 2009 I was able to meet friends in the flesh in Columbus and in Chicago. In 2010, I hope there will be more of this. If nothing else, we’ll get to go stay at the same swanky Chicago hotel because Lee is presenting at a conference there and I of course want to go along to enjoy the city (and sneak out to The Oriental Institute while she’s busy, especially since the section about my region of interest was under construction when I was there last). Maybe I’ll be able to make it to an adoption conference. Maybe I’ll just keep playing lexulous with friends from all over the country. But I know my life will be richer and warmer because of the love, support, and wisdom I’ve gotten from my readers and the bloggers I read. I’m very, very grateful for that.

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or we could be a foster family?

December 31, 2009

One thing having Rowan here taught us is that we can, in fact, manage the “foster” rather than “adoption” relationship/mindset if we absolutely must. If Rowan is not going to be in our house permanently, we’ll still care about him and still be glad we had the impact on him that we did.

I haven’t written about this because it’s something we barely talk about between ourselves, but Lee’s youngest half-sister Shasta has a daughter. And in a time of financial hardship, Shasta signed guardianship of her daughter over to her own mother. Now Shasta’s mother is making some of the same kind of unwise and potentially dangerous choices that made Shasta’s upbringing difficult, but Shasta hasn’t had a stable place to live or a stable mindset to be able to legally take custody of her daughter. To be honest, she probably couldn’t pass a drug test, but although after going through all my training I’m probably supposed to be shocked to know that people smoke things that aren’t cigarettes I’m really not.

Lee talked to Shasta about Rowan today and Shasta shared a lot about how she felt at 15, how she probably would have run from stability too. I think it was helpful for Lee to hear that, although she says it wasn’t really. But they also talked about Shasta’s daughter, who was spending the day with Shasta.

Although I’ve never met Shasta in person, although Lee hasn’t seen her since she was a baby, we feel connected to her. I do believe she’s a good person with a good heart. I think that with good supports and good friends in her life she could be a great mother, but her abilities have been undermined by her lack of self-esteem and the ways other people have undermined her power and self-determination.

The worst-case scenario for Shasta’s daughter would be that she’d go into foster care and Shasta wouldn’t be considered an appropriate placement. The more time goes on, the more this seems like a real possibility. We’ve decided that what we’re going to do is be in touch with Shasta to help her work to get custody back. She’s already made some good first steps, and we want her to know we have her back. But we’ve also decided to tell her that if the worst-case scenario happens, we could be a potential placement for that girl. Even though it wouldn’t be ideal to move her away from the city where she (and Lee) grew up, we think it would be best to put her in one stable placement where she could wait for Shasta to be considered a fit parent.

We wouldn’t want to adopt this girl because what we want is for her to grow up in her mother’s care, but now that we’re more sure that this bedroom won’t be Rowan’s (though we both keep calling it “Rowan’s room”) we want to make sure that it’s there as a backup for her. We think it will just make things easier for Shasta to know that if things go badly, there’s still a safe space for her daughter with people she trusts.

All of this is a pretty remote possibility, but we’ve known for a while that it is a possibility and having the possibility of Rowan’s placement get more remote makes it easier to talk about this. We’re just trying to talk a lot about the positives for us of our time with Rowan. One of those is that we have more faith in the complementarity of our parenting skills. Another is that we know for sure we can give our hearts and our commitments to a child without needing that child to reciprocate or stay ours forever. These are all things that worked well in theory, but it really makes a difference to know that we can make them work. We have a lot of possibilities out there and it will be a while before we see any of them become part of our reality. I’m just glad we do have those possibilities and that there are some we can handle. We’ll just have to see what happens.

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shaky

December 30, 2009

I cried myself to sleep last night, and it was every bit as hysterically overwrought as that phrase probably sounds. We spent the evening talking to Jorie about Rowan and about her family’s horrible Christmas, and then as soon as she was gone I just curled up in a ball and finally let the tears start flowing. I’m not sure I’m over that part yet.

Lee and I talked a little bit about what our plans for the future are. She thinks we should get back to working with Adopt America Network and see if we can find a match by June, which is her new deadline. Maybe I should delegate this to her next time since it was pretty much solely my job, but on the other hand it’s a job I’m better at than she is. (Since starting this post and putting it aside earlier in the day, I got an email from one state agency we registered with through AAN when inquiring about one of the kids they had listed. Following the email to kids’ profiles told me that I am decidedly not ready to start thinking about parenting anyone else. It made me feel sort of queasy and scared and I had to shut the webpage so I wouldn’t start crying again.)

I think we’ll have to renew our license by the end of January, which means we both need doctors’ appointments. It might mean some of the errors in our homestudy will finally be corrected, but I’m no longer really optimistic about that. We were supposed to get paperwork to fill out for our updates back in October, but now it’s the end of December and that hasn’t happened either. I’m sure we’ll just have to shove it all in before whatever we’re told the deadline is, though there’s been no communication about this either.

I read some posts today about love in foster care/adoption — one new and one old — that really resonated with me. While Lee had been telling me since the first day he stayed with us that she loved Rowan, I’d hung back from that word. I’d tried really hard to keep envisioning a future without him alongside imagining a future with us as a family trio, worked to keep myself from thinking of him as ours because he wasn’t yet and now probably never will be. But I don’t know what else to call what I did feel for him, do still feel every bit as strongly as when he was the one lying on this couch and smiling and when he was AWOL and I was waiting for him and when we had to pass him to the men who’d drive him back to his placement and I crumpled.

I would give everything to make things different for him, but I can’t and that isn’t an option. If there were something that could be taken from me to help him heal, I’d give without question. But at the same time, I can’t beat myself up about not being the right placement at the right time for him because we just weren’t and it was really about him and not us. It was clear that he liked us as people and I’m delighted we did connect with him so well, but he was going to undermine any sort of family. I don’t take any of it personally, but it still really hurts me to think about what he’s thrown away and all the things he’s had taken from him over the years.

I’m heading bas, so I think I’ll leave it for now and go upstairs to read with Lee. I can’t change anything right now, but I miss Rowan and I hurt for him. And I don’t know if you want to say it’s because I loved him, but I certainly did and do still care. I think he needs that too.

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oh, and thanks!

December 29, 2009

I think I did as well as I did because I’ve been able to spend years reading about how other people I respect parent teens (with and without trauma backgrounds) and deal with runaways and have matter-of-fact discussions about complicated topics. I would have felt very lonely and alienated if I hadn’t had all my friends inside my computer cheering me up and pulling me along. I was able to be a better person, parent, partner because of all of you. And I’m so grateful.

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coda

December 29, 2009

I’m writing this one from the couch again. I got Rowan into bed about 11:00 last night, once he’d calmed down and he and I had talked about big and little things. At about 10:00 this morning we finally got plans firmed up about how to get him back to his RTC. Lee wasn’t comfortable with us driving him the whole way, even though I’d thought that might be better to show him that we follow through on commitments and because we’ve historically had good conversations in the car. Rowan said he didn’t care how he got down there but that he didn’t want Lee to be uncomfortable, which seemed like a sincere wish. Since Lee basically didn’t speak to him on the ride (nor did he speak to us, except to answer questions from me) I guess spending an extra two hours or so probably wouldn’t have mattered much. Instead we stopped at a restaurant to hand him over to his staff worker and then went out for a meal ourselves to decompress a bit. Lee finally talked about how she was feeling and I cried a little bit, subtly since it was in public and Mariah Carey was playing on the sound system. Then we ate and turned around and came home by ourselves.

I can’t answer any questions about what’s happening to any of us in the longer term. I’m really afraid Rowan is going to be taken out of his RTC placement and put somewhere on lockdown, which apparently is a possibility. It seems to me — and I’ll be sending his worker a message to say this — this is the time when he most needs people who know about him and care about him to be involved with him, whatever the repercussions will be for his running. Realistically, I doubt there’s much chance he’ll be placed with us. My heart breaks for him, but we were always in it for what was in his best interests. If being here is going to mean constantly fighting the temptation to run toward dangerous parts of his past, that’s not a healthy setup.

At the same time, I love this kid and I want to see him succeed. Of course I love my partner and I’m not going to push her to keep going with adoption if she’s really decided she doesn’t think she can handle it. (This isn’t a conversation we’re going to have meaningfully until we’ve both had the chance to experience and process our emotions about this visit with Rowan and his self-sabotage.) Lee’s working through some of the things that hurt her feelings and trying to figure out whether she could have handled them better with a different kid or under better circumstances (and my guess is yes to both).

I’m still feeling sort of shaken and drained and just really, really sad for Rowan and what this will mean for his future. After one night where I was up way late talking to him, one where I was up on and off waiting for him, one where I was up often to make sure he was still here and sleeping, I still haven’t been able to manage a nap because I’m still too tense.

Leaving Rowan was just sad all around. I bought him a soda while we waited and I gave him a little speech about how I expect to see him do well because he has so much potential and so many people who care about him, us included, which may have sounded like cheesy nonsense to him. Actually, at that point I was being careful not to speak for Lee, though at the end I did say that we were wishing him all the best and would be in touch, and she later told me she was glad I did.

Maybe this is what foster care is like. He’s not moving on to go back to his family even though that’s what he desperately wants. He’s not in our house and we know that’s a good thing for him, but we’re also really sad. I miss him, miss the conversations we’d be having if he were here now, miss the ways I could have helped him. I know now for sure that I can be a good parent. I’d still like to be a good parent for Rowan. But I don’t get to be the one who makes that decision. I may have to settle for knowing I had a positive impact on him and see where I can go in terms of helping him more. And I still need to grieve the loss of what we thought we’d have going with him. It’s complicated and I’m sad, but I’m so glad we’ve had this experience. I have a lot of sadness, but I can’t really say I have regrets about my side of things.

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He’s back!

December 28, 2009

He’ll be on line-of-sight supervision. Apparently we’ll return him tomorrow to the RTC. Now we’ve got calls to make. I’m just relieved he’s okay, though I don’t like the answer about where he was while he was gone. It may be another long night.

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waiting

December 27, 2009

Rowan’s been gone 18.5 hours, by my count. I’m sitting on the couch in my pajamas watching tv with Lee and working on a hat for Rowan to keep my hands occupied. (Well, now I’ve put that aside to write here, but that’s how the morning has been going.) I slept here so that if anyone came to the door I’d be right here and so that my waking up and doing my little pilgrimage to the doors and the phones and the computer where the local listing of breaking news wouldn’t disturb Lee, who apparently slept well. She’s going to go to church, which we’d planned to do as a trio, and I’ll stay here in case there are any updates.

My plans for the day are to call Rowan’s best friend and let him know we’re still waiting, which I promised I would do in the morning. He’s feeling awful, so I’m trying to be clear every time I call how grateful we are for his support and the good advice he’s given Rowan. I’ll do Rowan’s laundry and pack his bag, because whenever he does get back here he’s going to be heading to some sort of restrictive placement soon after. While he said he hates to have anyone else do his laundry, I want him to have a decent send-off if that’s what he’s getting. And basically I wait, because there isn’t anything much I can do. (Actually, while writing this I just searched peoplefinder.com for some of the addresses associated with him and found something I think the police dispatcher didn’t last night, though I’m sure the police who know what they’re doing have figured it out. But I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to drive over there looking for him or trying to send him any messages when there’s police involvement. I mean, if the phonebook gives listings for someone with the same last name as his birthmom’s married name and the same first name as the birthmom’s son and the right neighborhood for where I told them his birthmom lived, presumably the professionals can do the math, right?)

One of my friends who knows me best and longest sent me a very nice message reminding me not to be hard on myself and to stop feeling guilty. What’s funny is that I haven’t felt particularly guilty, even though I was one-on-one with Rowan when he went AWOL. I’m usually a mess of guilt about everything, but here my guilt just hasn’t been triggered. I’m not even worrying, though of course I do have twinges of fear that in the cold he’d get into the wrong car with someone dangerous or that there will be repercussions within the family for what his testimony has done to his abusers (though it’s not as if he’s the only witness or he’s testified about anything others believe to be untrue) or that he’ll be physically or psychologically hurt by what’s going on out there wherever he is. He wants to prove he can take care of himself, but I believe he also wants to see himself suffer in hopes it can alleviate some of his grieving and psychological pain right now, the same way he picks at his cuticles to give himself something to feel.

I’m sure I’ll follow my standard procedure for dealing with a crisis and have a bit of a meltdown once we know he’s safe and settled, but for now I’m managing to be calm and professional. I’m even fairly proud of how I parented while he was with us. Unlike Lee (and this isn’t a criticism of her; we just have different approaches) I didn’t try to push the idea of permanency too hard. I think I managed to balance being friendly with giving advice and sharing my experiences and so on. I think I made a connection with him, but I also held him responsible for following rules here and maintaining appropriate boundaries. We really did have fun, really did have deep conversations, really did have a lot of time that felt comfortable and right.

I don’t know how to explain it well, but I was always nervous about how I’d do, whether I’d be able to do the parenting role properly. I’m sure ever first-time parent worries about that, but it seems like it’s one thing to have to take care of a baby and another to have a 15-year-old with a trauma background and an inclination to run away. Even though we can’t really consider this visit a success, it had a lot of high points and I think both those and the fact that he ran again when given the chance will have an impact on Rowan in the future.

I know Lee is really hurt by this. I don’t know what this experience will do to our adoption plans. It’s quite possible that Rowan will get his wish and he’ll no longer be considered for a family, or at least for us. I think it would take Lee a while to grieve that loss, and probably for me as well though I think I’ve managed the mentality of concurrent planning thing better than she has. If we’re still on a schedule to try to adopt by next fall or give it up for good, this may be pushing us closer to the “give it up” side of things. Lee’s not really ready to talk about that yet, to talk about anything except how she’s so disappointed in Rowan (and, I think, scared for him). I don’t have any idea where any of this will go. I just know I’ve got my little vigil going here and I’ll stick to that as long as I can. I hope he’s okay, I hope he’s okay and that things will go well for him. I’m hoping he’s okay and that things will go well for him and all of us. And I wait.

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and he ran

December 27, 2009

Rowan’s been gone for 3+ hours now after disappearing while he and I were at the library. I’ve filed a police report and talked to his RTC group leader and his best friend from there, both of whom are heartbroken. So is Lee, who’s also really angry with him especially since he understood that running would hurt me as well as hurt his future prospects. Me, I’m more sad for him that he wasn’t able to hold out against the urge to run.

I’m also more sure than I was yesterday that I’m able to tell when he’s not being truthful, because certain statements from this afternoon (that he was tired from playing ball for hours, that he needed to go to the library bathroom because he felt queasy) just rang false even though they were plausible. I’m actually not feeling guilty that he ran on my watch because I knew it was an option and knew that I could postpone it perhaps but probably couldn’t stop it if he made up his mind. I do think he was trying to keep resisting but eventually found it too appealing even though he’d set himself up (no coat, no money) to have a difficult time of it if he did run.

Especially after our talk last night, I think I understand why he did it. It was really upsetting him not to be with his family on Christmas, to be facing the prospect of not being with them ever. He’s spent his whole life taking care of people and taking care of himself, and I think it’s kind of threatening to him that he does fit in comfortably here. He doesn’t want to let himself be vulnerable enough to have someone else care for him. There are so, so many pressures at play right now.

I’ve been on the phone most of the evening with various folks who might have information about who his family members are and importantly where they are, and the police have been very helpful. They understand why he’s at risk and why it’s important to find him and keep him from doing anything dangerous. They seemed to believe me that he was a kid who has the potential to do really well and who’s trying to sabotage that because he feels like he should be punished for destroying his family. I just finally got in touch with his worker Angela, who’s texting the detective who’s heading up all investigations on the family and who knows his tendencies when he runs as he has so many times before.

It’s gotten dark out and he hadn’t eaten anything since noon. The wind is biting cold and somewhere there’s this kid out there in jeans and a bright red t-shirt under his black hoodie sweatshirt. I don’t know whether he’ll be able to go back to his RTC, especially since that’s probably what he wants. But whenever the police are able to find him — and they always have before — he’ll be turned over to our custody, where we’ll choose to be in his physical presence whenever he’s not in the bathroom so we can keep him here and safe.

Lee is going through a lot of tough and deep emotions. I’ve been more balanced, perhaps because I really thought this was going to happen and just hoped it wouldn’t. Much as I hate being on the phone most of the time, I’ve had no trouble at all talking to all the professionals I’ve been dealing with, nor with Rowan’s best friend who just graduated from the RTC program and who’s really feeling distraught. Basically the people who thought they had an understanding with Rowan that he wouldn’t run — his RTC staff coordinator, his best friend, and Lee, who thought my talk last night had really gotten through to him — seem the most hurt by his betrayal of their trust, even though it was probably partly having people trust him that pushed him over the edge.

While he’s under all these pressures, there’s just no winning for those of us who care about him, though I do think Lee and I both had a positive impact on him. We still get a chance to show him that we’re committed to him even when he does self-destructive things. After tonight, that’s unlikely to mean having him move in any time soon, but we’ll still get whatever we get with him. I told the police officer that he’s got an awful lot of potential and that he’s working very hard to destroy some of that right now. Nobody can hurt him as much as he helps himself, and nobody can give him all the help he needs until he’s ready to accept it.

Our light is on. I told him last night that I’d been afraid he’d run when he first came here, that I’d know from my nights with missing cats that it would mean lying sleepless on the couch and worrying and waiting for the phone to ring. So that’s my plan for tonight, if he doesn’t get here first. Whether he finds out or not, I’ll be a woman of my word and he can count on me to do what I’ve said I’ll do. I don’t know what that will do for him, but I guess it can’t hurt. I don’t see what else there is for me to do besides stay calm. I’m still hopeful, too, that he’ll be back here and safe soon. As long as he’s safe and secure, we can manage anything from there. We just need to find that starting ground. And soon, I hope.

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I know I’m a worrier, but –

December 26, 2009

Rowan’s a worrier too. After he and I stayed up until his midnight vacation curfew playing cards, I took a bath to soothe my back and try to quiet my worrying a bit, especially since I didn’t really know what I was worrying about. When I came out of the bathroom, Rowan’s light was still on, so I wished him a good night. He said his usual “Good night, ma’am!” and I headed off to bed, where I lay with my heart still fluttering and tried to process all the things I was thinking about.

It was probably around 1:15 that I heard a sound and told Lee I was getting up to investigate. I came downstairs and found Rowan (still?) fully dressed in his clothes from the day and sitting at the dining room table. I could see some small, thin metal thing twisting in his hands, which now seems to have been a safety pin. At the time, my first thought was that it was the kind of flat piece that could be used to open a locked door, though I’m fairly sure it wouldn’t have worked on our deadbolts anyway. He told me that he’d been up worrying and had wanted to call his friend to talk about it, but then when he got downstairs realized it was too late. He’d been upstairs feeling worried for his family members who are in jail on Christmas and he hadn’t been able to shake the feeling even after throwing his RTC uniform shirt (I swear he said t-shirt, but it was really his hooded sweatshirt) out the window.

At some point, Lee realized I hadn’t come back to bed and went into Rowan’s room, where she saw the bed empty and the window open. Her first thought was that the cat would escape through the window, so she first called down and had me put the cat away and then later asked Rowan to come up and shut the window. She went back to bed, just calling down to check that we were okay whenever she woke. I stayed at the table and talked to Rowan until 3:00 am.

We covered a lot of ground. This was the first time he’d talked about his abuse with me and he was very interested in hearing about my history of rape and an abusive relationship. (I can’t think of any way to make that not sound creepy, but he asked in what seemed to be a polite and genuine way because I’d alluded to the topic in our earlier conversation.) We talked about how a lot of the things he was thinking and feeling were normal under the circumstances. I understand more acutely now how (like me) he’s unusually susceptible to feelings of shame and that this is probably the key issue in hi discomfort in this location. He feels that people know bad things about him (true, to some degree) and that there’s no way he’ll be able to escape the stigma of that. Whether or not that’s true in a factual sense, I do think he’s telling the truth that when he’s walking around he feels that there are people looking at him and judging him.

So we talked and talked and talked, or mostly I listened and said encouraging/supportive/good-listener things periodically. And finally he said he was ready to dump the rest of the glass of water I’d gotten him and head up to bed. So he did that, and I checked in with Lee and then wasn’t comfortable leaving loose ends, so I got the key and went outside and retrieved his sweatshirt. That’s when I saw that his shoes were under the table, where he’d been sitting. We’d talked quite a bit about running and how he still thinks of himself as someone who’s inclined to run from his problems or his discomfort maybe even though he knows how negative those consequences would be. He assured me that if he were planning to run he’d be honest with me about it (and that he has been at previous placements where he did run, which seems to be true from what his worker had told me earlier) and that there’s nothing I’d be able to do to stop him. So I told him that because, as we’d earlier discussed, I’m a worrier, if he ran I’d stay up all night worrying about him getting hurt or hit by a car or mistreated by someone, and he seemed surprised by this. (Maybe other people talk about it in terms of the consequences to him? I know he knows that.)

So I told Lee that I’m willing to treat him with the understanding that his story may have been true, or at least partly true. Maybe he did get up after curfew, extra sad and lonely and confused, and only manage to talk himself out of calling his friend because it was after 1 in the morning. Or maybe he came downstairs with his shoes in his hands and his sweatshirt already out in the front yard (though why not just wear it? I realize his version of events makes sense too!) so that if he could manage to open a door he could disappear into the night. Regardless, when he comes downstairs this morning he’ll see his sweatshirt is here on the couch and his shoes are now by the door. I hope that will send any signal that’s needed.

I don’t know where we are with Rowan in terms of what might happen with his placement and permanency, but I do feel that he and I are closer. Because I wasn’t asking him leading questions but mostly comparing parts of my experience to his after he told me about his own problems, I think we were creating a real bond. (And again, I feel like I have to defend myself from accusations that this is inappropriate, so I’ll just say that I believe in context it was the right thing to do. I wouldn’t tell every 15-year-old the story of how I came out or why I think my memories of my rape are fragmentary rather than linear, but he isn’t every 15-year-old and he asked.)

So today Rowan wants to talk to his caseworker Angela and plans to call her cellphone when he’s awake and moving. I told him he could sleep as long as he needed to, in part because it would give me freedom to do the same. But instead here I am while Lee sleeps (she was snoring and it was bothering me since I was sleeping lightly; I told her we can trade off and I’ll take a nap once she wakes up) and I think I might have just heard Rowan move too. I’m sure he’ll be talking to his friend and his RTC treatment staff. We plan to take him out to play ball and go to a big silly store far away from the areas he knows, since the hardware store trip was such a success.

Lee wants to tell Rowan that if he wants to go back early, we’ll take him. I told her not to say that yesterday, because I was sure he’d say yes. I may tell her not to offer today. For one thing, despite the heavy stuff he’s clearly having fun. We watched Elf together and he quoted his favorite lines afterwards. He and I had a lot of fun with the card games I’d put in our stockings. He doesn’t eat all that much whether at home or a restaurant, but I’m not bothered by that. And even though he said during his big conversation yesterday morning about his needs and wants that he’s not sure he wants to keep going to church because it’s too confusing to get different views from different pastors or churches, I do think it could be good for him to go to church with us. I think we should just stick to our schedule unless anything major changes. I guess we’ll decide how to approach this once she’s up and we’re talking.

I guess my reward for my maybe-four hours of sleep is that I get to lie here in the morning quiet with the cat on my belly (yay!) as I type. Well, really my reward is that Rowan opened up to me and talked and listened. I know he’s got extraordinary listening skills and memory for things he’s heard, so regardless of what happens I hope some of the things I told him will take root somewhere eventually. And I hope I’ll be able to get at least a little nap before we face the day. But whatever was really going on with him, I don’t regret being part of it last night. I’m just grateful I have good ears.

h1

about that home for the holidays….

December 26, 2009

Rowan slept hard last night, though we eventually pried him out of bed and unwrapped presents. He seemed happy and talked to some of his friends from the RTC, though he hasn’t been able to get through to his brother today and we still don’t know if we’ll be able to arrange a visit between the two of them. We just got back from watching The Blind Side, his choice. He seemed to like it. I liked elements of it and was skeptical of the larger narrative, and since I’ve read the book we talked about how basically all the interactions Michael has with black people in the movie were invented.

What’s been hanging over the day, though, is the intense conversation we had after opening gifts. Rowan was very open with us about how he doesn’t want to be adopted, doesn’t want to be in a family placement at all. He says it doesn’t have anything to do with us and I believe him, because he’s still very comfortable here and clearly interacts well with each of us as individuals and us as a couple. And even though he has reservations about same-sex couples, he acknowledges that he’s not uncomfortable around us and that we’re just like any other couple.

But he doesn’t want his case plan to go toward adoption, and he’s very frustrated that Angela is pushing for this. His older brother is headed for independent living (though since he has some mental/psychological impairments, I’m not entirely sure how “independent” this really will be) and that’s what Rowan wants for himself. Plus he wants to be able to live with his brother, the only member of his family he still has healthy contact with. And he reiterated that he’s afraid he’d be pulled back into bad temptations here and/or face social repercussions from behavior from the years before he went into care if he lived in this area. Plus he’s afraid that he hasn’t changed enough that if kids at school teased him for having two moms he’d be able to ignore it without fighting. And he thinks of himself as ready to be an adult since he has been acting like a parent in his family for a long time and is indeed in some ways quite mature for his age. He knows it’s unlikely he can become an emancipated minor at 15 (and maybe impossible at all given probation conditions, but I’m totally making that up and it’s just my guess) but that at 16 he could move into an independent living program and get a part-time job if Angela approved.

So clearly he’s thinking this through and I’m somewhat sympathetic since the two main issues — that he’s uncomfortable with us being gay (perhaps because of his own sexual identity, though he never puts it in those terms) and that being in this region would be difficult for him. Last time he saw her, his birthmother lived less than a mile from us and she may still, and he can’t just pretend that isn’t the case or keep himself from thinking of her every time we head toward that side of town.

So we told him what we’ve told his workers, that we’re committed to seeing him succeed because we think he has great potential. If that means just being supportive adults while he lives somewhere else, we’ll do that. If that means he lives with us, we’ll do that and do our best at it. I talked to him about how I wouldn’t try to be his mom the way I would if a 2-year-old came into our home. We talked about how two of my adult brothers live with my parents and that’s not a sign that they’re childlike but just that they don’t have money for their own places now. He agreed that if the scenario is that he has to live with us until he turns 16 next fall, the three of us should be able to come up with an agreement to keep him safe and healthy during that time. That’s not his preference at all, but I think the fact that he likes us should make him less likely to intentionally self-sabotage, which is something we discussed obliquely.

Right now he’s sitting on the couch watching the NBA game and eating cake. He’s not as relaxed as he was yesterday, definitely more reserved and pensive, but I’m still glad we had this conversation. He got a lot out of the movie and didn’t seem to be bothered by the story of someone else who’s separated from his birth family.

Lee is feeling like this changed things emotionally for her, but I’m able to roll with it. Even though this is basically what I expected, my heart just aches for Rowan. I mean, there’s a literal heaviness in it when my mind goes back to some of the things he’s shared with us. I understand why he wants to just not think about his past and why he doesn’t want to be involved with people who know about it, but I also don’t believe that kind of break is possible. I think he’s got a lot of hope about how things could change in the future, and I see why he’s needed hope to get him through hard times. He’d had to rely on himself and that’s how he’s survived and even thrived now, but of course the other side of that is that he now doesn’t want to give up that self-reliance to be able to trust someone else to care for him. He doesn’t want to make his hopes more realistic because reality is going to involve more pain and work.

Life is going to be hard on Rowan because he’s got some tough times coming up. His parents’ rights are going to be terminated. He’s going to have to testify in the criminal trial against them. And he’s going to have to transition out of the RTC where he’s felt comfortable. It’s not hard to remind ourselves that our goal is to be there for him as and where he needs us. I’m sure that’ll get harder on us as things get harder for him, harder if he gets his way and is able to move to a group home in another month or two instead of back up here. But we didn’t get into this project thinking it would be easy. We knew it would be hard and sad and complicated, and it definitely is. My heart hurts, but I’m going to keep going.

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