We met with our worker last week. Our file is still on hold because we’ve been waiting on something the pediatrician needs to sign since the first week of February (calling and/or visiting weekly to try to get it pushed to the top of their list) but that’s okay since we’re not really ready for a placement now anyway.
We talked to her about Mara’s siblings’ visit and she gave us some information about Val and Alex, who have had good and bad things happen to their family in the time since they left us. Right now, they’re living with the parent who decided to make better choices and with the relative who had them before they came to us, and I hope that will be a stable and safe situation for them.
One thing I haven’t really talked about on the blog and won’t be able to for some period of time is that Lee and I are facing a potential job crisis. Everything is very much up in the air for the next two weeks or few months or maybe more if things go badly, but right now we don’t know quite what’s going on. And so we decided that until we have clarity, we’re not going to make any attempts to adopt Talia. Adding a new child to a home that might be losing part of an expected source of income and that’s dealing with the stress of the uncertainty not knowing about that creates just doesn’t seem fair. So now what will happen is that Talia’s worker will do a general write-up of her and email it around to the other workers in our area to see if any have families who might be interested. She’s a smart, sweet child without any mental health diagnoses or some of the harder-to-parent behavioral issues some children have, so I suspect there will be people who could picture adding her to their families. Our worker suspects the goal is going to be to get her into a home where at least one other child is non-white so she can have some sort of cultural connection, but it didn’t sound like she knows of any other open homes with a black parent. (We actually know one, but I don’t think they’re looking for her age group.)
If everything works out reasonably and we have a plan for the future, we’ll try again. I just know that neither Lee nor I can feel comfortable taking on more stress right now. For the most part, we’re managing fine with what we have and supporting each other, but I don’t want to do anything to upset the balance we have now. We’ll still be trying to increase our active commitment to Mara’s family during this interim time, so we will be strengthening connections even if they’re not with Talia for now.
Then yesterday we were at another house in our neighborhood for a brunch party and I looked out the door and saw Lee hugging Alex. We’d been told they were back in our community and I was sad when I’d seen Alex’s old preschool class get off the school bus Friday and he wasn’t there. But then suddenly there they were, with two other kids from their extended family and a parent and another extended family member. They were walking to the park and Mara and Val just threw their arms around each other. We agreed to meet them at the park, where Mara and I ended up hanging out for about two hours while the kids all played and I talked to the adults about what’s gone wrong and why their family social worker still isn’t doing all the things she’s supposed to do. The great news is how much is going right. After a bad fit in a heavily academic kindergarten classroom at her new school, Val is now back with the teacher who loves and understands and challenges her. Alex, on the other hand, hasn’t been to school at all since he was with us, which is definitely not ideal. He and Mara are only six weeks apart but are on different sides of the kindergarten age cutoff, so he’ll be expected to start school in the fall.
Lee has always said that if Alex saw me again, he’d be all over me demanding hugs and so on like he used to. I wasn’t surprised that this wasn’t the case, that he let me pour him water and talked to me but was clearly all about his parent. He was having a great time in the park (constantly reminding us that “I survived!” each time he came out of the underbrush around the edge) and he didn’t need me for extra support or security like he used to when he honestly couldn’t be sure he would get his family back. Both he and Val have grown a bit and were happy to be outside. Mara loved seeing them, and all the kids have missed each other. I didn’t press their parent on why no calls were ever returned and it really doesn’t matter. We’ve made it clear that we’d be happy to babysit or help out as we can, but that it’s going to require their parent (or the relative guardian) to ask. I have nothing emotionally tied up in either outcome there.
There were a lot of great moments, like one I can’t remember word-for-word but when Alex said something very dramatic and his parent said, “Hmm, well I guess we’ll see!” or something with exactly the same phrasing and tone as I would have used. We talked about how much Val still loves side ponytails and I confessed that I was glad about that since you don’t have to worry about symmetry and I’d mostly be doing her hair while she was in the process of waking up, so any style that lacked precision helped! The kids’ parent said that Val announced the other day, “Thorn says it’s okay to talk about skin color!” so I reiterated where that conversation had come from and that I’m not surprised that it’s on Val’s mind after moving back to the city from the country. Basically it was an easy, comfortable conversation.
When our worker was at the house, Lee had said that she thought I missed Val and Alex and I’d said that I didn’t think that was the right word, though it’s one Mara uses and I think very true to what she experiences. I didn’t miss them in terms of wanting them back with us, but I did think about them and wonder about them and how they’re doing. Now I have at least some answer there. They’re a year out from the family crisis that threw them into out-of-home care and they’re living with one dedicated and committed parent who’s spent that year making things right. They’re still not quite at the point where that parent can regain custody, but I think that has more to do with the social worker’s priorities than what the parent has done. They’re very clearly part of their family fully again, and incredibly happy about that. It was so good to see them and to know that, and I do feel I have a better sense of closure if I don’t end up seeing them again. (But seriously, our town is only a mile across or something and I imagine we will cross each other’s paths again.) So that part was very positive.
This week, our handyman will come out to start scraping the three layers of wallpaper off our bedroom walls, so eventually Lee and I will have a nicer sanctuary for ourselves. I’d suggested postponing this when the job uncertainty arose, but Lee was adamant that we have enough money for now and we’ll be okay whenever whatever’s going to happen happens. Our yard is looking great as all the plants we’ve put in the ground are soaking up rain and sun and thriving, and it will be nice to have one more room inside done too, especially one that means so much to me. Even with the hard parts, I feel so lucky about the life we have and the joy that we’re having living it. I’ve barely written about Mara here, but Mara’s role in my life is huge and better every day. She’s just getting more and more amazing, and Lee and I are overwhelmed by how much we love and are impressed by her. This is a good life that we have, and I love that.