We drove over to Nia’s current foster home on Saturday afternoon. We got to meet the other kids in the home (both permanently and non-foster visitors from the neighborhood) and then all the kids got in the family’s pool. I’d told Nia that she could decide when she was ready to leave for her sleepover party, which she did once a tween boy got too annoying. We packed both girls in their booster seats and headed back toward our house.
Mara and Nia chatted happily in the car. Nia was very interested in our family makeup and didn’t seem to know what adoption meant, which I guess hasn’t been discussed in her current home. She wanted to know why Mara’s parents weren’t able to take care of her, which is a question that so far I’ve only gotten from other kids in care. I didn’t give her a specific answer, said that it was Mara’s story, but Lee mentioned a little bit of her own history so Nia could see the similarities to her own story.
Mara showed Nia the house and then the two got down to the hard work of playing. There was a tea party, some costume changes (featuring the first time Mara’d ever let anyone wear her ladybug costume), time in the sprinkler, chalk drawing, bubbles, dolls, and that was all just in the two hours before dinner. One thing that really impressed me was the extent to which Mara and Nia were able and willing to build off one another in play. As they pranced under the sprinkler in their bathing suits, Nia said, “Oh no! It’s raining!” Mara then picked a sprig of clover, held it over her head and said, “That’s okay! I have an umbrella!” Then Nia mimed putting on a coat and handing one to Mara, saying, “Great! And I have a raincoat! Now we can run in the rain!” and then they ran and squealed.
Both girls wanted to help make dinner, so I let them cut up chunks of watermelon with their plastic knives and help stir the macaroni and cheese. After, neighbor/friends let us go to the private swim club in our neighborhood with them, so the girls and I spent several hours splashing around. Nia has gone from a total non-swimmer at the start of summer to someone who really grasps the basics, though for almost all the time I made both of them keep floating vests on. Following Nia’s lead, Mara finally started putting her face under the water and is now close to being able to do a flip, which is pretty amazing to watch. Both were just laughing and laughing.
It was late when we left, so we put pajamas on, got a movie started and I made popcorn. The girls were thrilled with the popcorn, but Nia soon said that she was tired and ready for bed. Mara really wanted to sleep on the bottom bunk in Nia’s room but didn’t feel ready, so I held her in my lap on the couch in there until she fell asleep, by which time Nia was snoozing too. I popped Mara into the bunk, slipped downstairs to Lee, and realized it was not even 10 pm and we’d successfully navigated the sleep part of the sleepover!
On Sunday Nia woke to find that Mara had snuck out to our bed when she woke in the night, but I was already awake and so the two of us went downstairs. Apparently Mara’s first words on waking were, “Where’s my friend???” The morning meant meant making breakfast, going to a local park I really like. After lunch Lee had to go to a work function, and the girls and I ended up spending hours at the YMCA’s outdoor pool and splash park. Mara got mopey and needy in the afternoon, I think because she was uncomfortable with how much attention Lee and I had diverted to Nia. She came and lay down on my lap while I read and watched Nia play with the fountains and slide. Both girls pressed me throughout the day to confirm exactly what day their next sleepover could be. I assured them that we’d try to make it soon, then eventually wrestled them into swimsuit coverups and back into the car to take Nia back to her foster family, where I thanked both girls for being such great friends throughout the weekend.
Mara and I went to a used bookstore after as a reward of sorts. During dinner, I talked to her about whether we should be a home for Nia if Nia needed another family to take care of her, and Mara was adamant about saying YES. We talked about how it might make her feel sad again to see her moms taking care of someone else and she agreed but said that she’s good at being happy and sad, which is true. (She also assured me that eating teriyaki “chicken on a stick” makes her feel better, which it certainly seemed to!)
Nia apparently told her foster mom that she had a great time and likes all three of us, but she didn’t want to talk in too many specifics. Her foster mom suggests this is because the other kids are already jealous and pushing her for details and she doesn’t want to have to bring them along or share something that’s specially hers. To my knowledge, she has not yet been told that she’s going to move in with us. In fact, we didn’t confirm that she would until yesterday. Lee had a bit of a crisis of confidence because it’s scary to look at such a big, uncertain future. We have a great life right now and is it worth potentially messing it up by doing something scary and new? After a lot of talking and thinking, we both decided that yes, it absolutely is.
Tomorrow I’ll get Nia when I finish work and take her to Mara’s gymnastics class at the Y. A new session starts up next month and I’m hoping to have both girls enrolled in the same class. Even though Nia is older, I think her lack of experience will mean that this class is the right one for her. (I think it’s for ages 4-6 but there’s also a 6-8 one, but the teachers understood why it would make my life easier and maybe help Nia and Mara to have them learning the same things at the same time.) There’s a swim class that’s one level more advanced than Mara’s and meets at the same time as hers, and the extra plus is that there are three girls of color out of the four girls in the class already.
Lee has talked to the director of Mara’s school program and at this point there is a place for Nia in the school-aged kids summer program, sort of like a day camp, which should be a lot of fun for her and will give her both the comfort of being in the same place as Mara plus some physical distance from Mara since their programs don’t overlap much. There she’ll be in a racially and economically diverse setting rather than the not-quite-1% black suburb where she lives and goes to school now.
I think today is when the transition details will get hacked out. We’d been expecting this weekend to be the transition, but our caseworker (who was out sick yesterday and understandably not very involved) suggested doing a whole-weekend visit instead. Nia’s current foster dad thinks a quick transition would be better and her foster mom can see both sides. They do seem happy with the idea of her coming here and I hope it will be easy for them to be supportive and help things go as smoothly as they can for her. I do think the transition will be hard, but I like that she’s clicked with each of us in different ways. Like Mara, she has a lot of resilience and a spark that pushes her to connect in open and accepting rather than fearful ways. I know she will have hard times, too, but she has a lot of strengths to draw from during them and I know we as foster parents will appreciate that. I’m feeling very positive and peaceful about this decision. The current foster mom is convinced this will end up an adoption case, but I don’t have a problem doing the concurrent planning in my head. For now, we’re waiting and will be waiting a while to hear if she can go live with one relative. Well, for now we’re waiting to have her live with us and then we’ll be actively parenting Nia and Mara, which is where a lot of our energy will go. But I don’t have anything invested in the outcome of this process, just a lot of hope that we’ll all have much to enjoy along the way.