Friday, November 27, 2009

A Brother From Another Mother

Well, actually brothers from the same biological mother, but raised by different adoptive mothers. That's my son and his older brother, P.  They're full biological siblings being raised in separate homes. One of the reasons we were chosen as the adoptive family for L is because we live near his brother's family and were willing to maintain contact with them.  L's adoption worker, who is also his brother's adoption worker, thought we would be a good match for P's parents and that they would feel comfortable having continuing contact with us. 

When L was born, his brother had already been in care for two years and had been living in his pre-adoptive placement for a year. L was placed in a foster home because his brother's family didn't feel comfortable taking L as a straight foster placement.  At that point, L's goal was reunification.  When his goal was changed to adoption, he was offered to P's family again. They'd been on the road to TPR for two years at that point and were looking at another two years before they could finalize with P.  I posted here about how that situation changed drastically, but no one had a crystal ball. We were told it would be 2-3 years before we could finalize. P's family just couldn't deal emotionally with starting at the beginning with L and I don't blame them at all.  There were many ups and downs that happened before we entered the picture. There were also the financial considerations of having two kids in daycare and adding another three years of daycare costs.  So L's adoption worker started looking for an adoptive home for L and somehow, through some miracle I don't understand, she found us.  

We had our second visit with P and his family today.  P is old enough to remember L from supervised visits that the two would have together with their biological dad.  I don't think there's the concept of "brother." Really, how could there be?  They never lived together and saw each other once a month at most.  L seems to be familiar with P, but I don't think there's a true memory there. More a sense of, "I think I may know you from somewhere so I'm not totally freaked out by you." They're two years apart, and so are in very different places developmentally.  They are both only children who don't particularly like to share their toys so it can make for some testy interactions.  There was pushing, toy wrestling, and hitting with toy parts today.  Maybe in some sense they do realize they're siblings after all!  Actually, siblings or not I think it's all completely normal, given their ages and their age difference. 

On the other hand, DH and I, and I think P's parents, enjoy the visits, probably much more than the boys do.  It's fascinating to compare notes.  How does he sleep?  What does he eat? What's biology?  What's environment?  Also, they are the only people who know what it's like to be adopting a child with this exact family background.  And it is a background with a lot of trauma and abuse.  Since P is older, they'll be breaking the ground of talking about adoption and birth family before we do so I hope we'll be able to learn from them.  

I'm not sure what the ultimate outcome of this relationship will be. Will the boys ever truly feel like brothers?  They'll know they're brothers, but how does that work when you don't live together or share any living parents? Will they feel comfortable talking to each other about their background, their feelings about adoption?  Will they be close friends? Will they feel burdened by the relationship--thinking they're supposed to feel one way but in reality feeling quite differently?  There's no way of answering any of those questions now.  I just know it's important to keep the door open to any possibility of a relationship the boys might have so that's what we're doing. 

We're going to get together with them again next week.  We've been invited by them to attend a family party because I guess, in some sense, we're family now. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

From the Mouths of Babes

L and I were at my sister's the other day.  My 5 year old niece, E, was playing with L.  He was smiling at her and clapping.  She was eating it up.  There have been a few jealousy issues in the past few weeks with E.  I've been her childless aunt for her entire life.  She and her sister always got a lot of attention from me and DH, so this new focus on L is a big change for her.  Things have definitely improved.  Her new coping mechanism is whenever my sister is paying attention to L, she comes to me and sits on my lap and cuddles or chats.  She says since L is getting her mommy's attention, he has to share his mommy's attention with her.  He's too little to even notice so it's working fine so far.   ;-)

Luckily, L is fascinated by E and, since she's an typically egocentric five year old, she's started to enjoy him much more because of that.  Today she remarked how cute he is.  Then she asked why the other people didn't want him.  She was genuinely curious and seemed a little confused because she's starting to like having him around.  Then she asked me if it's because he's trouble. . .if that's why he was left on the street.  

Talk about misconceptions!  That's the thing about little ones.  You think they understand something and then they say something that let's you know their understanding is so far off the mark.  First, my sister and I tried to figure out the trouble comment.  Apparently, her former babysitter used to call one of the other little girls, "Trouble McGillicutty" because she was always picking up things off the floor and getting into things.  She's about 6 months older than L.  We explained that her babysitter didn't mean the little girl was bad or really trouble.  She was doing what babies do.  The babysitter was joking. L is acting the way babies do, too.  He's not trouble.  He's normal.  E was like that when she was a baby, too. 

Then we moved on to her real question: Why did the other people not want him?  We explained that his parents actually wanted him very much, but they couldn't take care of him.  They didn't know how to keep him safe, maybe because their mommies and daddies didn't keep them safe when they were little. It wasn't L's fault that they didn't know how, but children need to be safe so a social worker (someone who's job it is to help children and families) took L from his family and put him in a safe place called a foster home while she tried to teach his parents the things they needed to do to keep L safe. Sadly, for lots of grown up reasons, L's parents weren't able to do what they needed to and still couldn't make safe choices.  Because every child needs a safe family, the social worker started looking for a family that L could grow up in where he would be safe and loved forever.  The family she picked was ours.  So actually he was wanted by lots of people.  

She seemed content with our answer at the moment, but I'm sure it will come up again.  At the very least it was good practice for when L starts asking these questions. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What's in a name?

So I'm going to fess up and admit that when I first heard our son's name, I thought it was terrible. Like white trash-misspelled-roll my eyes-terrible.  It is a name I would have NEVER chosen to give a child of mine.  It's a name very few people choose to give to their child---number 401 in popularity when I last checked. I won't share his name here yet, but I will say that he is named after a video game character. . .from a fighting game that his biological father liked to play. The name is misspelled (missing a letter) and the first and middle name are in reverse order of the video character. DH and I were sure we were going to change it.  Then we were told we couldn't until TPR was done, at which point it would be too late because TPR would take a couple of years and he would identify with the name by then.  Then we were told we could change it but had to be super-careful to always use his original name for all legal situations and to make sure he answered to his original name to some extent for visits with his biological father.  Then we were told we could completely change it when his biological father died.  

Now, here's the kicker: we're not going to change it.  We are changing his middle name to DH's grandfather's name, but we're keeping his first name. We're even keeping the spelling.*  We actually think it's pretty cool.  Yup, we've grown to like it.  It fits him.  His name has connotations of rebirth, rising from the ashes.** It's unique and it seems like part of him now.  So it stays. 

When we were considering adopting from foster care, the name issue was one of those things that bothered me.  I thought of all the time my pregnant friends have spent pouring over baby name books, looking up name meanings and trying different combinations.  It hurt that I might not have the chance to do that.  One more ritual among many that I wouldn't get to participate in---one last slap in the face by infertility. But you know what?  It's OK.  It really is.  Because no matter what his name is, he's my son.  And at this point that's all that matters to me. I know that's hokey, but it's true.  I also think that it's different when you're considering a name in the abstract: Which do I prefer? Henry or Evan?  Sofia or Ava?  But when the name is attached to a person, your opinion of it can change drastically.  There are several perfectly nice names that I can't stand because they remind me of  particular students (really more the parents of those students).  Our son has a name that I wasn't crazy about when I first heard it, but now because it's attached to him, I've come to love it.***

*My only regret is that people who first see his name will think DH and I can't spell or that were trying for a unique spelling on purpose. As a teacher, cute misspelled names are one of my pet peeves. We could change the spelling, but then people will think he was named after a city in which he was conceived and that's worse.  Plus, I think the current spelling is more masculine.

**If you're trying to figure out what it is, that's a big clue.  Think mythical. It doesn't begin with L.  That's my pseudonym (pseudoletter?) for him. 

***No offense to those who have changed their child's name. I completely understand. We've grown to love DS's name.  I've seen some on the listings that I think would be hard for me to learn to love and that would be hard for a child to live with when he gets older. I'm hoping DS is happy with his name as he gets older.