And so we began our journey as a foursome family – a mom and her 3 kids. We’ve had, and continue to have, lots of adventures as we navigate life together in this place. As a single parent to 3 adopted children who experienced severe early trauma and who have had lasting exceptional needs, I find myself both resentful of and resembling the demographic that I guess my family represents.
I didn’t set out to be a single parent family, necessarily – though my experience of parenting has left no room or time to be a partner to anyone else. And I didn’t adopt because I was unable to conceive, or felt compelled to fulfill a Divine Plan. I adopted because I felt like I could no longer not be a parent, and it really did not matter to me that my children would not be a result of my own genetic procreation. I loved teaching, and I loved my students fiercely; but at some point, having them for a few hours each day within the confines of an educational setting only was no longer enough. I had always wanted to be a mother, and after I got my teaching legs under me, I realized that what I truly wanted to do was have the whole long term project — I wanted to have the experience of sharing a life with a child(ren) – to live with them and bring them up and watch them learn and grow into adulthood and see what they chose to do and be in the world. I wanted to give to my community and world by raising up an emissary of joy and truth and beauty and watching how the world changed as a result. I looked forward to when we would be working and living side by side in the world with a shared value system as well as the strong companionship of people who had created a life together. The circumstances of their birth and my marital status had nothing to do with it.
During the adoption process – as part of the Home Study – there are seemingly endless checklists to fill out, all focused on narrowing down the search parameters so that a good match is found. With 415,000 children living in foster care at any given time in the US – with 60,000 waited at least 2 years to be adopted, there has to be some way of narrowing the field. I understand that. These checklists ask about certain characteristics you are looking for and not looking for in a child. They ask about preferences for age, gender, race, heritage, cultural background. They ask about preferences for physical characteristics: eye color, hair color, skin color. They ask about willingness to consider special needs: physical disabilities, intellectual disabilities, mental illness, medical complexity, addictions, prenatal exposure, and personality. They ask about wishes regarding the larger picture: Will you consider an Open adoption where contact remains with the biological family of origin, or do you prefer a Closed adoption where all contact ceases and remains private upon the formal adoption? They ask if you are willing to adopt a sibling group, or keep a child in touch with particular members of their family. ….. The questions are many and the lists of possibilities are endless. But it’s also a very strange process to go through – and since I had yet to meet a child that I didn’t love, I felt almost shameful and cold going through the lists.
In the end, I believe I managed to check 3 boxes of characteristics that I wasn’t sure I felt up to. But even those were really just a nod to the process – I knew that I would know when I met the right child or children, and I also knew that I would not move forward with a placement until I knew that it was the right match. And once I had claimed them, I also knew that nothing would ever make me regret or change my decision.
Finding Camaro was the start of it all. With him came Luna, and then Pippa at long last. I knew our family was complete. The vast majority of my friends and peers were married and having children, and I thought of us as any other family. I suppose the preceding paragraphs would be an obvious indicator that things would be always a bit different, but I didn’t think of it that way at the time. I was just a mom working to balance life with 3 small children and a full time job. What was the big deal about that? We were off and running!