Sharon August 18th, 2011
Just to keep you all updated, we learned yesterday that the children’s social worker has decided to separate the children, and place them in three homes. Two will stay with the current foster mother, one with one home, and they are seeking a home for one child and the newborn – since we will take larger groups than two and there are very few homes that do so, they don’t want us to take those two, saving us for a larger group. I admit, I’m relieved not to have to make a decision about taking these kids – it isn’t the numbers, so much as the ages – I realized about myself that while I would happily take a baby, we really would prefer to work mostly with a slightly older group. That said, it would have been very hard for us to say no if we were their only chance at staying together, and otherwise were a good fit.
As much as I’m relieved that my gut intuition that this wasn’t the group for us didn’t come up against any actual decisions (and as much as I’m grateful that it isn’t my job to make decisions that hard about small children!), I’m terribly sad for the kids who are losing each other. Unfortunately, of course, that kind of sad happens all the time, but it doesn’t make it better. The only consolation is that at some point some other larger group that would have been separated will be able to stay together. But oh, how sad for them.
This was a really good experience for us, in a lot of ways. It revealed several things we hadn’t actually figured out before – when faced up with the decision, it was useful to know them. First, we found out how much both of us really secretly want a daughter or two out of this. When we first talked about it, Eric and I both said that we were wholly contented with our boys, and that in some ways, it would be easier to take a sibling group that was male. We even talked about submitting our homestudy for a legally-free group of three boys available downstate, although our homestudy wasn’t done before they were placed.
Despite all that, most larger groups are mixed gender. We expressed no gender preference in our homestudy, but we did sort of have in our head that once we got up to three or four, there probably would be a girl. One of the possible scenarios we were being asked to consider had us taking three of the kids, and not the only girl – and we both had to admit that while three more boys would be entirely wonderful once we got our head around it, we both sort of wished that there was a girl included. I don’t think either of us had realized (although I probably should have gotten a clue when I went to goodwill and bought a range cheap girl clothes in a large range of sizes so that I’d have some if we got an emergency placement – some girls are fine with wearing boy clothes, some mind, and I didn’t want to have nothing pretty for a girl who needed something new – but I’m not sure I needed quite so many things ) that we’d allowed ourselves to dream about a daughter. I don’t think that means that we wouldn’t accept an all boy group, and with enthusiasm, but it was good to talk about the images we have in our heads.
It is funny, because for years I wasn’t aware of any desire for a daughter – I love my boys, I love having a big group of sons and in many ways, I think I’m a really good boy Mom. I was never disappointed when I learned I was having boys (actually I was sure from the beginning with everyone). Eric initially wanted a little girl, but by the third boy had gotten over it, and was happy to have more boys. The big revelation of this isn’t “we’d only take a group with girls in it” but “sometimes you have dreams that you aren’t even fully aware of.”
The other thing that was useful was that this was a good reminder of one of my own worst failings – intellectualizing things I don’t especially want to do and talking myself into them. Sometimes this is a good quality, when there’s a strong moral case to be made for doing the thing you don’t enjoy – and this may have even been one of those times. But over the years, I’ve periodically made major, and inevitably mistaken life decisions because they made rational sense, even if at a gut level, they didn’t seem right. Many years ago, we almost bought a house that in retrospect, we all would have hated, because it seemed to have so many rational good qualities. Fortunately, the friend we were purchasing with (this is many, many years ago) backed out – again, to my sudden relief.
In the end, we’re probably only going to take one sibling group (hopefully, but at least one at a time) – that is, we’re not going to be able to save all the kids in the world, and we know that intellectually. That means that we might as well trust our instincts – historically speaking, whenever I talk myself into things, I usually am making a mistake – but I suspect I will know when a match feels right. I would like to go into this with more enthusiasm and energy than I could have gone into this particular arrangement.
It is hard to say that those things are necessary – thousands of kinship placements begin in ambivalence “I thought I was done with children…but they are my grandkids.” Most foster placements begin too little knowledge for enthusiasm – “Sure, three kids, you think they are all boys but haven’t checked the little one’s diapers, yes it is 1 am, ok, c’mon over…” I don’t have to have those feelings to take children – and I know that you can grow to love children you don’t start out loving. Unlike those who at the moment of birth felt instant adoration, I remember looking at Eli after my long labor with a “Ok, he’s pretty interesting, but I don’t adore him or anything yet.” Love came along somewhere later in the process.
In this scenario, however, it was necessary – I could have imagined my pushing harder, telling the social worker not “I would need X and Y more information, and then may we would consider it” but “I really want these kids, and would like you to think about placing them together with us, because they sound right.” In that case, they might have kept them together (or not). This time that didn’t happen – but I suspect I will know when it is right. I just have to listen, and pray for happy homes for those children I didn’t know but who might have been.
I know I owe y’all some content, and you’ll be getting it, but not today .. In other news, I’ve agreed to push up the deadline for _Making Home_ my adapting-in-place book to this fall (since I’ve got all this free time now ), and the book will be available next spring! So there’s some good news!