We are right in the middle of our first overnight (3 nights actually) home visit for the teen joining our family in June. It is going very well. So, why am I so tired? I am deeply exhausted, and feel that all my energy has been completely depleted in just the 24 hours since she arrived yesterday.
I know part of it is the mental work of figuring out how to approach the visit. Is she a house guest? Yes and no. Is she a family member? Yes and no. At the very least, she comes from a foster family environment that is different enough from our family to feel like a different country. I am also constantly thinking about what is appropriate for her developmental age (about 12) and for someone which her history (extreme daily violence and poverty). Things I have never had to think about become a mad scramble, and that is exhausting. A new video game arrived in the mail from Gamefly (like Netflix for games), and that sent me online digging for information before deciding whether or not to put it away for a few days until she returned home. It seemed ok, so I gave it to my son and the two teens played it for a while before dinner. We decided we’d like to watch a movie, so I found myself relying on the Parental Guide on IMDB for details about any elements that may be triggers related to her past. This was in a PG movie, mind you.
Despite my exhaustion, I am also very pleased with how things are going so far. Her room already looks like she’s lived there for a while. She brought her books, stuffed animals, posters, and it seems all of her clothing for the 3 day visit. She will leave everything except enough clothing to make it through the rest of the school year, about seven weeks.
My son is used to being an only child for 15 years. While he always eats meals with us and spends some time with us in the evenings, he is also used to having control of his time and more or less doing what he wants without much interruption. Right now, he enjoys having someone to kick around a soccer ball with him, but I know there will be times when her chatter will wear on his nerves.
Our adoption social worker stopped by last night to introduce herself, and she said she had never seen a child be so open and comfortable so soon, and remarked that she really seems to have “claimed us” by bringing (and planning to leave) so many of her personal items. I am cautiously optimistic, but I know there will be rough roads ahead despite this early positive start. Mostly, I am just too tired to think more than 5 minutes ahead.
One of the reasons many people give for not wanting to adopt an older child is that they do not want to miss out on “firsts.” First words, firsts steps, and the first day of school are rites of passage that help families connect and build history. The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption has a new series of posters available for recruiting families for children in foster care. The text on my favorite one reads, “The first time we saw our daughter, she took our breath away,” followed up with, “She was 12 years old.”
The fact is everything we do with K is a “first.” It is a first for us. It is a first for us as a family. This past weekend, our son met K for the first time. We ate ice cream, visited the Roanoke Star (a first for us), and had a late night meal at Applebees (a first for K). We spent the following day visiting a local art museum, having lunch, and doing some shopping for her new bedroom at our home. She shared pictures of her birth family with us and quizzed us on her rock collection. Hubby could ID everything.
When we left her Saturday for the four hour drive back home, we presented her with an Easter basket. It was her first. It seems hard for anyone to imagine a 16 year old in America that has never had an Easter basket, but she hadn’t. Some of the firsts that prospective adoptive parents feel like they will miss out on by adopting an older child may be myth. In fact, I loved putting together K’s first ever Easter basket. When we asked the week before, a social had told us she thought K had never had one before. Ten Easters with her family of origin and six years in foster care, and she had never had an Easter basket. It is a simple thing, but it is a family tradition that most of us assume every child experiences at some point. K had not.
Later this week, K will visit our home for the first time. She will stay with us for three nights and go to church with us on Sunday morning before we drive her back to her foster home. It will be her first time ever in a church. It will be her first time ever in our house, eating our cooking, and playing with our cats. It will be our first time worrying about whether or not she will sleepwalk. While she is 16, we are worried about her falling down the stairs at night. She has a history of sleepwalking, and her bedroom is right at the top of the stairs in our home.
Down the road, we will be with K for her first date, first car, first love, first breakup, first job, and many more firsts. I can’t wait!
Sex is an event in which two people want to share themselves with each other which sometimes produces a souvenir in the form of a baby.