A story from a Mission District family.
Part I: Fallacies
There are two fallacies I had always believed about myself — that I love order and I don’t want to be a parent.
When my partner and I rented our first place, it needed a lot of work. It was a perfect 1906 Victorian with much original detail intact, but it had been a rental for more than 15 years and had all the telltale signs — 14 phone jacks, chipped plaster, contractor special light fixtures, fluorescent bulbs. We painted, put in better lighting, fixed the holes and made it much nicer.
When the building went on the market later, we organized all the tenants to buy their apartments. It was a perfect coincidence of wants and abilities.
Soon after, we embarked on an 18-month renovation odyssey that included months of living with a plastic sheet as an exterior wall. Shockingly, it didn’t faze us. We entertained, had dinner parties, houseguests. One night we awoke to a strong wind and the sound of plastic flailing in the wind. We went into the kitchen to see that the plastic wall had come undone and there was nothing protecting us from the elements. It was also raining.
Once that project was done, we sat down content to be in an orderly space. And then we started the kitchen; then the bathroom; and then the laundry room. When we finished, we sold that place and bought one in worse shape.
It was almost as if we were avoiding order.
It was the same with children.
After our first few years together, Steve and I looked at each other and consciously decided not to have kids. Why ruin our great life?
But then kids seemed to infiltrate our lives. Friends, neighbors, sisters and brothers were all having them, and suddenly we felt left out. At the end of a particularly harrowing day of ill-behaved children, car trouble and food deprivation, I looked at Steve across a table and said I had changed my mind.
The thing about Steve and I is that we are almost always aligned.
He was silent for a minute — turns out he had been thinking the same thing.
Two years later we adopted our amazing son, Robert. Why did I wait so long to be a parent? I like to think that the universe made us wait until we three were ready to find each other. Like our trillions of molecules had been traveling through space and time to wind up together at this exact moment.
I write this tonight after Steve and I have been matched with another little boy. We meet with his social workers next week to decide if we want his molecules to join ours.
Part II: Heartbreak
We met the 8-year-old boy at a picnic where families have a chance to interact and look for a connection with adoptable kids. From the parking lot, I saw this white-haired kid and was mesmerized.
We spent the day going between playing with him and speaking with his social worker. Ten days later we were formally matched. The next step is a meeting where the child’s file is shared to give potential parents a bigger picture.
Undaunted by everything we heard — the good, the bad and the ugly — we decided to move forward to the next step.
A week later we had a date to meet him again. When I saw him, I was emotional. He hugged me and said he had been waiting for us. While Steve and he played, I spoke with his foster mother, who we had been told was the best resource. When he and I played, Steve spoke with her.
It wasn’t pretty. The child had been through the wringer and his behavior reflected that. We spent the day together, each on our best behavior as Steve and I tried to shake off what we had heard. But it’s impossible to find evidence to support or negate anything in a few hours of play.
I like to believe in a natural symmetry. On my side of the family there are three, two and one kids. On Steve’s, there are four, three, two and one kids. On our block, the two homes directly south of us each have one kid. It just seems that we are supposed to have one child.
On our drive back home, we had a sober discussion where we held our hearts in one hand and our minds in another. It was so hard to admit this, but the child we had met and played with was not the right kid for our family. Heartbroken. Our hopes for adding to our family were put on hold.
And as far as symmetry goes, that collapsed, too. The morning we decided not to adopt the new match, our neighbors told us that the stick turned blue. I cried. If it happens to them, in a way, it happens to us. My theory of symmetry is blown.
Part III: Matched Again
When we were first matched with Robert four years ago, we received an email. Not a phone call, telegram or certified letter, but an email informing us that the social worker of a little boy wanted to meet us.
Immediately, I called our adoption counselor and asked what that meant. Were we one of five families being considered for his parents, had they chosen someone else and just wanted to let us down easy? New to her job, she replied; “I don’t know. Let me call you back.”
As it happened, we were the only couple chosen to be Robert’s forever family, and they wanted to meet us, share his history with us and create a family of we three. We couldn’t get there fast enough.
Because of schedules, we had to wait two weeks before we met. During that time we had a black-and-white “Child Available” sheet with a slightly blurry picture of this little boy who would become our son.
On February 15, 2007, Steve and I went to meet them and open his file to learn the good, the bad and the ugly of his history. They asked if we still wanted to proceed with meeting him. There was no question about it. Yes.
We became a family and had a great first two months. Then we crashed — the three of us. We saw each other warts and all.
Then we built it back up again.
That was three and a half years ago, and our family is just now gelling in a way I never knew possible.
As an adoptive parent, you expect that love comes immediately. And it does, in a way. But that immediate love gives way to reality. You maintain that intellectual love but the deep, authentic, unshakeable love grows. After three years, I know that it’s here even if I’m unsure when it came.
I remember this now that we have been matched again. (By text this time!) We’ve been through this before, so we are going into it with eyes open. Our family is stable, loving and complete. Adding this other guy seems insane. And maybe the exact right thing to do.
We don’t know if it’s a match on our side, but we are willing to find out. We have the facts and are proceeding. With caution.
Fast-forward five weeks and we’re all aflutter with anticipation of this Thursday. Raymond, the boy with whom we were matched — our son — is as perfect as we hoped he would be. He moves in this Thursday, Cinco de Mayo. Our perfect, balanced, orderly lives are about to be turned on end. The thing about that is that those words never described us. I guess some things never change.
Welcome home, Raymond.