Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Carl's Story 3: Things I did not know

Should I say more about learning that Carl was gay?

Here are the things we did not know when we volunteered to be Carl's family:

1. What sort of reimbursement for expenses we could expect.
2. What level of support or services we would have from the agency.
3. That we would have to move our bedroom to the basement and give up the box spring.
4. How much training we were going to have to do.
5. That we were going to have to fill out a five-page questionnaire about our childhood ("please include any history of abuse"), write an essay on our child-rearing philosophy, and make a fire escape plan.
6. That were were going to have to sign a gazillion documents agreeing to multiple policies.
7. That Carl was a pathological liar.
8. That Carl was gay.

Now some of those things turned out to be good -- like the level of reimbursement and support this particular agency gives.

The only thing on the list that might have made me change my mind, had I known, was that Carl lied.

I remember now the day when I called his house. I remember that it had something to do with not being willing to just say that he did not want to do something and instead giving an elaborate lie about how he couldn't. If I hadn't become his parent that memory would not doubt have slipped away to die where all unimportant memories go. But it didn't. I thought about it so many times. I thought, "I should have known he was like this."

But this post was supposed to be about learning that Carl was gay.

I was pleased. The reason that we asked Carl to babysit was that we were determined to teach our boys that child care was not a "girl's job." We had decided to bring Carl into the family knowing he was multi-racial, and his being gay was a bonus. Here we were, this liberal family in a conservative family in a conservative state.

I felt pleased for Carl that he had found us. When we offered to be his family we did not realize that we were the best family for him, and not just because he knew us and we lived in the same school district. We could accept him like no one else could. Sometime later it would make me angry when other people expressed that thought, why should any child be especially pleased that there is one family that will accept a kid like him? But that came later.

I was pleased and proud of myself.

I was like any naive new foster parent, imagining only that we would bring this sad, needy youth into our home and love him and all would be well.

I had no idea how difficult it was going to be, how much I would grow and change, how deeply everything about my family would be affected. I had no idea that I would spend some days crying in frustration or feeling murderously angry.

I also had no idea what the boy who would one day call himself "Pi" would mean to me.

If I did know, would I have done it?

Absolutely. In a heart beat. If I could go back to myself then, I would tell myself to try not to worry so much; that a lot of the things that were going to upset me were things I could not control and that I would be happier if I could learn to accept them instead of trying to change them, but I would definitely reassure my earlier self. "This will be one of the most difficult and most rewarding things you will ever do."

I try to imagine what my life would have been like had we not done this. I am almost positive I would have got that promotion two years ago. That would have been nice. We also would not have met all the wonderful people that we know through foster care and through PFLAG. And all of you...I would not have met all of you.

Mostly though that other life I could have led just seems boring.

Part 4

1 comment:

  1. Our lives may be many things. Boring isn't one of them.


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