Saturday, December 26, 2009

Adoption and David

So, I finally had the conversation with David about adopting him. He was pleased to accept. He doesn't tend to extreme expressions of pleasure, so the quiet smile and "Yeah, that's okay with me" was enough.

To back up: David was here with his boyfriend, the one he has dated for more than a year and whom we like so very much; Evan came alone, no longer dating the too-young, too-dependent boy we were always very nice to; and Andrew brought his girlfriend Alice. Andrew spent Christmas Eve with Alice's family, learning to make tortillas from scratch and scarfing down on all the tamales so that there were none to bring home to me, which Alice promised she would try to do.

So I had all my kids except Carl here for dinner yesterday. That alone always makes me happy, not the missing Carl part you understand. David's boyfriend has biblical (Hebrew scriptures) name and after one glass of wine I called him by another that really does sound a lot like it. Something like, "Micah, I mean Michael..." except his actual name and the one I called him are both uncommon. (I think I will start using "Michael" for him. It is a good name for someone who looks so lovingly at the man I call "David.") I corrected myself immediately and apologized. He smiled and said it was okay, "It's a mom thing."

We talked a little bit about the ways the boys could change their names, or not. Evan is thinking about asking the judge if he can change his last name to his father's. His dad died when Evan was three and having Roland, or both of us, adopt him while reclaiming his father's name would be a way of claiming us all, not to mention a way of demonstrating to his family that he means no disrespect to his father. David said he had been talking about how much he had just recently been talking about how he wanted to change his name. He told us about how he was struck with the name of one of his customers and had thought about changing it to that. Michael told him it would not happen in our state. Michael tried to change his name some years back and the judge told him that the only legal reasons for doing it were change in family relationships or if you were in mortal fear of your life. Since he had neither, she assumed he was trying to commit fraud and she wouldn't help.

As far as I understand the law, the judge mis-informed Michael. The law does state that you cannot change your name if the intent to do commit fraud, but does not specify legally acceptable reasons.

Anyway, we all agreed that Evan's desire to take his father's name would probably make sense to a judge and that David would probably have to decide between taking our name or keeping the one he has. I reminded everyone that they could make either name their middle or last name.

Now I have to get Carl on the phone to have the conversation with him.

I am talking to the older boys now because I don't want them to hear about it after hearing about the situation with Gary. I don't want anyone thinking that they were an after-thought. On the other hand, after talking the other day with Evan I am beginning to think asking them to spend a year and a half with a promise to adopt and no action may be more emotionally draining that I realized (which wouldn't be difficult because I stupidly did not even consider whether that would be an emotionally difficult position to be in). So I am seriously considering calling my family lawyer friend and seeing if I can't adopt the older boys fairly soon. I like the idea of doing all four at once, but that is a lesser consideration.

Anyway, we had a good day yesterday. Everyone was pleased with their presents, and we had the usual fight over the leg of lamb. Gary, David, Andrew and I managed to get some slices off before Roland saw it, exclaimed that it was going to kill us, and put it back in the oven until it was just pink, and not red, in the middle. "That is plenty rare. It is still juicy. It is NOT dried out!"

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Evan and (the myth of) Adoption

I had a longish conversation with Evan yesterday and I have been trying to write a post that is about my feelings without violating his privacy.

The conversation was mostly about his mother. He wanted to talk about what he did, and did not, owe her. She is far less self-destructive than many people I have known, but she does get herself into difficult situations and wants and expects her son to rescue her. That Evan's baby sister's welfare is sometimes at stake makes it all the more difficult.

Now, as most readers know, Roland and I are planning on adopting the boys who came to us from foster care. They range from 17 to 26. The older two have no parents. The stories are complex, but there is nothing in them that gives me pause. Adopting them fits clearly into my ethical framework. Adoption is to provide parents for children who don't have them. That these young men are legal adults does not mean that they don't need parents. They do, and we are the only candidates. The youngest is more complicated, but I've written about that recently and that is not what this post is about. The short version is that I wish what was happening to him wasn't happening, but if it does we will adopt him and not regret it.

I can't however find myself at peace with respect to Evan.

The truth is (and my darling, if you are reading, please don't be hurt) that if he were the only boy to come to us from foster care we never have considered adopting him. He has a mother. She is part of his life. She is a difficult, pain-causing part of his life, but she is there.

When Evan talks to me about his mother I think a lot about my father. I remember when I was Evan's age that I did not want to acknowledge his (my father's) existence. I was hurt and angry and slowly coming to terms with the truth that he was never going to be different. I had to give up on that dream. I was jealous of my mother because she was able to divorce him. She wasn't related to him any more and she didn't have to worry about him. She was no longer his wife, but I would always be his daughter. I struggled to figure out what that meant. I toyed with the idea of cutting him out of my life entirely. If I just didn't give him my address when I moved, would anyone else? Could I go on as though he didn't exist?

So when Evan talks to me and our conversation shifts from his mother to the adoption, I find myself wondering if it would have changed things if someone had adopted me. If I had a new, legal father, would that have given my father less power to hurt me? Would it have settled any of the questions about what, if anything, I owed him?

I don't think it would.

Because it is a myth that adoption, especially adoption of older children and adults, unmakes the previous relationships. I think it can make a new one, but it does not erase the past. It doesn't even create barrier between the past and the future.

I eventually found a degree of peace in my relationship with my father. He can certainly make me moderately nuts, but mostly I have my boundaries set in ways that make me comfortable. I accept what he wants to give us, but I no longer expect or hope for something he isn't. And if I had been adopted by someone else as a teen or an adult, I suspect I would have had to travel the same journey. It would have been no easier. And I think the same is true for Evan. My adopting him won't make his relationship with his mother easier. It could though make it worse.

One way that it would make his life easier is in all those getting-to-know you conversations, one of the really difficult things for kids who have been in the system. Most of us have different levels in friendship. Some people we interact with and know almost nothing about. Some we know better and we share a bit more. Some are intimates and know our pain. When you grow up in foster care (and probably other situations) it is difficult maintain that. So many questions don't have truthful, non-mysterious answers. It would be easier for Evan when he meets people to be able to truthfully tell them that his parents live in Our Small Town, are educators, and members of PFLAG, and only later share that we are adoptive parents, that he still has a relationship with his mother, and that relationship is complicated and sometimes painful.

I get that.

But here is my dilemma.

On one hand it feels impossible to deny to Evan what I am offering to the other boys and wrong for me to decide what is best for him and his life. I don't love him less than the other boys. I don't want to offer him less.

On the other hand, the idea of adopting Evan without his mother's consent, probably even against her wishes, is anathema to me. David and Gary's mothers have been completely out of their lives for more than a decade. Though I believe they think about their sons and love them still, they simply are not there. Attempts at reconciliation have been exhausted.

But Evan's mother is there. She is making him crazy and sometimes miserable, but she is there.

Though I say and believe that it is a myth that adoption unmakes families, myths are powerful things. And there are some things that are not myth. The legal changes will not matter as much as they would have if he were younger, but they are real. Part of me is firmly convinced that it is just wrong to do this.

And yet it feels wrong to tell Evan that I won't adopt him too. I feels wrong to make this decision for Evan. He has my heart as much as any of the boys. If he wants to be legally ours, it feels like that should be his choice. Telling him no just feels wrong.

I hate it when there are not right answers.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Hearing Scheduled

The termination hearing is scheduled for two months from now.

Gary still doesn't want to go and doesn't see why he should make any effort to communicate with the court. Clearly, he says, it wouldn't have gone this far if he wasn't okay with it. I've told him that I will make sure he has a meeting with his GAL so that he will be represented.

Thinking about it makes my stomach hurt. I want his father to fight for him. I imagine scenes one would expect in an after-school TV special. In this case all fighting for him means is SHOWING UP. I think I am most afraid that his father will have just not bothered to respond.

I make up stories to myself to explain that and keep it in a positive light. I imagine that his dad has decided that he can't fight for him. He can't ever bring Gary home. I understand that. I don't like it, but his father has to make decisions that are best for all his children. And I don't think he wants to let Gary go. So I imagine him just putting off dealing with it, not being able to think about it. Maybe tomorrow.

But I don't know. Maybe he has responded. Maybe he is going to fight. Maybe he has signed forms.

I don't know.

I want to adopt him, but I cannot be happy about this.

My best information regarding his mother is that they can't find her. She's had no contact with him for a decade. My heart breaks less over that one. [Added: I mean about her losing her rights now. It feels like the court will only be acknowledging something that already happened long ago. It is more than that with his father.]

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Judo and other things

Just five weeks for the department to decide that it would be okay for Gary to take a Judo class.

I really am thrilled. It is local. I feel very comfortable with the instructors. They are volunteers, seem very dedicated and though the student participate in competitions it isn't all about getting on television and getting beat up. It is inexpensive and it is on the bus route. Of course classes are over after the bus stops running, but they can take the bus one way.

Probably Gary will decide it isn't what he really wants to do, but he will stick with it for a while. I'm trying to convince him of what I do really believe to be the truth -- this class is far safer than the others he has looked at and getting permission for this one does not mean he will get permission for another. I think we can convince him to stick with this class (or at least not try for another) until he turns 18 in the fall.

In other news, Brian is lobbying to take a driver's education class. All the other boys waiting until they were 18 to drive. Carl took a class and finished learning at Job Corps. I taught Andrew and Evan. David came claiming he already could drive, those who have read the archives might remember this escapade. Brian though has no desire to wait. He is turning 16 in June and he could start driver's training now and he wants to! Part of me would rather he wait at least until the fall when Gary is 18 and they could both be doing it (part of the whole "fair" thing). I have begun to wonder though if it wouldn't be better to let Brian start early. It might help with the competitive issue if they are not doing it at the same time. Or not.

Part of the issue really is just that I don't want him driving yet. Although I am also getting tired of chauffeur duty too. My best idea right now is to find out what GPA he has to have for the safe driver discount, and tell him that he can't get his license until he gets that.

Having Andrew home is delightful. He has been cooking dinner all last week while the rest of moaned and groaned about final exams ... except Roland who merely moaned about being tired with the last week before break. He and his girlfriend have also been making Christmas cookies.

I still have a pile of grading, and then a very manageable list of work-duties for break. Grades need to be turned in on Wednesday and then I will just relax from Christmas until New Year's. Maybe I will even catch up on all your blogs I have not read for ages.

We'll see.

Oh, there is this lovely Christmas song I need to share with you. Sassy Cupcakes shared it with me. It is sung by an Australian atheist (agnostic?) and it is beautiful. It is about really liking Christmas, even when you have all those reservations about the consumerism and religious part of it all.

Tim Minchin,

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

MMA, Libilities, etc.

Feeling frustrated.

Gary is always full of plans. He's has once again found another dojo, martial arts place, gym, whatever. He talked and talked to them on the phone. They are new. They said that he could help teach the younger students if he wanted. This could turn into a job! The coach/teacher/whatever there is great. It is going to be wonderful.

I took him. The atmosphere is more of a fitness gym than a dojo. There is a lobby with two flat screen TV's and two employees at the counter. In the back are mats, one of those cage things they have MMA fights in, exercise bicycles and other work-out equipment. Gary is welcomed by the instructor who asks if he is ready for his freebie. Gary goes back with much excitement while the people at the counter give me information on monthly membership fees (high) and a liability form to sign.

Now I'm not supposed to sign those. I did just for the night though. I even wrote on it that it expired tomorrow. That is totally against the rules and if Gary gets hurt tonight I really don't know what will happen. Like a teenager I'm just counting on not getting caught.

I took the form back to him to show him. I told him that there was no way we were going to be able to get it signed.

"So enjoy your one night here."

"Oh, I'll work it out! This is great!"

Sometimes his relentless optimism is exhausting.

Crime and Consequences

**Originally I intended to write a post about parenting in general. I finished the intro-story part and then realized that I really don't have time right now. Normally I would save and write the post I really wanted to write later. Since I post so little these days, I changed my mind. Here's the story.***

It is final exam week here. I have a pile of grading and administrative work, but a relaxed schedule. Andrew is home for his winter break and he wants to drive me to work every day so that he can have my vehicle. He will get up at whatever time I want, having a vehicle is important, but he isn't normally a very early riser. All this means that when my alarm went off at 6am it seemed only sensible to turn it off and go back to sleep.

I got up around 8:30. I puttered, made tea, and mentioned to Andrew that the boys had left the bathroom fan on downstairs. When the fan suddenly went off I went to the computer to check if there were school closings. Andrew wondered why I didn't just ask. I told him that it would ruin my omnipotent reputation. There were no school closings so when Gary appeared just before 9am I asked him what was going on. He said, "My alarm didn't go off."

He sleeps through his alarm a couple of times a semester. Usually I am up and I wake him, though often not in time for him to catch the right bus. I'm not doing that on purpose, it is just that he often doesn't appear except to run out the door to the bus stop. By the time I know he is not up, he's probably missed the bus.

Anyway, this morning I just took another sip of my tea while Andrew said, "Can you get another bus now?" Gary said yes, that one would be there in a few minutes, and he took off.

And I realized I wasn't even annoyed with him.

Years ago I would have got angry. I would have felt at least the need to lecture him, perhaps to "impose consequences" (a phrase I hate since it really means "punishment" and if that is what we are doing we should be honest about it). Of course, if the other boys had done that it would be part of a pattern, not something that happened a few times a year. I know that what I did was the best response for Gary.

Still, I found myself wondering if I have evolved into the Zen parent I always wanted to be? Have I perfected the attitude promoted in my favorite parenting books?

Or have they just worn me down?

This is probably a bad time to ponder that question too much, you are invited to discuss it in the comments though. Not necessarily me in particular, but parenting approaches in general.

Rambling now.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas during a busy year

I did something I never thought I would do. I told Roland he was in charge of Christmas ... and I meant it.

He knew I meant it because he had been cuddling me while I cried in exhaustion. This was maybe two or three weeks ago. I told him about all the things that I had to do and how I was just managing to keep up, but I was worn out. I was fighting off a cold and SOOOO tired. And then, that very day, the college president (a new guy whom I am having deeply mixed feelings about) sent out an email telling us that many of our voice mail greetings needed to be changed. The email was really long, and talked about professionalism and our responsibilities, blah, blah, blah. My voice mail greeting is definitely one of ones that need to be changed to fit the new standards, but DAMN, I was so freaking busy and I've forgotten my voice mail pass code, and did the president really have to give us ONE MORE THING to do at the end of the term? Really? I mean, couldn't it wait until a time when we weren't exhausted? Or if he had to tell us now, did he have to send out a long email lecture? It wasn't a big thing, but it was just that one extra thing, you know?

So Roland asked if there was anything he could do to help, and said, "do Christmas. All of it. When it gets here, I'll cook, but will you take care of all the presents?"

After being absolutely sure that I really, really meant it, he said yes.

And so now there are boxes of unwrapped presents in our closet. There are no Christmas decorations out -- not even the advent calendar (no candy, every day you move a Velcro-backed figure from a pocket to the town above) that should have come out on Dec. 1. I've decided I'm totally okay with that.

It is final exam week now. I have things coming in from students on Wednesday and Thursday. That means that I can spend most of today and tomorrow doing administrative work. I have piles of things to proof-read for the catalog, I have to write the advising guidelines for the minor, hound a few department chairs who are as exhausted as I am so they will get done some work that I need them to do so I can get mine done. There are a few other things too.

Still, the list is doable.

Andrew came home yesterday. We talked about his classes and he cooked dinner. I told him that in my intro class I was giving the students something to read and then asking them questions about it. I had narrowed it down to three, but hadn't decided. He kindly looked them over and told me that he recommended the long one. Even though it was four pages, it was clearer than the others. That was wonderful.

Everyone else seems to be doing well. Gary is great, still coming up with plans and more plans. We haven't heard anything about when the hearing will be scheduled or anything else. It is bothersome, but then I don't really have time to worry about that, so I don't.

We had a planning meeting for the catalog. The good news is that all this work will over on March 1. The bad news is that all the work has to be finished by March 1. Still, the end is in sight. The Yondalla you have all missed so dreadfully will be back, I hope.

So for now, I will sign off and get back to work.

I still haven't fixed my voice mail greeting.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Let's see.... update...

Okay, sorry I've been gone so long. This is the last week of classes and hopefully I will write lots and lots over break. I've been pretty worn out. I spent most of the weekend sleeping, so now I have to get busy and do the grading I assured my students I would do then.

One reason for not writing is that things have been quiet and easy. Brian and Gary have been getting along. Remember when that was an issue? Aside from the things that were going on before we changed it so that they don't share kitchen duty. They take turns doing the whole job. That gives them one less thing to quarrel about, always good. They play video games together often.

We still don't have a date for the next hearing. Gary's previous CASA worker is no longer working with them, and he doesn't have a new one assigned. We are working on it though. The social workers really want him to go to court himself, and he really doesn't want to. He hasn't protested when I said that I would be pro-active about setting up an appointment for him.

Roland says that Gary's constant changing of plans wears him out. I seem to flow with it. Of course I am the same way, though better than I once was. The blog started out as a way to release some of the obsessive pondering without driving my friends and family crazy. Of course, then Evan admitted to an addiction and the blog started fulfilling a new need altogether. What was I talking about? Oh, yeah. Gary's changing plans. He keeps changing them. I think right now he still wants to be a nurse, but is disheartened to learn that I might really have to brush up on math skills. He is trying to find the right way to get through it all.

We learned that because his juvenile offense was before he was 14 (he was 11), the record is automatically sealed. When he is 18 people can do a background check on him and nothing will come up. Of course, if they ask if he is on probation, he will have to say yes. At this point his PO considers him to be on "unsupervised probation" which is just like not being on probation, except that if you get arrested your PO gets called and you go back to being supervised. The social workers tell us that the PO is trying to get him totally off when he turns 18, but it is my county's practice to keep kids on probation until they are 21. That may be unconstitutional, but there it is.

I just got an email from Carl. He is still living at the retreat center. He is now a paid employee, actually running the place. It really is good for him there.

David is now a manager of the video store where he works. He wasn't able to come over for Thanksgiving because he was working. He is still dating the same man he was a year ago, maybe longer.

We changed our phone number and made it unpublished because of one adult child's on-going fight with creditors. We kept asking for our name to be taken off the file. We would be assured it had, then it would go to a new department and we would be getting calls again. We do business with the company, so we couldn't put them on a no-call list. I have decided I love having an unlisted number. Nobody calls. We haven't quite worked up to just turning off the phone completely. I'm nervous that if we do we will have to give out our cell numbers to people and then we will get calls all day.

Evan is working as a supervisor at the television-content-provider. He told us a story about taking out some of his supervisors and to find out why he didn't get fired for being such a pain. Evan knows he pisses everyone off asking for things to be explained, challenging decisions, and generally being insubordinate. He said they told him that if they fired him they would lose his team. They (the team) might not like him all the time, but they trust him and if he told them to walk through hell they would do it. So that was cool.

Brian is doing really well. Every now and then I remember the anxious kid I was so worried about a few years ago. Now there is this confident fifteen year old, taller than I am and with a voice I don't always recognize.

Last week Brian and Gary had a concert here at the college. They spent most of the day on campus, rehearsing in our facility. On the bus over Brian called to say that he and Gary had not remembered to pack lunch, would I please buy them something? I told him that I was very busy but that if they met me in the student union at 12:30 precisely, I would. When we got there I asked what their classmates were doing for lunch. Brian said, "Well, some of them packed a lunch."

"And the rest had money to buy it on campus?"

"Well, no."

"So what did they eat?"

"Umm ... a boxed lunch from the cafeteria."

"And why didn't you two do that?

Brian gave me a wide-eyed innocent, puppy-dog face, "Because we have YOU."

While we were prepping Thanksgiving, Andrew wanted to ask me some questions about the philosophers in his Analytic class. Evan, wanting to participate, asked what the difference was between Analytic and some other philosophy. I told him that in some ways it was a difference of style, but if we were talking about history, for instance, a Continental philosopher would be more likely to say that there were only competing stories and that it made no sense to talk about what really happened. An Analytic philosopher, on the other hand would be more likely to say that the project of discovering, writing, and evaluating those stories only makes sense if we believe there is a truth about what happened.

We debated that for a while and then he asked if there were other differences. There are of course, but I gave him the one I use to tease my colleague who teaches Continental philosophy. "Yes, Analytic philosophers are committed to writing clearly and making arguments."

Last week I got a text message from Andrew:
"So prof r described analytic philosophy today now that were past the whole examing language as a way of figuring out reality thing. It was pretty much exactly how you described it: people who write clearly and use arguments.
and I smiled."