Sunday, January 03, 2010

coming out of denial

Thursday the agency worker came for a monthly visit, but it was perhaps more serious than before. She wanted to spend some time just talking with me and Roland about adoption. We were clear that we want to adopt Gary, that we would happily adopt him now if that was what he wanted although we genuinely appreciate the support we get from the agency. Gary says he wants to be adopted after he is 18 (which is when he imagines that he will graduate). If he is sincere in that, I am happy to wait also.

She needed to know about this because along with the notification of the termination hearing she got some 60 pages of paper work for her to fill out. I don't know exactly what it is, but it is part of the adoption stuff. The worker talked to someone at the state office who seemed to think we were full steam ahead on the adoption, and that it would likely happen this Spring. The agency worker wanted to know if this was what we wanted or if it was a runaway train. I told her that I had tried to be honest with everyone, but that some of the momentum might be my fault. Though I think the advantages to Gary weigh on the side of waiting, if anyone asks me if I want to adopt him the answer is yes. I think though that much of the energy is coming from the state worker who seems to be so excited about being part of the adoption of a 17-year-old that he isn't really listening.

After talking to us she took Gary out to lunch. They were gone a while and he came back looking spent. The agency worker told me that she was going to talk to the state people and tell them that we did not want them to push adoption. None of us wanted to do it right now. She didn't tell me what Gary had said, but I think he had been clear that he didn't want to do it now.

We all talked briefly about whether it made any sense to do the TPR. I forget exactly how the conversation went, but the worker said something that made me think that it was important to Gary. I said, "I was always jealous of my mom because she got to divorce my dad and I didn't." The worker understood that sentiment and said to Gary, "And you get to divorce yours." Gary agreed, with emotion. It was a small emotion, but the most he has been willing to show regarding the TPR process. He took a step away from "I don't care what happens" to taking satisfaction in it. He is a child who has been abandoned in more ways than one and this time he is doing the leaving.

And the dam of denial broke.

A psychology professor once reminded me that denial is a good thing. It protects us from feeling and thinking things that we are not ready to think or feel. We need that protection or we could not cope. The feelings will come when we are ready for them. (Herein lies one of the great rewards of parenting traumatized children. Helping them feel really safe means allowing them to feel the rage and pain.)

Since Thursday Gary has had a hard time sleeping. He has, thank all that is good and holy, been talking to his social worker and given her permission to talk to me. He desperately wants to know who is biological father is. He doesn't know if his biological father even knows he exists, but Gary wants to know who he is. He wants to know which American Indian tribe he comes from.

He feels adrift, unconnected. His feelings of guilt for things he has done, things that precipitated him losing his place in his family, are once again haunting him. He does not feel worthy of being loved. He thinks often about just leaving on his 18th birthday next September, living a life of wandering, not being connected to anyone. Though he continues to talk to his girlfriend, she is not currently his girlfriend. He can't bear to have her tell him that she loves him when he is so unworthy. He texted his social worker yesterday morning and said that he is willing to go back to counseling.

The social worker talked to me on the phone while I was out taking Andrew last-minute shopping before catching his plane. She wanted to make sure that I was not going to have a hard time with Gary talking about feeling like running, unworthy of love, and unconnected to us. I told her that I was relieved that he was feeling. The denial bothered me more, and it renewed my commitment to hold off on adopting him. He needed time to grieve his first family before joining a new one. She said she was going to try to find him a counselor but that though they did work with some in Our Small Town, probably the best she could find would be in The City, would that be okay? I reminded her that I had a history of working with GLBT kids, all of whom had counselors in The City. Evan and Carl's therapists' offices were on the far side of The City, 45 minutes one-way. If she would find the right therapist, we would take him.

[And this, is what I mean about appreciating the agency support. I will not deny that that monthly check makes everything easier, but it is knowing that if the kid needs a therapist they will find one -- and the right one -- that I really appreciate.]

I caught up Roland. I told him that I officially didn't have permission to tell him, but I wanted him to know. I suggested that he try to give Gary a little extra attention without looking like he was being prompted to give him extra attention.

When I got back from dropping off Andrew I went to Gary who was at his computer. I told him that his worker called. He said he knew. I assured him that everything he was feeling was normal and good. He nodded and let me hug him.

Last night when no one was up but the two of us I asked him if he wanted to talk. He said no.

"Would you tell me if you did?"

"Probably not."

"Well, that sucks."

"Yeah. It is just the way I am."

"You know you can tell me and I will listen."


"You can also ask for hugs."

"That's what girlfriends are for."

"And mommies."

And he gave me a small smile and a big hug.

I don't think the next part is going to be easy, but I think we will get through it.


  1. I can not tell you how thankful I am that people like you exist. Someone who is not just willing to take in and adopt a teenager - but who is really able to understand what parenting an older foster child is all about. Gary is very blessed to have found you.

  2. Bless Gary's heart. I'm glad the dam has been broken and can't wait to see what happens when you arrive at the other end of miracle.

  3. Happy New Year, Yondalla. Best wishes for all of you in 2010. P&PT for Gary and for you while you support him.


  4. What a difficult road to walk - so glad he has you to two to share the journey.

  5. I don't have the words to express the satisfaction I have from reading this post. It just makes me feel...good. Content. Gary, at least, is one child that doesn't HAVE to float aimlessly, because he has someone willing to stand beside him.

    On a slightly different note, have you read this article yet?

  6. I had read the article, Stacie. It is pretty cool.

    Everyone else, thank you for your kind words. Gary finally slept last night. He still looks emotionally drained all the time, but a little better. I am hoping that going back to school on Wednesday is going to help...just staying busy and having less time to brood.

  7. My heart breaks for Gary reading your post but simultaneously is filled w/ hope because of the amazing parenting you do and the amazing support your agency offers you and him.

  8. I am so glad that Gary has you to help him through. You really are a wonderful person to put yourself out there and help him get through this.

  9. I know I don't comment too often, but I'm always in awe of your quality fostering. I don't really like calling it that here; it's just parenting. So let me say instead, I am in awe of your quality parenting, and your ability to seek what's best for Gary (or any child) regardless of the effects of trauma or the system. It's pretty inspiring :)


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