It's 1:45 AM here and I am up while everyone else is asleep. I am awake not because of discontent in my heart, but because jet lag is still attacking me as it always seems to do longer than my menfolk. I have read many of your supportive comments, from those who know us as well as those who don't, and you sustain us in ways you can't understand.
After blogging last night we had a family meeting, first Dominick and I talked at length and then we met with the boys. We were trying to regroup and take our collective family temperature, and see how the boys were handling that they witnessed today. We feel strongly that they need a voice in this, and if one of them articulated that they felt we were really making a big mistake, we would give that serious consideration.
Dominick and I sat in our little kitchen here and hashed over the day together. Surprisingly friends, we both seem quite at peace with this all and are not deeply troubled by our experience today. Saddened, yes, troubled, no. Dominick echoed my sentiments perfectly in saying "I don't feel at all as if we are doing something we shouldn't do. I think it will all be fine and the shock of it was too much for them.". I agree. I remember leaving the orphanage with such a heavy heart when adopting Joshua, literally felt like it was going to fall out of my chest. While I wouldn't exactly say I was light hearted when we left today, there was no heaviness...no feeling that we were ignoring some sign or anything. I felt empathy for them, that leaving will be traumatic in some ways and the grief will linger. Kenny spoke up in the room with them and reminded them that he went through the same process and understands, and that we have made efforts to remain in contact with his friends. Kenny's personality alone made his departure easier for him, he is Mr. Adventure and yet look at the moments of grief we have experienced through him..and he would never leave his family.
What we forget is that grabbing on to something else with both hands also means you are letting go of what was in them before. You can want something else and yet miss what you leave behind. We all only think of the wonderful life we assume any adopted child will have versus residing in an orphanage. We don't think of the "adopted siblings" they have there who have been their life support for years. And children who have never had a family life or not a decent one in the first place take enormous leaps of faith to assume that might be preferable to the relative safety of what they have now in an institution.
In many ways, it is similar to the life a prisoner feels when released and they end up back there because they don't know how to live out in the world...and because the prison has become "home" to them.
Like so many of you pointed out, what we witnessed today was not exactly a bad sign. It shows connection, it shows great ability to love, it shows maturity in understanding the permanency of this sort of change. All are very positive things when it comes to assessing the ability to attach to a family.
We also have made it clear we will leave without them if they don't want to go, that we are not pushing them into anything and they have freedom of choice here. Would that be hard for us? Certainly it would...but it is not about us, is it? Never has been, never will be. It's not about "saving face", it's not about creating the fairy tale others would like to see. If they come home with us, it will be because they have made a choice and weighed the pros and cons. It will be because they have started to feel that leaving just might be better than staying after all. It will be because they sense there is love waiting for them. As many staff here reiterated several times yesterday, this has not been a false dream or connection between us all...the girls have forever clung to the hope of one day being part of our family and made that known to almost everyone that knew them. This was not us imagining something, and that gives me comfort.
This is about fear of the unknown, and worry about the known that can never be returned to.
By everyone's comments, both here and in the past, these are two terrific young ladies who have a lot going for them. Their social worker spoke to us at length and after being around us for awhile and having read our paperwork said she feels this is a perfect fit and thinks the girls will ultimately do extremely well with us...and that we are well prepared to parent them. And she revealed they have not always felt that confident in a pairing of child and family.
And my mantra for years has always been "Just because something is hard, doesn't mean you don't do it.".
Will we rip them away kicking and screaming? Absolutely not. Will we pressure them into coming with us because we have gone through so much to get to this point? No way. Will we give them time and space...and simply be present...to allow them to digest it all and to get to know us? Absolutely. Will we offer them respect and love as we do every member of our family? Of course.
I was heartened by their almost immediately coming back to us and saying firmly "Yes, we will go with you.". It wasn't 5 days later, it wasn't anyone standing near them and prodding. It was their own decision to enter that office and tentatively offer their hearts to us forever. Sure, they could flip flop as fear overtakes them, and they could decide at the last minute to say "No" in court. And that too would be OK. Again, it is not about us. And they are young children who are only 9 and 11 years old. They don't understand what the future holds for them, what they understand is that they are currently safe.
I also took away a mental picture of Olesya leaving to go get her backpack and Dominick gently asking if he could go with her, and Olesya taking his hand and grinning a quick grin. As we spoke last night he told me that when they entered her classroom, Olesya introduced him to her teacher as her "Papa".
Love takes time. Thankfully, due to the process here, we have that time. And we will trust that at the end of the visitation, it will be clear to all of us what God wants for us and them. We are prepared for it to go either way.
In talking with the boys later, we asked if any of them felt we were making a mistake or should walk away. All of them immediately said "No", and we talked about what they were thinking and thought about the girls. Despite the chaos and emotion, each of the boys said they thought it appeared the girls were very nice. Matthew said "Today backfired on all of us, but it could be different tomorrow.". Kenny talked about how they must be scared and how he had been too but had been told we were coming a few days before. Joshua was pretty quiet but not in a subdued way, more in a "it's all good" kind of way. We talked about how each of us has been scared of new changes in our life even when we knew ahead of time it would be good. Matthew leaving school for homeschooling was a big one and very conflicting for him about leaving behind his friends. Josh being terrified of starting Kindergarten even though in his heart he really truly wanted to go to school. And Kenny, who of course, has experienced this same thing.
We also explained to the boys that if the girls ultimately decided not to come with us, it had nothing to do with any of them or us as a whole. That it took great courage to leave your life behind and go away with strangers, and they just might feel safer staying here and we would respect that if it comes to that. We told them we wanted them to speak up if they feel any where along the line that this is not right for our family. As usual, the boys always surprise me with their positive and upbeat "can do" attitude, and their compassion and understanding.
As I sit here and type this in the middle of the night, I really have no idea how all of this will work out. Will we eventually be coming home with them? I think it is likely. Will they be too afraid to take the leap? Might be. Will we at some point feel hinky about this and walk away by choice? Not likely but always possible.
Keeping it real is essential. Not playing head games with ourselves is the most important part of it all, for each and every one of us. Listening to that little voice which I call God is the single best thing we can do. Thus far, there is peace.
I told Dominick last night that I feel in some weird way that every experience God has ever placed in my path has led to this time, that I am being called upon to be a mother to the deepest marrow of my bones right now, and need more wisdom and insight than I have ever had to know what to say, how to react, how to be around the girls. Sort of like this is my Final Exam to see whether or not I move up to "Mothering 201". In many ways, our life as a family together up until now is what kept me calm and rational yesterday. I am grounded, I am not taking this personally, and I have been saying all along that it might be very hard. No surprises there I guess, even though others have wanted to see our family building process as "magical", I have fought internalizing that for just this reason...it is a long and difficult road. Nothing is magical about it. It is hard work, it is filled with twists and turns that are unexpected. And we have a very healthy family to lean on as we go through the challenging times. Will the girls be part of that family? Will they be emotionally healthy? Your guess is as good as mine, but I think signs are good and we will know more later as we move through this time.
Thank you for being there for us, for your strengthening comments and your support. Many of you have adopted infants and not older children, and I know this might be an eye opener for you. We are all learning as we go along here, I am no expert myself, that's for sure. We are together, we are going to go through so much emotionally here, and I need to keep my wits about me as I realize much is being gauged off of my own actions from all corners. The warmth and complimentary comments from the staff yesterday on how we handled everything is a good guide for us. Your prayers and encouragement will carry us through, however our story here ends. Dominick is reading every comment from friends both near and far, as am I. Thank you for being there for us, for not yelling out "Fools! What are you thinking?".
I have said all along that I will be honest on the blog, that I won't sugar coat it. I have done that for the past 3 years to the best of my ability, and I will cotinue to do so. Welcome to the grief involved in older child adoption. Welcome to NEVER wiping the slate clean as they join a family and erasing their past, for that is insensitive and impossible. Welcome to having much love to offer and wondering if it will ultimately be rebuffed...as their own love was rebuffed by biological parents long ago. Life is messy and complicated. It is also wonderful and filled with goodness. Often it is not a straight path, and we are surely on a winding one now.
And the story continues...