“Change of plans,” I remember our social worker nearly shouting, “it has to happen quick.”
“How quick?” I asked.
“Quick quick. Like he needs to come over tomorrow and meet your dogs.”
“Meet our dogs?”
“Yeah – we need to know if he feels safe around them.”
It turned out, there was a chance that he might not feel safe around dogs – and we now had two. Needing to act quickly, his social worker would bring him over the next day to meet our beloved boxers and if he liked them, he would move in the next day.
Seriously? This is what it comes down to? Our dogs? After all the planning, the dreaming, the mapping out of our plans, none of it even mattered – another clear reminder that this process has nothing to do with you. Here we had been waiting patiently (sort of) this entire time, letting the process do as it does, and it all came down to a meet-and-greet with our dogs.
Now when we started this process, we had Travis, a Boxer, but over the course of the journey, our family had expanded to add Izzy the rescue Boxer, a gentle soul but still a silly Boxer who liked to jump and love and lick little boys. Boxers – 70 pounds of love, but for someone who might be scared of dogs, perhaps just a little too much.
That night we decided that we would do a great big presentation of the dogs for him outside when he arrived. We had photos of the dogs and a large framed cartoon drawing of them that I had made for Eric’s birthday. And if by chance he actually wanted to meet them, we would bring the dogs down for a good old-fashioned meet-and-greet. We weren’t worried that Travis and Izzy wouldn’t like him; we just hoped that they wouldn’t jump on him and scare him with their kisses.
The next day, we waited and waited and paced and paced for what seemed like hours. Finally, the call came that the boy and his social worker were downstairs and so we gathered our “THESE ARE THE DOGS” presentation and headed downstairs in hopes that this was the end of one journey and the beginning of another.
Neither of us will ever forget rounding the corner and spotting this little boy peering through the glass door. We looked at each other and knew right then and there that this was our son. He had finally arrived.
A tiny young thing, he was dressed in a collared red-checkered short sleeve shirt. He was wearing eye glasses on that were too big for his head. He was cute – we just wanted to squeeze him – but this was about him and the dogs. This was about his feeling comfortable and safe. This was about his finding his home.
“This is Izzy and this is Travis,” I shared with him, pulling their leashes tight in hopes that they wouldn’t jump. “They love kids.”
“Do you have a bathroom?” he inquired, not really interested in the super-duper presentation I was all ready to share.
“Of course,” Eric replied. “But the dogs are up there. Are you okay with them?”
He looked at us as if we were crazy – the first of many times, I’m sure – and said that he really had to go. And so we went.
We entered our home and he said hi to the dogs as if he was coming back from a long day out. Not only did he not seem scared of the dogs, but he actually seemed to really like them. We had lunch, we played in his room and when it was time to go, he took the green cup he was drinking from, opened the refrigerator door and put the cup inside.
“What are you doing?” I asked, surprised by his ability to feel so comfortable putting things in the refrigerator. “I’ll get it tomorrow,” he replied with a smile. Tomorrow? What’s tomorrow? The truth was, we didn’t know that he was coming back the next day but apparently, he did.
And that’s our son. He moves forward. He accepts his past but doesn’t seem to dwell on it. If this was his home, he was going to use the restroom without fear of dogs and put his cup in the fridge to keep his drink cold for his return. “If this is my home,” we could hear him say, “I expect you, my parents, to take care of me and love me and support me and teach me. I expect you to read to me at night and eat breakfast with me in the morning. I expect you to make sure I win the Halloween costume contest and go places, and learn and grow.” And while his expectations really aren’t that much, he also appreciates. He is kind. He loves. He cares. And he teaches us every single day.
I can now proudly say that on January 15, 2015, our family celebrated the end of our foster journey as the adoption was finalized! That’s right – part one of this journey finally came to an end and now it’s just on to being a family!
We are so thankful to everyone who supported us on our journey: our agency, our social workers, our friends, family and people (including everyone at Gays With Kids) who have come into our lives and shown us so much love and support! Your words of encouragement, your kindness, your acceptance, your listening, your reading and you opening your hearts has helped us navigate a very interesting process (to say the least). And while it’s been quite a ride, we truly do consider ourselves the lucky ones – from the first moment we met our son to the next day when he moved in, every minute and every challenge has been completely worth it as nothing in this world could ever top the privilege we feel each time he calls us DAD and POPS.
To anyone considering foster-adopt as a means to build a family – I am here. We are here. It might take a little work to find what you need – the support, the families with similar histories, but if you look in your community, you will find it. We weren’t the first ones to navigate this path and we certainly won’t be the last and to all of those who came before us, who helped us, who are thinking about foster-adopt – thank you. The world is a better place.