December 23, 2010

Legally Two

It's been two years since the boys became legally, officially ours and we became theirs. I love having this opportunity to reflect on and remember our adoption journey with the boys.

When we became licensed as foster parents, our first phone call for a placement was about these two little boys, ages 3 and 4. They had already been in foster care for about 8 months. They were looking for foster parents who could possibly adopt, since reunification with the birthparents was not very likely anymore. We had the opportunity to talk with their previous foster parents to understand the situation as much as possible and prepare for the transition. Since I was still teaching at the time, we arranged for the boys to come stay with us during Spring Break to make sure it was a good fit for everyone. The foster mom offered to email us a couple of pictures of the boys before we met them. Our hearts just melted when we saw them. We were amazed how much Kacin's little smile reminded us of a picture we had of me smiling at that age. We had a feeling this would be a good fit.

I will never ever forget the look on Eric's face the day we met the boys. The foster parents brought the kids to our house on a Sunday morning. We invited everyone in and showed the boys their rooms. The two little nervous energy balls of boys were jumping and flinging themselves around and down from everything (including an attempted cannonball from the top of the stairs). Before the foster parents left, I noticed how many times they reminded the boys of the rules: no hitting, listen, no spitting, no kicking, listen, no bad words, no yelling, listen etc. It didn't take us long to figure out why they did this. Eric had that deer in the headlights look for the rest of the day.

Since I was an Early Childhood Education graduate in my 3rd year of teaching 1st grade, with my whole life spent babysitting, nannying, working in daycare, preschools, and schools, I thought I was so prepared. But we both had to adjust to being "the parents". I remember the moment when the boys started jumping on the couch. Eric and I looked at each other and one of us asked, "Can they do that?" Since being married, neither of us had tried that one. We had a lot of house rules to decide on. When we finally went to sleep that night, we were both exhausted and a little anxious, yet very happy.

We fell in love with the boys instantly. We loved playing with them and discovering their personalities. Kacin had a contagious smile and an obsession with cars and balls. He could throw the biggest tantrums of all time and had quite the mouth. Kyler was much more thoughtful and loved to play with puzzles, read, and ride his bike. He was also very sneaky and afraid to show any emotion or allow anyone else to love him, or he them. At the end of the day though, their hugs and smiles and peacefully sleeping faces transformed all of the big challenges of the day into small obstacles we could easily step over.

However, I can't even tell you how many times Eric and I lay in bed at night wondering if we were making the right decision to bring these children into our home and to love them. We didn't know how long they would actually be with us. We wondered if we did have the opportunity to adopt, could we help them overcome their challenges, and the challenges of all of us becoming a family? Were we the right parents for them?

Our doubts quickly disappeared as everything fell into place. We knew that yes, we were not perfect parents and this was going to be hard, but we were completely committed no matter what. We really, truly loved and cared for these little boys.

When the boys were placed with us, it was because they needed parents who could adopt them if that time came. The goal for them was really no longer reunification with their birthparents. However, we still had sporadic visits with their birthfather for awhile and a lot of court hearings and decisions before anything would be final. The boys had a lot of questions during this time. We explained everything as best as we could in the most kid-friendly language we could use.

We had the most supportive neighbors, family, and friends through everything. There was a gradual transition from the sweet foster parents to us. Since I was still teaching, and needed to finish out the school year, we had the boys on the weekends, and then, for the last few weeks of the school year, we had them full-time and the foster mom watched them just while I was working (I gained such a respect for all working and single moms). The boys were welcomed by everyone around us. Eric and I felt supported and grateful to talk to many different people who had similar experiences and could relate with some of the things we were going through. It also made all the difference that our own families seemed to not even think twice about accepting these boys with love and open arms. Everyone was excited they would be part of the family.

Eventually, the birthparents both relinquished their rights. It was one of the most emotional experiences I have ever had to sit in that court room, to see the birthfather's face, and hear his statement to relinquish his parental rights. I know that he loved our boys tremendously. That's why he did it. Because he loved them and recognized that he was not in a place in his life to properly take care of them. But he wanted them to be happy and have opportunities in their lives. He put his trust in me and Eric to love them and be their parents. (The birthmother had previously relinquished so we weren't a part of that.) No matter what their birthparents mistakes have been or where they are at in their lives today, Eric and I feel such a deep, special love for and connection to their birthparents.

That period between relinquishment and finalization was a bit stressful. Court dates were moved all around. People were appealing to the court, but being turned away for obvious reason. But we were finally given an adoption day. And that made such a difference in our little family. We all relaxed.

From day one, the boys had been calling us by our first names. They had called their previous foster parents by their first names. We were the new foster parents to them, with no other children in our home. They were still having contact with their birthparents. It was all pretty shaky at times as to what would happen. So we were always just called Eric and Laura. When we had a day set for finalization, and after a lot of thought and prayer, we gathered the boys to us and had a name discussion. We had already had lots of conversations about adoption and what it meant. In this conversation, we invited them to call us mom and dad. We told them the new, special names we had chosen for them. It was a beautiful conversation and a turning point in our relationship. It made everything real. It helped the boys relax and know that we were a forever family.

Our adoption day came. A few good friends shared the experience with us. And it became official when the boys each signed their names and hit the desk with the gavel and proclaimed "I'm adopted!" (oh yeah, the judge said it was so, too).

It's crazy to think that only two years have passed. The boys are such a part of our lives. I am amazed when I think about how far we've all come. The boys are doing so well--so happy and growing into such wonderful people. It just blows me away to think about the dad Eric was that first day and the dad he is today--he's so patient, wise, and fun, and can discipline in a firm, loving way. He is an absolutely perfect father now.

Many people have tried to tell us that the boys are lucky to have us, but we both know we are the lucky ones to have had this experience to adopt them. Our adoption journey with the boys has been one of much learning and growth, but mostly love.
chelsea :: stock said...

make me cry first thing in the morning, whydoncha.

we love them too. happy family-versary!

AnneMarie said...

Oh Laura, how sweet and tender--thanks so much for writing it all down. I watched the process from the outside, but now know so much more about what you went through. I was so happy for you at the time, and am still so happy for all four of you!!

We miss you guys, but we know that you are where you're supposed to be. Happy Day to all of you!

Stefanie Hyer said...

You guys are amazing parents! I am so glad to have the boys in our family! We love them so much! And you guys so much! Congrats on two years and many many many more to come!

Barb said...

I will say it again, I have totally forgotten that you didn't technically give birth to them! You and E were ALWAYS supposed to be their parents, it just happened a roundabout way.

Pattie said...

I loved re-living those first few months through your writing! Your boys are so very special and will always have a place in the hearts of the Huestis'. We miss you guys!

Jacqui said...

ok. made me cry.

Cheryl said...

I'm obviously a little slow in reading this beautiful passage. You have so many gifts, but loving is at the top and writing is not far behind! Your words expressed so much about your own experience, and it brought reminders of our similar yet different experience. The boys are extraordinarily lucky to have you both because it is all about love. Thanks for sharing.