Monday, January 26, 2009

By the seat of our pants

In a perfect world Joseph's birth mother would never have any more children. After all, she had demonstrated her lack of ability and interest in parenting a child with Joseph. In a less perfect but at least more convenient world if she had more children we at least wouldn't have to hear about it. That would spare us having to discuss the whole thorny issue with Joseph.

The world is not perfect or convenient.

A week or so ago I was sitting at the table going through the mail when I came across a letter that made me gasp out loud. Joseph's birth mother had another child. She was a few weeks old and already in foster care. We got the letter because we were being asked if we were willing/able to take her in as a foster child for a short term placement with the potential for a permanent placement. Since this letter came on a Saturday there was no one I could call and voice my questions to. Questions like "What happened?" and "Why are we being notified of this?" and "Seriously dude. What the fuck?"

Jesse and I spent the weekend talking to each other in low whispers. Should we tell Joseph? How much should we tell him? Should we take the baby? What if we took her and she went back home? Did we owe it to Joseph to get involved? Did we owe it to him not to? What if she needed a permanent home? Would we do that?

By Sunday night we had agreed that we would not be able to do short term foster care. We just didn't think it would be fair to bring this baby into Joseph's life if there was a chance that she could leave us again. We also decided that we would be as honest as we could with Joseph about the situation. We didn't want to hide this information from him and then ten years down the road spring it on him. "Surprise! You have a biological half sister and we've known about her since she was born!"

On Monday I called the social worker who could give me very few details beyond what had been in the letter. She told me the current plan was for reunification. I snorted when she said that. She laughed and said "Yeah, we all know how that can go."

In the end I told her to call us again if the situation changed but for now we had to maintain our distance. That night Jesse and I had another whispered conversation. The only two thing we could decide on were that if we ever got involved with this baby's life we would change her name right away (in addition to being saddled with a careless mother the poor thing also has a horrid name) and that we would talk to Joseph about the whole thing on Saturday.

I have always said that biology does not matter when it comes to family. I believe that, I really do. Blood is not what makes my family, love is. But this whole situation has made me wonder if it's so easy to believe that because I have the "luxury" of biology. I can look at Elle and see how much she looks like Jesse. I can look at my brother and see how much he looks like my dad. I can look at myself in the mirror and see the deep-set eyes I got from my grandfather.

Joseph doesn't have that. For all the love he has in this family he doesn't have the "luxury" of biology. Don't I owe it to him to give him that if he wants it? I can say to him "You get your sense of humor and your love of reading from me and your video game skills and love of Legos from your dad." We also tell him things like "You get your dark brown eyes from your birth dad. Your mouth is the same shape as your birth mother's." I try to give him that connection.

On Saturday I sat Joseph down and told him about his biological half sister. I told him the few things I knew. How old she is, what her name is, that she's in foster care. Joseph listened and in the end reacted about the way I had expected him too. He smiled and said he understood and could he please go play a video game now. I told him he could but made him promise that if he had any questions or feeling about the whole thing that he would talk to me. So far he hasn't mentioned it at all. I really don't expect him to either. Right now it just isn't important to him. It might be some day though and if it then he'll have the information and he'll know he can come to us and we'll be honest with him and help him with anything that he wants to do.

I know that not everyone we know agreed that telling Joseph about the baby was the right thing to do. I'm sure there are people reading this who think we handled some aspect of it wrong. I can only say that we're flying by the seat of our pants here. We try in every way to do the right thing for Joseph and from time to time we're going to make mistakes. When those mistakes are made though it's not because of carelessness or thoughtlessness on our part. Our choices might sometimes be wrong but at least they're choices made out of love.

As for the baby with the horrible name? I'm trying to put her out of my mind. There's a good chance I'll never hear another thing about her. Maybe she'll go back with her mother. Maybe she'll be adopted by a family member. Maybe we'll get a call in a year or two or three that she needs a permanent home and would we consider it? Would we? I can't think about that right now. There's too many possibilities and my mind gets muddled if I start to consider them all.

For now I'm just going to hug my boy extra tight and be glad that we don't have to question our place in each other's lives.


Shannon said...

Wow, is that ever a tough situation! Sounds like you handled it with sensitivity. Not sure there is a "right" course of action in that scenario but you seem to be doing a great job muddling through. Strength to you!

Anonymous said...

why would anyone think you handled it wrong? it sounds absolutely perfect.

CharmingDriver said...

You guys did the right thing, period.

shyestviolet said...

I'm glad that Joseph is a part of your family, and hope that the baby can have such a supportive environment as she grows up, no matter where that is. All children deserve such goodness.

Jen said...

I think you made a thoughtful, loving, and responsible decision. And telling Joseph, in my humble opinion, was absolutely the right decision.

Word Shaper said...

I agree with the other commenters. You have to do what's right and best for your family. I agree that telling Joseph in a way he could understand was great.

I love the love you have for Joseph. And I admire all the love your heart has to give what with the adoption, the surrogacy and sharing your hilarious antics with the blog world. I'm awed by your resolve.

Joseph is such as special boy and you and Jesse have nurtured him way beyond the scope of "nature".

CheekySweetie said...

We had a similar situation with my step-son's bio-mom..she has six kids, and has custody of *none* of them. She was in prison when she was pregnant with the second youngest one, and my stepson begged us to take her when she was born. We struggled with the decision for a while, but as it turned out, she was released before the birth and the state allowed her to keep the baby under supervision. It wasn't but a few months and the grandmother had to take custody of the baby, along with the three grandsons she was already raising, because bio-mom was on drugs again. She was in jail again when she had the youngest one, and she gave that one up for adoption. Which was ironically, the most decent parenting decision she had made, ever.

Very sticky situation, and what is right is different for every family. I think it's much better to acknowledge your limitations and refrain from overextending yourself in order to provide the best parenting you can to your kids. Which is exactly what you did. :)

Tiffany said...

Hey, you should hear my story.

We wanted more children after our first with no luck. We did foster care and got our first, the birth mother was prego and we agreed to take that baby too. We started the adoption process a year later and I got prego. We now had 4 kids. Then the birth mom got prego again. We took that baby too. Are we crazy.
Instead of just terminating her rights they are giving her a year to get her act together. I don't want to lose my baby. He is 7 months old and he may go back to her. Still we would do it all over again. So thanks to this birth mother I have five kids under five. Come by and see pics on my blog.

Ethan, Zach, and Emma's Mom said...

You have to do what is right for your family. That is what is most important.

FaerieMama said...

"Blood is not what makes my family, love is."

I love that you wrote this. I wish EVERYONE believed and understood this. I'm glad you told Joseph. I'll be thinking of his sister today & hope she the love she needs.

Stimey said...

You know, I think you made the right choice. You were able to tell him without making a big deal out of it. You're not hiding anything from him. When/if it might matter to him more, you can talk to him about it more. Plus, this way he can get used to it gradually without being socked in the face with it when he's older. He's lucky to have you guys (and vice versa).

Cathy said...

What an interesting situation. Your life amazes me.

I agree - you did the right thing.

Alison Wonderland said...

Wow, very interesting. And don't take any crap from anybody about it, we're all flying by the seats of our pants here.

DreamCatcher said...

I think you handled the situation correctly. In most situations with children, honesty is the best policy. We might have to leave out details they are not yet capable of understanding but being honest let's them know that you care about them enough to know what is going on. I remember I tossed this around a lot when I first found out about my brain tumor but I'm glad I told my son about it and later the cancer. Huggles.

Anonymous said...

WOW. started and than erased it, dont know how I would do it. But I do think telling Joseph now was the right thing. Love u Jen. GGR

Jo said...

Eliza's mom told me to come over and I am glad I did. Boy, talk about been there and done that! Weird and I thought I was so alone in this. We said no to a bio brother too, I just couldn't imagine taking care of another child with the level of care our son requires. That all being said, now we go meet with the extended birth family on Friday. The birthmother has died so she isn't in the picture anymore, and honestly, I don't think our boy will understand much, but the rest of the family does. Weird world.