Thursday, March 06, 2014

Looking Back (II)

There are several posts I like from 2005, but only one deserves to be republished, in light of what an earthshaking effect it had on our lives.

As published April 18, 2005

Shock; Anger; Denial; Bargaining, Acceptance

These are the five stages of grief, as first expressed by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969. She stressed that there is no order to them, that regression is common, and that grief takes time to overcome.
Grief, we have been told time and time again, is central to the whole issue of adoption. The adopted children feel it, obviously, in response to the loss of their birth families. Birth parents feel it in response to the loss of their children. And adoptive parents often have to come to terms with the loss of their 'dream' family, conceived 'naturally', before the adoption process can even begin.
Oh, yeah, and you can rocket through a bunch of grief stages when Family and Children's Services determines you don't make the grade as parents. That happened to us, tonight.

They didn't tell us "no". They told us "not yet", but made that feel so much like a "no' that right now, stuck in the first three stages of grief which I seem to be feeling simultaneously, I am pretty much unable to tell the difference.

Oh, Tom positively showered us with praise while he was cooking up that plate of bile. Our philosophy of childrearing is "sound". He likes each of us and says we're wonderful people. We're also immensely "quotable"; he has repeated some of what we've said to others. There are no anger management issues. We have empathy for children. We've put a lot of effort into the process and been very open with him. We have some degree of openness towards birth families. We seem patient and stable. We communicate. And we had great references.

All those positives are outweighed by what is obviously a huge negative: WE DON'T HAVE CHILDREN. Or rather, we have little experience with children. Tom doesn't have an adequate sense of what kind of parents we would be. Our house doesn't feel like a house with children, or that is prepared for children. Our references, great as they are, don't place us in context with children.

So our file is closed; over a hundred pages of application and supporting documentation, not to mention 35 hours of class time and nearly twenty hours of intensive homestudy, means absolutely squat. We are to get some experience with kids and come back, in a couple of years...and start the whole thing over again.

Right now, I can't tell you I have the slightest desire to go through this again. It has been grueling, completely independent of the end result; that end result just tips the scale over into total despair and acute frustration.

To me, it's as if I worked my way through many years of medical school, only to be told right near the end that I can't get my degree in medicine because, well, I haven't had any experience as a doctor.
I always seem to come up with the juicy zinger just after it would be any use. The thought I
had was: Tom, you had better get your ass in gear confiscating all the children from parents who had no experience of childrearing before they popped kids out.

This hurt me a great deal more than I would have expected, mostly, I think, because it came from so far out in left field that I never even thought to look to see it coming. I was somewhat prepared for rejection on the grounds that I was spanked as a kid, or because my family dynamics are wonky...Either excuse would have been a giant pile of bovine excrement, of course, but those were issues we had covered. This, well, it's flabbergasting. Incomprehensible.

Those first three stages of grief:

S hock
A nger
D enial

How fitting. I'm feeling pretty sad right now.

There are still pangs, for both of us, nine years later. They're comparatively rare, but undeniable.

 Before I met Eva, I was pretty leery of kids. None at all was fine. One would do. Two was unthinkable.
I have no experience of siblings. Many people have tried to explain siblings to me in what to them seem like rational terms, and I remain utterly mystified. It's like this: it's okay if one brother punches the other, but if somebody outside the family punches either, he'll have the other in his face right away. "MY PUNCHING BAG! MINE!" Having never experienced a brotherly punch, I can't say for certain that they hurt less than punches from strangers, but logic would suggest they don't. A punch is a punch is a punch. And of course there's all the hurtful things I've heard siblings say to each other, things rendered even more hurtful by intimate knowledge, and the saving grace in all this, at least until both of you decide to stop acting like children, is protection from the same behaviour inflicted on you from outside the family? Sure, eventually as adults you're (hopefully) friends. But that's a long time to wait and a lot of abuse to suffer for the sake of a friendship that isn't even guaranteed--after all, some people never stop acting like children.

In all my life, I have known two sisters and two brothers who treated each other like human beings pretty much all the time. Both pairs of siblings are identical twins. Perhaps if my brother had lived past two days, I might have had a friend to share my childhood with. We'll never know.

Eva was able to show me i'd make a good father--hell, I might have even tamed the wild beast that emerges in one sibling when another makes an appearahce!-- and I knew she'd be a good mother, and every time I tell the adoption story to anyone even now, I'm thinking they must think we're monsters. I mean, the reason given to deny us kids was such patent bullshit that I just can't help thinking that. "Your house doesn't feel like a house with children in it." THAT'S BECAUSE WE DON'T HAVE CHILDREN IN IT YET, YOU SHITBURGER!  "Go spend a few years with Scouts, or Big Brothers, or Rent-A-Kid, and come back and start the process ov-WHY THE JEEZLY FUCK DIDN'T YOU TELL US THIS TWO YEARS AGO BEFORE WE WENT THROUGH THIS GRUELLING PROCESS, YOU WALKING CHUNK OF EARWAX!

(And no, I do not have a temper. That was one of the things that social worker praised me for, just before he broke out the heaping helping of bullshit. Try a little irony, Ken, it's good for your blood.)

That's all anger dredged up out of the past, and I've taken a couple of deep breaths and drained it away. There. Gone now. Fact is, we've fully adapted to not having adopted. Both Eva and I have had the opportunity to touch a myriad of lives--for the better, we hope--and if the chance to shape a couple of lives has been denied us, well, we'll just have to touch a few more. Every time a harried Facebook mom posts a status update like HOW DO I GET MY BRAT DOWN OFF THE CHANDELIER, I feel compelled to take a shot at it, childless though I may be. And in real life? There's my niece, who is the kind of child whose sibling would just HAVE to be a holy terror, because she's positively angelic. (And I keep saying this, but she's *frighteningly* intelligent. She communicates better at two than I did at 4. Seems to like me, too, but that's not unusual: Kids almost always do. (Are you listening, Tom the Social Worker?)

Still sometimes wish we had kids...but we don't, and that's okay.

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