Tag Archives: foster parenting

Children Who Exist and Children Who Don’t

4 Jun

A friend and I were talking recently about fatherhood. He mentioned that, before he had children, he’d always had a feeling that there was a part of himself that would be incomplete if he missed out on it. He knew it had to be part of his life, part of his journey.

I told him I couldn’t relate to that at all.

In fact, my pre-children mindset was just the opposite. I felt a profound burden to not have children, to not bring more people into this. I felt that the Earth has been asking us for the last several generations to slow down, chill out, give her a break with all the kids. We need to catch our breath with the destruction of the environment. We need to get a handle on racism and poverty. We’ve had our foot on the gas so long that we’ve failed to realize the engine isn’t working anymore and we’re flooding it. 

MORE KIDS MORE KIDS MORE KIDS.

My friend, like me, is a foster parent. He has biological children of his own, but also made the decision with his wife to foster-to-adopt. “I feel you,” he said. “It makes sense. Children in the system, that’s where the need is. Loving and taking care of who’s already here.”

“That’s my thing,” I said. “I want to contribute to the healing and the building. I had three children that were biologically mine and they died the day they were born. They existed and I loved them and I still love them. But they were a surprise. And I couldn’t help it, I wondered if they would wind up hurting the world more than helping.”

Then he dropped the bomb: “I love [adopted child] as much as [biological children]. I didn’t think that was possible, but it is. If I’d known that, I wonder if I’d have made the choice to have biological children at all.”

I’m writing this in 2020, on the ninth birthday of Rudyard, Desmond and Oscar Bear. These annual entries have become letters to the future, a check-in to be rediscovered later.  Here’s what’s happening as of this moment, Star Wars opening crawl-style:

Turmoil! The COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged, terrorized, quarantined and suffocated the global community.

In America, George Floyd, an unarmed African American man, was killed at the hands of panicked and angry police officers, sparking protests, riots and unrest, further polarizing a nation at war with itself.

All of this is presided over by a corrupt President who, most recently, teargassed peaceful protesters to clear a path for a photo op of him holding a bible in front of a church….

Maybe these are the ashes, the fertilizer that will one day accommodate the seeds of new life and new hope. Maybe this is a ramping-up to ultimate destruction. Too soon to tell.

But before any children of my own existed, this is the world I didn’t want to bring them into. I didn’t want to burden them with it, or it with them. Back when my children were a possibility, a concept that I could say “no” to, saying “no” made the most sense to me.

But sometimes there are surprises. And sometimes those surprises turn out to be spontaneous triplet boys. And when the switch happens, when children transition from ideas to flesh and blood, the whole thing changes. “Should they exist?” Asked and answered. 

Yes, they should.

I still believe in Heaven for Beginners, which means I believe that the Bear Boys are looking at all of this with perfect clarity and understanding and love. Love for me and my wife and our three foster children. Love for George Floyd. And Derek Chauvin. And Donald Trump. And everyone everywhere for all time always.

And maybe they’ve been spared all of this. Maybe it’s a mercy. Maybe there’s some sort of cosmic right-ness to birthday candles on our mantle rather than birthday candles on three cakes today. Fuck that, but maybe.

But we’re having the conversations in our home that we would’ve had with our boys, had they made it. And not to get too creepy, but I sometimes sort of feel my boys guiding us through it. Look, I know, go ahead and eye-roll, but no kidding around: I want their perfect perspective on Coronavirus and privilege and BLM and the environment and every so often I wonder if they’re helping to give me a glimpse of what’s good and true. Maybe, in my better moments, I get to be their voice.

I’m glad they existed. I’m glad they weren’t an idea I said No to. I’m glad they made the jump from conceptual to literal and are teaching my wife and I how to best love the three flesh-and-blood children in our home, right here and now.

But more than any of that, today, right now, I wish they’d lived.

Back to One

4 Jun

ME: Days off are hard to come by. I was hoping for a little more fun and relaxation when I put in to take today off for my birthday a couple of weeks ago.

CAREY: I know, but Little Man is sick and can’t go to school. That’s the way it goes.

ME: I’m not trying to complain, it’s just a bummer. Stuck at a Pediatrician’s office.

CAREY: Well, maybe later this evening we can do something fun.

ME: Really?

CAREY: Yeah. We can all watch a kid’s movie together. Then we can play that owl board game he likes so much.

ME: …

CAREY: What.

ME: Nothing.

CAREY: What.

ME: Well, those things aren’t fun.

CAREY: I know, but Little Man is sick. That’s the way it goes.

 

She’s right. That’s the way it goes these days. When you have a four-year-old living under your roof, your schedule is more or less spoken for.

You know? I should rewind a little.

My triplet blog has become a reliably annual affair. It’s not that I don’t think about it throughout the rest of the year. It comes to mind often. Six years ago today, we met and lost our triplet sons Rudyard, Desmond and Oscar. I think of them every day and even now I’m occasionally hit with a surprise pain, almost no warning. Gut shot in the middle of a meeting or during my morning commute. You grit your teeth and ride the red wave. You get through it.

And even though grief is never really, truly over, a few years ago we made the decision to move ahead to the next thing. We’d try again. We weren’t, as they say, getting any younger.

Admittedly, my heart was only half in it. And maybe nature knew, because, after about a year and a half, it became clear that our prime fertility years were behind us. Specialists assured us we were ideal candidates for all manner of treatments and procedures and Just say the word, you’ll be in Healthy White Baby Country lickety split.

But on that issue I was firm. My personal philosophy was such that expensive, medically heroic measures in the name of fertility were difficult to justify in these troubled times. Literal millions of children are in desperate need of loving homes inside our own borders, not to mention the profound need overseas. Understand, that sentiment isn’t meant to indict or alienate my good friends who have participated in fertility treatments (all great, loving parents). In fact, the vast majority of triplet parents in the world partly owe their full quiver to advancements in fertility science. But for me, personally, I couldn’t do it.

So, then… what? Overseas adoption? Foster care? Maintain our DINK status and run out the clock, insulated by disposable income?

I’ll spare you the blow-by-blow of the months and years of vacillation, the tears, the arguments, the starts and stops. In November, we completed our certification and became foster parents to the coolest kid I’ve ever met, a tow-headed four-year-old. I wish I could share his name, his face and his story, but alas.

Carey and I love him. Truly and honestly. When I looked at the remains of my boys six years ago, I remember my own heartbreak about the fact that they’d never grow to become strong, healthy men with big hearts and wise souls. But I look at this kid each morning and it’s my continual prayer for him. “Create in him a clean heart and renew his spirit.” My biggest priority is helping him become the sincere, confident adult my own boys never had the chance to be.

But here’s the thing, and this shouldn’t go unsaid: when we mention our Foster Parent Adventure to people who know about our story, they’ll often give us a satisfied smile and a knowing nod that seems to say, “Yes. That makes sense.”

I promise. It doesn’t.

This journey is the exact opposite of intuitive. Take two reasonably intelligent adults who met and lost their three children on the same day and offer them the chance to involve themselves in a situation that will almost certainly end in tears and heartbreak. A situation fraught with added stressors in the form of court dates, mysterious behavior issues and government accountability. And that’s not even mentioning the surreal experience of saying the word “yes” on a phone call and, two days later, having a four-year-old you’ve never met with issues and traumas and stories you have no idea about dropped off at your house.

“Thanks for parenting him. We’ll let you know when it’s time to give him back.”

It’s a beautiful and difficult thing. I always wondered what sort of a father I would be and I’m finally finding out.

(On a scale of Awful to Awesome, I’d rank my current dad skills at an “Iffy” with signs of slow improvement.)

Again, though, this kid is amazing. I could go into detail, but to sum up: his life is difficult, but he loves it anyway.

Six years ago, I wondered what my future life would be. Could we find or build a situation that would replace what’s lost, that would fill the hole?

Nope. No dice. But maybe that’s okay. This is a whole other thing. A scary, weird, unnatural, fun, frustrating, exhausting, hilarious, ridiculous other thing.

Places, everyone. Back to one. Let’s change things up a bit, try some improv. Everybody set? Still rolling? Sound speeding. Quiet, please. And:

Action.