Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Has it really been ten whole years? 

Guess so!

Yes, ten years ago I turned up to what I thought was only ANOTHER of the endless court dates we'd been going to since the summer of 1992, expecting more of the usual blahblahblah. Instead, the judge congratulated me and pushed me some papers to sign.

It was the first Michael Day.

That's this year's school picture. He's a 7th grader now.

Here's an excerpt from something I wrote in 1999 explaining how we got Mike, if you want a little background:

Friendly family boy. That's a Michael phrase, a self-description, and a darned good one. Michael has some developmental delays, you see, and it shows the most in his language skills. He has a lot of trouble with things that need to go in order, whether it's numbers or the ABCs or stringing words into a sentence. It seems to be hard for him to catch minute differences of the blends of sounds that make words, too. So he uses 'friendly' and 'family' interchangeably a lot of the time. When I tried to figure out how to explain the difference, I got kind of stuck on the similarities myself, and gave it up to try again some other day.

Before I get started, I want you to know I'm not saying all this about Mike so that people will think I'm some kind of saint. (Even my mom doesn't think that!) I hope no one takes offense, but it really annoys me when I hear the phrase, "God picks the most special parents for these special kids." People mean that in a nice way; I realize that. But if you'd seen some of the situations I've seen, you'd know this little homily is a major insult to the Almighty.

If it is true, He needs to go do some Heavenly Personnel Adjustment in either His Quality Control or Shipping departments. The fact of the matter is that, as with regular babies, sometimes these innocents show up in a family capable of coping with the challenge and becoming a home where children have an excellent shot at making the most of whatever their capabilities are. And sometimes they get sent to their own little hell on earth....

Warning. Button is hot. Do not push.

OK, back to Michael. He's adopted, and only a year older than my oldest grandchild, Zachary. Michael came into our life as a foster child, because both his parents are people with developmental disabilities. In some cases, that doesn't need to be a disqualification for parenting. In this case, it did. Sparing you twice this week, I'll cut what can be a very long story short. I adopted Michael, but he kept his birthname, and his parents are free to come visit.

Ironically, I had rather been looking forward to getting my own life back once the last of the Big Kids graduated from high school and moved on. Re-enlisting in the Mommy Brigade had not been anywhere on my list of things to do in my middle years. And yet I could find no way to square it with my conscience to ditch a baby (diagnosed with his own developmental problems), who was a year old already and would likely be several years older before his case got settled. Perhaps I do have a soft heart, a perfect match for my soft head. But I just couldn't send that sweet little guy, who had been raised in a family he had every reason to feel was his own, out into the morass of the child protection system (Darn! There's another of those pesky hot buttons!) just because it might be a tad inconvenient for me to sign up for another Mom hitch.

So I adopted him. It was way more a miracle than the commonplace biological acquisition of my two homegrown offspring. And I think when you get older, you don't take miracles for granted as much as you did when you were a kid.

It's pleasant to share a home with someone who tells you daily, "You my best friend eber!" Mike also tells this to Caro and the teenage boy next door and the dogs and his Cookie Monster doll, but that's okay. There's plenty of best friendship to go around.

It's tough sometimes, coping with a child with special challenges. But there are benefits there too. Mike goes through stages more slowly. That is a handicap for his school work, but it means the good parts of childhood last longer as well. Even though he's a big and sometimes rowdy 7 year old boy, he will still willingly slip his hand into mine as we walk through a store's parking lot. Sometimes he explains it is so he can take care of me. (Funny to think someday I may need him to. Ideas like that come to you more in your 40s than they do in your 20s.)


Even though we are now in the dread teen years, and sometimes we hit a rough patch where his behavior combines all that is most horrid in both a young teen and a tantrumy eight year old...I still would do it all again in a heartbeat. Because of course I can be kind of adolescent myself sometimes, and my family still puts up with ME. So it all works out.

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