I’ve mentioned it in an earlier column, but Ian and I have been recertified as foster adoptive parents, to see if we can find one more member for our family, a little brother or a little sister for Mikey. We’ve received a couple phone calls about possible placements – a little boy and a baby girl – but we said no to them. That was one of the great lessons we picked up over the last three years since we first passed our home study, and the state of California judged us to be worthy parental material: We don’t feel bad about saying no.
What it comes down to is that, at this point, we’re only willing to bring in a child we know will stay with us. The magic words are “separation from biological parent” and “legal orphan.” That was the case with Mikey, and the reason we didn’t have to go through court challenges and mandated visits, and why we were able to adopt him six months to the day after we met. Before then, we were placed with two other children, who ultimately went back into the system. That was almost unbearable for us, and it wouldn’t be fair to Mikey to introduce him to a brother or sister and have them then taken away.
This has simplified the situation for us, and we were content to wait for just the right phone call.
Mikey, of course, is eager for a sibling. We’ve asked him several times in different ways, “How would you like a little brother or a little sister?”
“Yes, I want a little brother now!” Mikey nods enthusiastically.
“Or a little sister?” we ask.
“Yes … or a brother!”
So Mikey has his three-year-old preferences. But we’re open for either.
My parents came into town last weekend, and while the subject of expanding our family wasn’t the primary point of discussion, it came up from time to time.
The focus of the trip was more on the grandchildren my parents already have – Mikey and his cousin Natalie – and activities around them, the beach, backyard games, and a trip to Santa Anita racetrack.
Like many of my sexual orientation, I am not interested in most sports or team activities, but I do like just about everything having to do with horse racing. I like the magnificent animals themselves, of course,
and their riders, those tiny little men in bright jump suits and helmets. I like the silly, stuffy owners and the cigar-chomping trainers. I like the fans in big hats with whisky breath. And I love the possibility of winning money by my excellent guesses based on logic and superstition.
Santa Anita racetrack is best known for Seabiscuit, the horse that made it his home, and subject of the 2003 film. When I told Mikey that Grandma and Grandpa were coming to town and we were going there, he excitedly described racing Grandma down the track. To manage expectations, we bought him a picture book about Seabiscuit so he would get the important concept of rooting for your horse to win. Mikey is so naturally competitive that he got it at once. This is the kid who screams so loudly, “We won!” when we beat the other kids in the Sled Racing game in Club Penguin, actual penguins in the actual Antarctic have asked him to calm down.
So, it was with great enthusiasm we all spent the day in Arcadia at the racetracks. Mikey, in the time-honored tradition of gamblers, only bet on his lucky number, 3, which just happens to be his age. When he didn’t win, he cheered on the family members who did. Finally, in the eighth race, we decided to tell him he won.
After that, when Mikey was passed out from sheer joy, we talked with my folks about the possibility of getting him a sibling. We have a three bedroom house, but one of the bedrooms is my office, and my mom was asking whether it’d be wise to go ahead and make that into another kid’s room while we wait. We argued that we had plenty of time, since we were only looking for children two and under and they would probably begin their time with us in a crib in our room.
Besides, we said, we hadn’t had a phone call from the agency in months.
Like a long shot horse, the day that the parents flew home, we got the call. A baby boy, so brand new he had literally been born yesterday. There was crystal meth in his mother’s system, but not in his. She was prepared to sign him over that day.
We quickly said yes, we’ll take him. Our social worker said she’d call us back. Her only question was whether the mother would have a problem with a gay couple adopting her son, but she would pitch that we were doing alright by Mikey.
It took three days for us to find out if Mikey was going to get a brother. In the meantime, we suddenly realized we were talking about bringing in a child who was less than 100 hours old. I broke out our old copy of What To Expect When You’re Expecting: The First Year and the other books foster care gave us when, before Mikey, we had a four-month-old in our house for a month. That baby, who learned to sit up on his own while he was with us, I suddenly realized was a giant specimen compared to this five pound, eight ounce little fellow we had said yes to.
We didn’t tell Mikey about his baby brother until we were sure, and, as it turned out, that was a smart move. We were let down, bit by bit. First, we heard that the mother had another son adopted by another family, and then we were told they were interested in adopting this new child as soon as they had certain medical issues answered. At that point, we realized that the only way we were getting this child was if there was something wrong with him that the other family couldn’t ignore. And we also realized that this family by virtue of having the brother would be forever our family in any case.
Finally, we were told that the family decided to take the baby. On reflection, it was truly the best way for everything to turn out for everyone – the biological brothers were together, and Mikey didn’t know that he missed getting a brother. We were disappointed and sad, not being able to have the first child we had said yes to since Mikey, but that passed.
And now we’re at the starting gate again.