I am old enough to be her mother. Even so, we are the best of friends.
She is scary-smart and determined, this young friend of mine. She is still young enough to have the energy to fight the good fight with teachers, social workers, and anyone else who stands between what her children need and what society tries to give them. As an adoptive mother to two children herself, she is well versed in a range of topics when it comes to special education, medical interventions, race relations, and the flaws in the foster care system She is a formidable advocate and voice for children who are waiting for their “forever” families through adoption. She is fierce. Fierce.
And for as long as I’ve known her, I’ve been both in awe and terrified of her. Especially in November.
November is National Adoption Awareness Month.
In Minnesota alone, there are currently hundreds of children in foster care dreaming of families of their own. Hundreds. Let that sink in. One state with hundreds of children of all ages and races who are without permanent homes. Without parents to see them through the peaks and valleys of childhood, adolescence, and yes, even adulthood. Now, multiply that awful reality by the number of states in the United States of America. And then, try to imagine what it is like to be a child who has to navigate through life alone. What it’s like to imagine a lifetime of Christmas trees without a single ornament on it you’ve made yourself. What it must be like to live a temporary, and not permanent, existence through no fault of your own. How it feels to always be a guest in someone’s house and family and life. Imagine what it must be like to be good because you live in fear that showing a social worker or foster mother the dark and angry places in your heart will result in your being even less wanted, less loved. Less.
What if we spent more time as a society being outraged by this? What would it mean for all of us? What would it mean for the children?
A couple of decades of hard work and a parent either reaps the rewards or lives with the consequences of parenting decisions made during those years of active parenting. If we’re lucky, our kids still want something to do with us once we’ve aged out of the ‘hood and they bring us grandchildren to spoil as a peace offering for all the ways we messed up. Because we all do. That’s just parenting. It’s messy business.
That’s what I tell my fierce friend. I tell her I’m too old. That I’m waiting for the next stage of my life to begin. She implores me to consider one more. I hide from her and tell her that my family is raised. That we are at different stages of life, she and I. That I don’t have it in me to raise one more of anything much less something as important as a healthy human being.
But then, November rolls around and I am haunted by those hundreds of children. The ones who are older, or darker, or high need. The ones who wait for none of that to matter to someone who finally says to them, “You are mine and I am yours and this will never change.” My fierce friend is relentless. She tells me I could be that person to a child as she shoots down every excuse I have in my arsenal. She reminds me for the hundredth time what it means to change one life for the better. She reminds me that adoption does that.
I tell her that I know that as well as she does.
I know, because it changed mine.
Do you have room for one more?
For more information on Minnesota’s Waiting Children, go to http://www.mnadopt.org/waiting-kids/