Thursday, March 04, 2010

Adoption - Part Two

Reviewing this has given me an opportunity to recall how far into his teen years Ben was eccentric. My second son has moved from appearing brilliant but odd to appearing interesting and smart. I suspect there is something intentional about that. I don't think people who know him now could easily picture how fully self-contained he was before his brothers came. He had friends, he was liked, he could be social, but was as content being by himself as any child you every saw.

Ben was almost 17 while we were discussing adopting in two from Romania. We had asked him to think about what his opinion was on that, as he would be greatly affected as well. Three months later he announces, out of the blue, "About adopting those kids? I think we should do that." Nothing more. Okay, then. Thanks, son.

That would be completely out of character for him now, and being an older brother for a year before leaving for college may be a large part of why he is different. Not that the single year was the whole of it. He still gets called on for older-brother duty from time-to-time, and has good relationships with both the younger ones. He was ready for the change, and had become gradually less self-contained (or self-absorbed) since childhood. But having to be aware of what was happening with someone else was a tipping point. He stepped up incredibly as an older brother his senior year, and was indispensable for their development, but they were good for him, too.

And they have been good for us. We have become different people for having them. The change started before they even got here. From March to September 2000, while we considered whether to go forward with adopting a sibling group from the orphanage in Beius, we were often at a loss to know what we thought. I would stand on my porch some nights thinking Don't be ridiculous. You're just trying to show off what a good person you are. You're not really going to do this. Other nights I would think a year from now you're going to have two or three more kids. Of course you are.

Lots of folks tell you how wonderful you are for even considering it. That's very nice, of course, but it doesn't cover much territory when you are actually raising them. People might start considering adoption just to look righteous, but it won't carry you very far. Only your closest friends (or really arrogant people) dare to offer you advice, and that is often a caution flag. They love you, they don't want to see you hurt. This could turn out very badly.

It could. These kids have been through enormous trauma and might be violent. Might have attachment disorder. Might turn into drug addicts or rapists, and then how would you feel, bringing criminals to America? I think every sibling group but ours adopted from Casa Iosef has had at least one child with serious problems. Some very, very good parents have weathered that and turned out responsible adults. We were lucky. Ours weren't hard. But you have to be prepared that it might be bitter and heartbreaking.

We looked over the list of the kids at the orphanage, organised by sibling groups. REMM insisted, wisely, that families not be broken up any further. We looked at photographs and tried to reconstructed who each one was. When we had received the list, adoptions were not allowed - it was just a reference for short-termers going to Beius. Now we were furrowing our brows. Natalia is that one. Mihai is her brother. I remember him. Tracy knew from the start which ones were ours. I wanted to consider each group specifically, but she just couldn't see any of the others. I pointed out that she had always wanted a daughter. "I know boys." she said. When she went on the August mission trip, it was with scouting out the possibles in mind. I kept insisting she keep an open mind about the other children. She found she was constantly looking at Chris and John-Adrian - still called Cristi and Ionut then.

A month later, after six months dithering, we were suddenly told we had to get paperwork in within 36 hours if we wanted to adopt them. So we made the final decision in less than an hour, filled out the forms and went looking for an overnight mail open late at night. Then on to months of waiting, expense, and cursing INS.

Our two were among the last to get out of the country. We brought them to America May 25, 2001; adoptions closed June 30. Some families never got their children out. The doors did open again briefly a few years later, and the last two of the older children from that orphanage made it out. They had been best friends in Romania, and when adopted by brothers in Michigan, they became cousins.

Still lots of episodes to come.


Ben Wyman said...

I think my rougher, weirder edges were worn down by my subconscious rather than any conscious decisions I made. It's probably fortunate for me that they didn't know what was normal was for Americans when they arrived, or they would have found me truly odd.

GraniteDad said...

I think the boys helped, but Ben had made huge strides before that. As hard as Concord Christian was for him, it was also incredibly good for him socially. And having me leave for college helped a lot too...

The boys were amazingly transformative. It went from this small contained family of weird medieval-loving people, to a "4 rowdy boys" dynamic. And the odd thing is, it now feels like I always grew up with 3 brothers, not just the 2 weeks that all 4 of us lived together after I graduated.

GraniteDad said...

SI for Kids may have been the turning point for Ben.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

"this small contained family of weird medieval-loving people, to a "4 rowdy boys" dynamic."

You captured it exactly. And on examination, we moved to it so quickly because we all had pieces that were moving us in that direction. That was the dynamic you were living at college with your knuckleheaded friends, so that was a continuity rather than something new. Ben had learned in several venues - missions, math team, youth group, theater - to be a group leader and so was comfortable bringing co-leading freshman boys Bible study at our house, which brought in rowdy boys, notably Schillings. We had pretty much finished the medievalism and similar eccentricities, and Ben was moving from book-person to film-person, much more accessible for the two Romanians. Because of who J-A is, he easily segued into that rowdy boy niche in soccer and it solidified that personality at home. Chris sort of got dragged along, willing or no, but look who's in the USMC now. No new pieces, just a complete reassembly of the old ones.