Thirteen years ago my husband and I walked into the county courthouse for a joyous occasion. We were about to become legal parents. Little did we know it wouldn’t be the last time we’d be there, and most of them wouldn’t be good.
We entered the courthouse happy and smiling, our son in his little suit, surrounded by family and our son’s social worker. It was a happy day, or so we thought. We thought it made a difference. We thought it made us a family. We thought wrong.
From the day our son entered our home and the day he foramlly joined our family, all he ever wanted was to return to his birth family. He wanted to be adopted in some sense. He knew he couldn’t continue to live with his birth family, and he didn’t want to bounce through foster care anymore, so we were a means to an end. Whether or not he consciously thought that at the time, I don’t know, but I do know he didn’t really want to be here.
We threw a huge party and had 70 people over to our house to celebrate. He loved it because he got lots of presents. At the time we didn’t realize how much harm we may have done by having this kind of party. We were excited, and we just assumed he was too. He never used his words to tell us differently.
Thirteen years later, it’s amazing to look back and see how many of those people are no longer a part of our lives; most of them family.
On the very same day, I became an aunt. I was already an aunt, but didn’t really know it at the time. My brother had a six-year-old daughter that he had never met, therefore I never met her either. So, on that day, I thought I was becoming an aunt for the first time. I am not allowed to be a part of this niece’s life and I’m not even sure she knows who I am, even though we all live in the same town, just a few miles apart.
It was about two months later that I met my first born niece for the first time and I have loved her since the moment I found out she was a part of our family, even though it would be a few weeks before we actually met her.
Through the years I have been back to the same courthouse numerous times. Only once was it a good thing. That was the day we adopted our daughter. We appeared in court for our son’s various crimes so many times that the judges knew me by name. Our county doesn’t have a juvenile justice judge. It rotates every six weeks, so the fact that the judges knew me tells you how often we were there.
I can’t feel excited about this day. It’s not one we acknowledge. For the first few years we tried to make it a celebration, but it became apparent that he could not handle it, and it wasn’t a day we wanted to celebrate, so it was a day that has passed without notice, or at least anything formal, for the past ten years.
It is a day that makes me sit back and wonder….Did I make a difference?