“You can’t always get what you want. . . ” Mick Jagger’s voice echoes in my head. I have paced around a lot this year, shaking my head, not wanting it to be true, but I think it is true. I have to face the fact that I am not going to parent any more children.
I don’t want to be pregnant again. I don’t want any more babies, or toddlers, or preschoolers, or even young school-aged children. My dream was to adopt teenagers. Yes, with an “s” at the end. More than one. A sibling set.
A dear friend of mine did this when her eldest son (of three children) went off to college. She had a deep sense that she wasn’t done yet, that she had more parenting in her. It was a very strong feeling. Her husband did not share her level of enthusiasm, but he was willing to go along and “take a look” at what this might mean. The minute he started turning the pages of the Big Book of children who needed homes, his heart split open. They adopted two girls, ten- and twelve-year-old siblings. That was five years ago and I have watched the bonding and growing together of their expanded family. “You can do this too!” my friend encourages, and I nod, wistfully.
I have always believed that one day I would adopt. I was adopted myself, and I felt that I would have a special empathy, a solidarity with an adopted child. I would understand. Many years ago my husband and I started down that path. We went to information sessions at a local agency, prepared all of our documents, asked our friends for letters of support, scheduled our homestudy. . . and then I got pregnant with my older daughter. Well, we thought, we’ll do it later. Three years passed and I started thinking about it again. Then my second daughter made her appearance. Our family was consumed by the day-to-day pandemonium of life with an infant and preschooler. The dream faded.
Our girls grew up. They have had lives of utter abundance, a stable, loving home, and more material comforts than are probably healthy. Private schools, enrichment of every kind, summer camp and trips to Latin America and Asia. In other words — Everything. Our older daughter left for college at the end of summer, and for the past year, the old dream has been calling to me.
I’ve pored through the Big Book. I’ve looked at those photos and profiles online, again and again. I type into the space for number of siblings: TWO. Because I wouldn’t want them to feel alone, the only adopted child in the family. Because sibling groups, and especially older sibling groups, are considered “special needs” because they are so much harder to place than solo children.
Every time I do a search, the same two pairs of sisters pop up. Each pair has a fourteen-year-old and a fifteen-year-old, the same age as my younger girl. (“See, we wouldn’t be parenting longer than we are now. . . just wider!”) These girls have been in the active photolistings for over a year now. Families are not clamoring to take them in. They are too old. There are too many of them. That is their downfall.
I regularly read blogs written by foster parents and those who adopt older children. I know that it is not a walk in the park. I know that it is not all a lovely dream. But it is providing a home, and stability, and love and the chance for them to be together (one of these sister-groups is separated because nobody has come forward to take them together).
Our family has been among the world’s most fortunate, in so many ways. I feel that I have more to give. We have room. We have resources. We have love. We are not perfect. But what family is?
I am, however, the only one of the five of us who feels this way. When I bring it up at the dinner table, my family looks at me as if I were crazy. They make faces. They laugh, as if I were making a joke. Then they make a joke, and the conversation breaks into hilarious laughter, everyone laughing but me. My older daughter said, “I will give you my room when I go to college, and you can fill it with dozens of babies! As many as you can fit!” But I do not want babies. Everyone wants babies. Parents are clamoring and climbing over themselves for babies.
I don’t want to start again with small children. I want to give older children who want a family a chance to have a family. I don’t want them to “age out” and to have given up on what we have had. I want to go to their high school graduations.
But the message appears to be clear. My husband says he is “too old.” My mother says, “If you do that, I’m moving out.” I feel hurt. Didn’t she once have an adoption dream, too? My older daughter shrugs and says, “I don’t live there anymore, I don’t care.” My younger shrugs and says, “I don’t know.”
I can’t do it alone. It would be emotionally and logistically impossible. It would be unfair to these children to not be unequivocally wanted.
But the adopted child in me is bewildered and hurt. She says, What is wrong with opening a home to children who were born to others? Who have nowhere else to go? Who have been waiting for years? Why is that a bad idea? Because rejecting the idea of adoption feels like rejecting me, of slamming the door in my face. What if my parents had said no, she’s too small, she’s too sickly, she’s not Japanese enough? They didn’t. But now my mother is saying no to more grandchildren. My husband and daughters are shaking their heads and trying to jolly me out of my crazy ideas.
I’ve said everything I can. I’ve tried to convince them in every way I know, and it always comes back, even laughingly, even lovingly, as no. Every day, I try to force my fingers away from typing the website address of the photolistings, to see if the girls are still there. They are.