A Question Asked
The adoption agency we were using closed in February. This shook us — momentarily. To be honest, the shock passed quickly… quickly… almost too quickly, perhaps. This agency was supposed to be the path to our family. We had entrusted its adoption coordinators and advisors with our dreams. Then one day it ceased to be. Its death was completely unexpected, like that of a colleague whose health you had always thought to be superb, someone you had literally talked to the day before. This apparent health, it was a fragile veneer that belied a morbid financial state. The agency was there one day, and then it was gone. We didn’t grieve its loss. A lot of their clients (people like us) did; we didn’t. Did we need to grieve? Our dreams of children, although given to to the agency in trust, weren’t buried with them. They’re with us still when we sleep, they follow us about during the light of day, they stare over my shoulder right this moment and watch as I click and thump clumsily along this keyboard. They are vibrant, they are strong, and they grow brighter with each passing moment. They are the unstoppable force; they are tired of being locked up in our minds; they will not be denied their rightful place in our world of concrete and trees.
So we did not grieve. We sat instead and talked, and we thought about our path forward. We spoke to lawyers, to other agencies, to friends — to anyone that could provide advice or give an informed opinion. We came to realize that we are not limited to a single path to parenthood. In fact, pursuing a single option might not have been wise. So we decided that since there are many routes that could lead to a family, we would travel down as many of them as we possibly could. One of these paths is becoming a foster parent, and we’ll write about this process another day, perhaps. Our experience with the agency hasn’t discouraged us from seeking an open adoption, though — on the contrary, its death strengthened our commitment a hundred times over. But the fostering journey has been rewarding. The classes we are required to take in order to become foster parents have helped us, and we have begun thinking about parenting in new ways. Here is an example worth noting:
On the application, we were asked a question that no one had ever asked before. It was an obvious question, really. Then again, obvious questions tend to be obvious only after someone gives a voice to them. But until their sounds hit the air, they lie neglected. The question on the application simply asked, “What will you bring to the life of a child?”
It’s one of those questions that seem simple, and answers flood the head easily. “Love” immediately comes to mind, as does “stability”, and “guidance” — even “discipline” serves as an acceptable answer.
The funny thing about simple questions is that their answers are usually far from simple. This question in particular wanted something deeper. It didn’t want to give a parroted response thrown out as a reflex. It wanted to know how I could possibly be special. It wanted to know what I possessed that maybe another parent didn’t — something in addition to love, or stability, or guidance, or even discipline. It wanted an answer that I couldn’t give because I couldn’t know it. I have never been a parent, and I have never had the disrespect to judge the capabilities of other parents. I was lost.
Until I got to thinking.
I was never a parent, but I was a child. I realized that the things I would bring to the life of a child would be the same things that were brought to me. So I thought back to my childhood and I remembered something important. At least, it was important to me.