Saturday, September 26, 2009

Racism is Weird

I didn't really fully perceive myself as white, and all of the consequences and privileges that pertain to my "whiteness" until we started this adoption process with T.

I was brought up with the strong influence of my Irish American grandmother, who always reminded us of how the Irish were racialized when we came to this country. (When I was teaching, I used to use cartoons like these to make that point). She would talk about graduating college only to find every job listing specified "Irish Need Not Apply" and how, as a result, she had to go all the way to Puerto Rico to find work to get through the Depression.

She lovingly called me "The Moor" because of my woolly dark hair - it took me until I reached college to understand that she meant that I looked like the so-called " Black" Irish, descended from north African settlers according to early Celtic history. I don't mean that I grew up with a Black identity in any way - I definitely did not, and I enjoyed all the privileges of "whiteness" growing up. But my point is that my grandmother was so intent on conveying the history of Irish liberation and British oppression that I grew up thinking of myself as ethnically very specifically Irish. It made me uncomfortable to indicate "white" when asked to name my race, because I did not think of myself as white - I thought of myself as Irish-not-British.

College opened my eyes, and made me more sophisticated and aware of racism and oppression, and more attuned to matters of identity and social perception. I studied and later taught American political history. I took classes in African American history, read writing by African American authors, and when I grew older, sought out integrated, diverse neighborhoods, which wasn't hard to do because I've always lived in big cities.

But of course I didn't really experience racism on a visceral or personal level until now. Until our landlord insisted that we need to reassure them before they'll drop their opposition to T. moving in. Until I visited stores with my about-to-be-adopted child where he is followed like a shoplifter. Until a close friend suddenly wouldn't allow her child to hang out with us anymore.

To be clear: I don't feel sorry for myself or for us in all this. It's fascinating, horrifying, confusing, and eye-opening, and I wouldn't turn back for a minute. I know Tim and I are changing, in ways beyond our control, in ways that will make us better parents to T. We are no longer a white couple. We are an emerging biracial family now. Tim is down at the Fair Housing office this morning seeking legal counsel about our right to adopt T. without losing our lease. That's not a problem we ever considered before.

We feel a new bond with African American parents. In our DCFS mandated pre-adoption parenting classes, we talk with African American parents about how to teach your children to deal with racial profiling by the police; how to help them with racial harassment at school, and how to combat the culture of low expectations so we can make sure our kids get proper academic and college counseling.

We didn't set out to adopt an African American child. We set out to adopt an older child out of foster care, and we connected with T. (and he with us) in a very natural way. We knew the race issue would introduce a host of new considerations, and that it would be incumbent on us to support and promote his connections to African American community and his African American identity, and we felt comfortable doing that.

But there were things I didn't understand then that I do now. This will sound hopelessly naive, but in the interest of being candid, I'll share it anyway: one of the greatest revelations for me is that the worst most virulent racism often isn't overt. Sometimes you just get a really strange feeling - an old friend isn't acting the same, you're not invited to visit anymore, or an extended relative keeps telling you that they "hope everything turns out okay" with an unusual implication of danger. And then, after struggling to figure out what's going on (beyond the usual skepticism about adopting older foster kids, which is already intense!), it hits you. Your kid is Black, and they don't like that. It's. So. Weird. I'm coming to recognize that racism is a very loud, unspoken subtext in an awful lot of conversations.

I wouldn't change a thing about the process we're going through with T. But if another parent were adopting an older African American child, I'd tell them to get ready for the utter weirdness of other people's racism. And I'd say you need to really know yourself and feel prepared to become a biracial family with all of the attending complexities.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Racist Fly in the Ointment

And the latest is....the landlords (we're in a duplex and they live in the unit beneath us) are consulting an attorney and won't accept T. moving in.

We wrote an innocuous message letting them know that we know this young man very well and that he'll be coming to live with us, probably in January. And they responded that there are "complexities" that we may not be aware of, that they need to know if he'll be living with us after the age of 18 (whatever that has to do with it - if we were having a baby, would they ask if the baby might live with us after it turns 18?), and that they'll be consulting their attorney and getting back to us.

They've met T. on the street during his weekends at our house. I just introduced him then as a friend, because we were getting to know each other and it was early days and I didn't want to put him on the spot. In our letter to the landlords, we didn't refer to T. as a "foster child" - we just said that he's a young man we know very well, and that for various reasons he can't stay with his family, and we'd like him to come and live with us. We didn't mention adoption, because he is likely to move in before we manage to adopt him, you never know how things are going to go, and anyway, it didn't seem like they needed that information.

I am certain race has something (everything?) to do with this. If I told them we were adopting a baby, would they say they needed more information and consult an attorney? If your first child is a tall African American teenage boy, it's a different world.

I am certain there are laws that protect the rights of adoptive parents in situations like this one and that prohibit racist discrimination on the part of landlords. I was just really hopeful it wouldn't come to a legal dispute. Guess not.

I am so tired of the paperwork and bureaucracy, which have been dragging on for months, and this just feels like the last straw. We're so committed to T., we'd move if we had to in order to adopt him. But I really, really, really hope that isn't necessary. Besides the upheaval, it would delay our home licensing for foster/adopt, because we'd have to start over with the state. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

Monday, September 21, 2009


After this weekend, I must highly recommend teaching a kid to drive for its value as a bonding experience! Now nearing the two month mark in our weekend custody of T., with the prospect of full-time pre-adoptive placement two months from now looking nearly certain (knock on wood), we're teaching him to drive. There's nothing like putting our lives (and his) completely in his hands to demonstrate trust and commitment.

There are a million things missing from the lives of older kids who've spent an extended time in foster care, including obvious things like love, security, and the identity that comes from being with your family. But what I didn't know and have learned is that there are other comparatively small but nevertheless very significant things missing - including someone to teach you to drive.

It turns out many teenagers in foster care don't learn to drive, because nobody wants to pay for the classes nor entrust them with the responsibility of driving. And as a result, many "age out" of foster care not knowing how. When we met T. he was just coming up on 15-and-a-half. I asked him if he was learning to drive, and he just said no. When we asked him if he'd like to learn, he looked hopeful but not completely convinced that we were serious.

Pursuing his permit was like the adoption process in miniature - tedious paperwork and permissions complicated by his unique legal guardianship situation, and a series of delays, negotiations and logistical challenges exacerbated by the fact that we share him with his weekday foster mom. He had to trust that we'd stick with it and eventually get him behind the wheel, and finally we did.

As we ran out of the house to take his photo on Sunday while he posed with his driving instructor, we felt just like parents. The instructor was momentarily struck by the obvious physical difference between us (since we are remarkably pale compared to T.) but he recovered gracefully and addressed me politely as the parent. T. was beaming. Actually, he was doing something he does when he's really happy - he bursts out in a big smile, then gets embarrassed and overwhelmed, looks down at his toes and tries to gather himself together. Then he looks up and starts to smile uncontrollably again, then he looks down at his toes. In the process, he loses his ability to speak. It's an amazing cycle to observe. Of all the emotions in life, he seems most surprised and overwhelmed by happiness.

Driving together - as we did later - had a similar effect to snorkeling; shared physical risk, especially in a situation where we are giving gentle instructions, seems to produce a deep connection. He often checks my face when he makes a mistake - a quick furtive glance that is obviously a habit acquired from growing up with people who lose their temper easily. When he's driving, he has to look at the road, and trust our voices, allow himself to make mistakes, and take total responsibility for our safety. It's profound and metaphorical.

He tells us now about all the places he's going to drive us. I think it can be overwhelming to him to imagine his future - because of his history, he rarely speaks of anything other than the recent past. He's never had any control over what lay ahead. But driving seems to give him a giddy sense of possibility and self-determination within manageable emotional parameters. So now we have a series of road trips planned. Added bonus: being in the car together really gets him in a confessional state of mind, and we learn the most astonishing things about him! But that's a topic for another day.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Whoops on Religion

So for months we've been puzzling over how to deal with the matter of religion as we integrate 15-year old T. into our lives. We know he's been going to church intermittently throughout his years in foster care, and that he identifies himself as a church-goer. He calls his one dress outfit "church clothes." Last weekend at the fair, he chose a symbol of hands folded in prayer for a temporary tattoo, and we started to think we better hop on this religion thing. But he can't tell us what denomination he is (he doesn't know)- we guessed he's been attending Baptist or Methodist churches. And we're lapsed Catholics. So it took some thinking.

The Catholic churches in Los Angeles tend to be heavily Latino and Filipino, and we wanted to make sure that T. felt comfortable in a congregation that included a lot of other African American faces. So after some back-and-forth, we settled on a Catholic Church with an African pastor and a predominantly African-American but also racially diverse congregation, in an historic African American neighborhood called Leimert Park. It seemed like a great cultural conglomeration of things that might be familiar to T. and things that are familiar to us.

So this morning we got all dressed up in our church clothes and set off for mass. The sermon was great - a rollicking reminder that it doesn't matter how devout you are if you don't serve those in your community and show care and compassion to the people you interact with daily - especially those from whom you have nothing to gain. I love that message and it's the thing I miss most about the practice of Catholicism. The fact that the sermon was delivered in an elegant African accent, by a pastor who used a wireless microphone and walked amid the congregation, engaging each person individually just made it better.

At communion time, I tapped T. on the shoulder. "Do you go to communion?" I whispered. "Yeah," he nodded, without hesitation. Okay, so we all headed up the aisle together. No matter that I probably haven't been to communion in 15 years. We were making a good show of it. We joined all the other families, took our communion wafer, and returned to our pew. I even knelt down to pray, as I was taught to do after communion. I was feeling pretty good, like "Hey, we can do this!" It felt like a nice family thing to do on Sundays.

Just then, T. tapped Tim on the shoulder. "What do I do with this?" he whispered and held out his hand, with the communion wafer sitting there in all its starchy glory. "Eat it!" Tim gasped. We were brought up to believe that the wafer must be bodily defended at all costs and a consecrated wafer on the floor is a spiritual five-alarm fire. Although our faith has wavered, the training lingers on a sort of molecular level. T. dutifully popped it in his mouth, and Tim nearly exploded with suppressed giggles.

After we left, T. told us he'd never been to communion before. We asked him to describe his church service. He told us they didn't pray that much, just read something from the Bible, sat around in a circle and got oil on their foreheads. We're guessing Southern Baptist. After some intensive internet research, I found a blog that says "Less than 20% of Southern Baptist churches have communion more frequently than four to five times a year. Christmas. Easter. There's no excuse to small to discourage Baptists from having communion." I wish I'd figured that out before we went to church today! It was so funny, we had to make up an excuse to do a chore out in the garage just so we could laugh at ourselves out of T.'s earshot.

Adopting a 15 year old is an endless source of hilarity. You can't really take anything for granted, and nearly everything is up for negotiation. What works best for us is democracy - we vote constantly, on things like where to go for dinner, how to spend vacation time, and what movies to watch. T. caught on to family democracy very quickly and he really enjoys it. Resolving things by voting has taught him to voice opinions, which is a critical step for a kid who tended to be excessively compliant as older foster kids sometimes are, having adapted to numerous homes and authority figures over the course of their itinerant lives. But on the matter of religion, we thought perhaps he was too young to help pick a church and that it might be best if we just aimed for what seemed like a cultural middle ground. And that's how we ended up toting the communion wafer back to our seats today. Whoops!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Talking Transracial Adoption

So tonight in our county-mandated 6 week parenting class, our teacher put us on the spot by asking us to comment on a hypothetical case situation involving a white couple who were fostering an African American boy. The case study specified that they lived in an all-white working class neighborhood, and that the boy told them he had experienced some racism at school, but that he expressed no emotion about it.

So the teacher asked us to share our "situation" with the class - by which she meant that we're adopting an African American boy - and to suggest some suggestions for what the couple should do, based on what we do with T. to help bridge the cultural divide.

Now, the thing to know is that the class is 22 people, and only four of us are not African American. In other words, we were asked to account for ourselves to a room full of African American people. Moreoever, we are the only ones adopting - everyone else is training to be a foster parent. That matters because it means we're in it for one particular boy whom we already know, while the rest are in it as a potential way of life, one they understand entirely through hypotheticals.

Race is an issue we've thought about and talked about a lot, and one we've studied through various books and blogs. The teacher was encouraging and generally excited about our "situation" - but not everyone in the class felt the same. In fact, one woman shook her head in anger while we explained ourselves. Two others whispered in disapproval. Two more looked surprised and touched. Another was moved to pipe up with her own totally unrelated story about being a recovering drug addict and I'm still not sure what the connection was.

I sort of babbled nervously for a few minutes - I explained that I feel the burden is on us to keep T. connected to the African American community, to take him places where he will be surrounded by other African American people, and to bring up race and racism as topics of conversation so he'll get comfortable talking about them openly with us. Tim explained that we deliberately live in an integrated neighborhood, and that we do small things, like take T. to the local Black barbershop and so on. I explained that I got T. enrolled in an African American teen leadership workshop and took him to an African American college prep program run by the organization 100 Black Men. I also said that I sense that T. isn't really too worried about losing his connections to the Black community, and sometimes thinks I'm trying too hard - but I'd rather err on the side of effort than fail to provide him with opportunities and assurances that his identity as an African American young man is important.

It was kind of a nightmare. There is no right thing to say in such a situation, particularly because the people in the class span generations. Some were raised before the civil rights movement. Others grew up in multiracial Los Angeles. Some are from all-black communities. Others live and work in integrated communities. So it was impossible to anticipate and address everyone's perspective. In fact, I wondered if that was why the teacher asked us to comment - because she thinks we might as well get some practice at accepting the general impossibility of ever successfully laying this issue to rest.

Transracial adoption is a topic about which it seems everyone has an opinion. I don't have any answers, most of all because I recognize the underlying concerns that lead some African American people to feel that white families shouldn't be raising their babies. It makes sense that they fear that we may not be able to help T. develop a positive cultural identity, or that we may not be attuned to the influence of racism in his life. I understand enough to feel compassionately about their mistrust of white people and our qualifications to interfere in their community.

On the other hand, I know the foster system is full of African American boys who have little hope of ever finding a permanent family, Black or white, because of negative stereotypes about young Black men. I know there aren't nearly enough Black adoptive families to provide permanent homes for these children. And I know that while the community aided by the county tries to identify and train more Black foster and adoptive families, boys like T. are growing older every day without parents. He won't stay a child while we sort this out. He needs permanent parents right now, and so far we're the only volunteers.

I also know that T. has had a say in selecting us, and that he tells his social workers in rather practical terms that our whiteness isn't a problem for him. I know that he refers to us as "my people" when he talks to his friends. And I know that there are many ways to be a family, and many ways to make sense of differences within the family - that we might not look like a traditional biological family, but we can commit to each other, perhaps even more deeply than some biological families, because we recognize that the conscious commitment to one another is all that brought us together. Everything else is something we learn for sake of one another.

I even think there are certain fringe benefits to transracial adoption. For example, Tim and I get to participate peripherally in the African American community in a new way. I truly enjoy getting to know more Black people, and seeing through T's other relationships how rich and warm and tight-knit the community can be. And in terms of potential benefits for T., he may benefit from having a positive, loving relationship with white folks, which I hope will help him be comfortable and confident in his inevitable interactions with white people later in life.

I also think transracial famlies can be good for the community. The three of us challenge racial stereotypes every time we go out together. In our first weeks with T., I was surprised by the fact that EVERY time we visit a cafe or an ice cream shop together, someone behind the counter asks in surprise "Are you together?" I can't help but think that every time I smile and say "Oh yes! The three of us are together!" and every time we look obviously loving toward T. in public, we expand someone's world view just a little bit. I get uncomfortable with the scrutiny - I'm shy and private, and I'm not comfortable with people staring at me. But after a few weeks I realized that most of the time, there isn't any malice in it - it's just curiosity, and an opportunity to educate. People see us talking and laughing and it might make them a little less likely to make assumptions based on stereotypes next time they encounter an African American teenage boy.

But sometimes, like tonight, I feel a little bruised by the constant discussion about race that infuses our adoption experience. It is hard enough to navigate people's feelings about older child adoption - which is so unusual that most people just respond with outright shock when we tell them we're adopting a 15 year old - before you even get to the transracial issue. It's impossible not to feel judged and there's absolutely no way to measure up. We're a tiny, fragile equation of three people coming together, and we can't represent all white people to the world, nor carry the burden for the entire history of racial oppression in this country.

I wanted to say tonight, if you really want to help, invite us to your family picnic. If you think we're not good enough, and that T. needs more African American role models, please light the way. Help us throw a football with T. in the park. Invite us to community events, so we can bring T. into the company of healthy Black families like yours. Raising a teenager isn't something you do alone at home in private. It happens out in the world. And we could spare the anger and use the help sometimes. I'd be quite grateful to accept it.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Teen angst

A three day weekend and we feel like real parents now. This weekend, we navigated a marathon talk initiated by T. regarding the triumvirate of teen issues: sex, drugs and violence.
Our main reaction throughout was: how lucky are we that he just ASKED us for our opinion about this stuff? In a very sweet and open way.

We're not sure what gave, but on a long car ride home after a day trip to go kayaking and snorkeling, he just got super chatty. (The snorkeling was the sweetest thing ever, with T. grabbing my arm to point out all the fish he saw and exclaiming through his snorkel, with his big eyes behind the mask.) The subsequent chat was all very sweet - questions like "Would you think I was a bad person if I once tried x...?" Open invitation to parent.

We found out pretty much everything we might have wanted to know and then some, and got to deliver our main (and thankfully, rehearsed) message: ground rules are to stay safe, keep in touch with us, and make smart choices. The rules are deliberately open to interpretation, in order to invite discussion and leave room for us to negotiate situations as they arise.

We also said that on drugs, our position is that any one of cocaine, meth, heroin and excessive alcohol will rip a hole in your life and are highly addictive and to be avoided at all costs. On marijuana - about which he was very curious and really knew his stuff - we told him honestly that we believe it should be legal, but that, given that we live in a world where it is illegal, it's best not to smoke pot lest you attract attention from school authorities and/or the police that might interrupt your ability to achieve your dreams.

On sex, since he asked, we reviewed our basic philosophy: try to wait until you feel ready for the responsibility, make sure you like your partner a lot, because the wrong relationship can mess up your life, and we asked him what he thought came next. "Use protection" Yes, right answer! "When?" we said. "Every time." Yes! He got congrats for knowing the answer. And extra credit for being so shy and polite in inquiring about our opinion on the issue - no euphemism or crude slang or know-it-all attitude.

And we got to say the most important thing of all, which was that we are not going to give him up if and when he makes mistakes or does things we don't agree with. That was clearly what he was trying to find out with all his questions. We said "Nothing will ever make us change our mind about you. You may make choices we think don't keep you safe and support your goals, and then we will give you guidance. But you have a special light inside you that shines out and lets us know that you're a person who has a lot of good to offer the world and nothing will ever make us think you're bad inside." He nodded so vigorously at that, with his big sweet smile and said he thinks he has good self-esteem. It's impossible to describe the relief and affection and happiness that were beaming out from the backseat by that point.

We also talked about some experiences he had with his past foster mom, and it gave us a chance to find out all kinds of things, about his closest friends, and what they mean to him, and what their issues are. We could hardly stop him from talking. He had a long list of minor infractions he wanted to let us in on, like a Catholic who has been waiting a decade to go to confession, and, finding himself with a friendly forgiving priest, offers up every last thing he can think of. We heard a touching story about how he hit a kid in school last year, because the kid called his mama "the b word." Touching, because he doesn't even know his mama very well, and because we know he was subsequently suspended from school, then booted from his foster home because of the fight. We even got a long story about a fistfight he was THINKING about having several years ago in elementary school; the fight never actually materialized, but he wanted us to know that he would have fought the kid, and maybe even holds a grudge against him still. He practically had the hysterical giggles by this point, brought on by all the full disclosure.

Later that night he arranged for us to pick up his old best friend from a former foster home and go to the county fair. When we got there the next day at the appointed time, the friend didn't appear. T. was visibly heartbroken and spent half an hour trying to track him down. It turns out the friend's mom doesn't like T. because she perceives that he's a bad influence and so probably sabotaged the plan. It was terrible to see him so crestfallen. In the time-honored tradition of parents rendered helpless by teen social complexity, we threw money at the problem, buying him a temporary tattoo, a ride on the mechanical bull, and an ice cream until finally he connected with some secondary friends. They went off for awhile, but T. used the cell phone we lent him to keep in touch throughout, and even called us once and let me come over and meet them. One of the girls was quite rude and visibly shocked that I'm white, but I ignored that casually, chatted for a minute, and then waved and said good bye. He seemed immune to the attitude and at ease talking with me in front of his friends.

We rejoined T. later and he was somewhat consoled, having won a giant stuffed dog and bought a few trinkets for himself. We'll see what happens next weekend. He's supposed to have another friend over to our house for a visit, but I think his confidence about these old friendships is shaken.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Sweetest Thing

T. just called me on the telephone and chatted for twenty minutes! This is the kid who is supposedly so withdrawn. Well, he was quite chatty and effusive on the phone! I was going to write my blog post today about the report we got from DCFS about how he came into the system - which is a harrowing and prolonged tale of abuse, neglect and confusion. But T. picking up the phone at 10:00 at night to call and tell me about his successes this week is the big event!

He is so cute - he begins quite formally, with his excellent manners, inquiring of my well-being. I said, well, I'm very well thank you, and I got an email today that you finished the online driver's test I registered you for just last weekend! He was so happy - he interrupted with enthusiasm to say yes, he got 87% on the test. And we went through the next steps together and the list of things we need to go to the DMV. He told me he talked to his social worker and she told him he may qualify to get his permit for a reduced fee. I said, oh don't worry about that. I am quite happy to pay it. It's an important step toward your adulthood. (It's $28 we're talking about! This is not a kid who takes advantage of anything ever.)

Then we talked about when we might go to the DMV, which I thought I might be able to swing on an upcoming half day his school has scheduled in a couple weeks. "It's November now, right?" he said. I said, "Nope, it's September right now." He said "Oh! That's why I don't see my half day! I was looking at November!" I said, "If it were November, it would be Thanksgiving, and we'd be talking about our vacation." And he laughed happily.

Then he said, "Guess what I got on my geometry test this week?" I said, "An A?" And he said, "Yes! An A-plus!" Then he told me he got a "grade check" and thus far he's getting a 3.0 GPA this semester. And he wanted to tell me how he's getting a B+/A- so far in world history, which is his favorite class. And he told me that in his old school last year, he got a 3.5 GPA. I remembered that he told me a couple weeks ago he got a failing grade in algebra last year and I asked him about that. He explained that he was getting a 3.5 all year last year, until they moved him to a new foster home in a new district part way into the second semester, and the new school was several chapters ahead of his old school in algebra - they were on algebra 1a, while he's been studying algebra 1b and he couldn't catch up so he got a bad grade. Now who's fault is that?!

I said, "Well this is just great. You are very smart and I'm happy to hear it's showing." Then he said, "Yeah. The other kids don't realize how smart I am because I'm so funny. So they just think I'm funny." And I said, "Yes, you're quiet too. So you're the sneaky kind of smart - the kind of guy that people suddenly notice and think, where did this intelligent guy come from?" He laughed about that, and we chatted about a college prep program that has an orientation coming up in our area that I thought he might enjoy attending.

I asked him too how his world history class report went this week. He said, "It's due tomorrow!" I said, "Is it done?" And he said, "Yes! I did it all myself even though it was supposed to be a group report. The other girl just bought the poster board, but I did all the work." I said, "I thought that was going to happen! You told me last week that you were doing the research and I could see how that was going to turn out." He said, "Yeah, sometimes you got to do it yourself so it gets done right." I said, "Yes, it's a burden when you're the smart one! You can't help that you're so smart - you were born with that!" He said, "Yeah!" in a hearty way. He was born with so much talent and potential, and so much of the focus has been on what he was born without, because he ended up in the foster system that reminds him all the time of his misfortunes. I think for that reason he loved the idea that he arrived in this world with something good to his name.

I also told him a little bit about our parenting class tonight - that we did some group work, and Tim and I had to give a lot of the answers - an imperfect balance, just like his world history project. He told me that the adoption worker came to visit him this week, and we talked about her upcoming trip to Hawaii and the fact that she's starting our home study when she gets back. Then we chatted about the weekend: UCLA game on Saturday, a kayaking trip to an island off the coast on Sunday. I explained the long boat ride we'll be taking, having in mind that he's never been outside of Los Angeles before. We talked about how to fill the time we had set aside for his driver's education training, now complete and I suggested we take him back to the farmer's market where we had a terrible meal together on our first weekend visit at our house, and try to rectify that by trying the catfish stand instead of the taco place we originally took him to. I told him of this catfish stand last weekend, and he ribbed me "You knew about that catfish? And you took me for those terrible tacos instead?" I thought about it later and realized that none of his social workers would believe me if I said that he jokes and teases me, this kid they thought was so withdrawn and serious. I said we'd vote later about what to do together with the rest of our time, using our recently-devised "rock/paper" three-way democratic decision-making, saying "After all, we're a democracy!" to which he replied "Like Obama!"

We hung up after I offered that I'd come a little early on Saturday so we could get his foster guardian to sign his DMV application. "You can sign it?" he suggested hopefully. I explained that she is his legal guardian right now so we're going to need her signature, but that I'll make sure to leave him with the fee, the paperwork and all the information he needs to take the test.

Wow. It was the sweetest thing ever. It's mind-boggling to negotiate an adoption with a near-adult like this. I wonder if he has ever had people that he shared this kind of good news with, who cared only about him. Sometimes I am filled with awe at all the sweetness inside him - like during the tough times, he took all of his gifts and tucked them away in some kind of internal deep freeze and just saved them for later, and now he's laid them out to thaw right in front of us, pure and intact. Amazing.
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