We begged out of work, hopped in the car, and two hours later (traffic!) he met us at the door of his group home with the few possessions that weren't already at our house packed in plastic garbage bags and a huge grin on his face. We hopped around impatiently while they got his birth certificate and immunization records together - and then we drove home, ordered in Chinese, and (at his suggestion) carefully ironed all his t-shirts and jeans and hung them in his closet before heading to bed.
I thought it might go that way - that we'd tussle with this tangled bureaucracy until we thought our heads would explode, and then one day it would be over with a whisper. And it was. I mean, we still have to go through the process of finalizing the adoption, but that part seems minor compared to the task of getting foster licensed, finishing our home study and our mandated parenting classes, filing countless papers with the state and the county, and doing four-and-a-half months of consecutive weekend visits with T. while he got bounced from one temporary foster placement to another and we argued, begged and wheedled in order to get him permanently placed with us.
I really don't know how people stand to get licensed to foster/adopt if they aren't already attached to a particular child (we met T. and then learned we'd have to do all this in order to adopt him). I am ashamed to say I probably would have given up. If anyone ever says of adoption that it's "having kids the easy way" in my vicinity, I'll kill them.
I'm sort of without words to describe what it's like. I didn't know it was possible to love another person this much, in this way. I suppose any parent could have told me.
Last night, driving in the car, T. asked me for a sip from my water bottle. He rarely does that, because he's a neat-freak germaphobe. I gave him a sip and he turned sideways in his seat in the dark, the way he does when he has something important he wants to say and he wants to see my reaction. Then he said, "Thank you." Confused, I said, "For the water?" He said, "I mean, thank you for EVERYTHING." I smiled and said, "Oh, um, no problem!" He said, "Thanks for the water, too." And that was it. Five minutes later we were back to discussing curfews and his bike route to school.
He needn't have thanked me. There's nothing altruistic about adopting him - it's deeply satisfying and we enjoy life with him more than we enjoyed life without him. It's not about us doing something for him - it's about the three of us doing something together that seems kind of impossible, but we actually did it, and we're all kind of looking at each other now like, whoah, we did it! What now?
A side note: some friends asked if we had any preferences regarding adoption "etiquette". For anyone who finds themselves in similar situation, this post said it better than I ever could.