He did six months of weekend visits at our house and spent every minute with us. (Because of our age - relatively young to have a teenager - and the fact that we've only lived here two years, we don't know any families with kids his age, so we couldn't offer him social contacts and he didn't seem eager to seek them out.) Then he moved in and it's been four months of slow acclimation since. Occasionally he's gone to hang out at a fast food restaurant with someone from school, but he hasn't really made friends or gone out at night except when we take him to see friends in the suburb where he used to live, an hour from here.
And then tonight, suddenly he walks in here with two baby-faced boys at least one of whom is so clearly adored by his mommy that he loves mommies of all sorts. The boys are all sixteen, but due to his height and slightly world-weary air, T. appears about ten years older than the others. Seeing him with his friends, I was surprised how young they all appear!
I dragged T. in his bedroom and gave him a quick rundown of the rules. No drugs. No drinking. If the party gets loud or crazy or someone starts beefing with someone else, go out a back door and text me and I'll pick you up no questions asked. He rolled his eyes and patted me on the head, but he acknowledged. He also said, "What kind of people do you know? I'm not going to any party that's crazy like that." Yeah he just doesn't know yet, I thought to myself.
The boys were quiet and polite and beelined it for the video games while they were here. They hit the x box, the computer, the refrigerator (consuming nearly a gallon of juice in less than a minute) and had an ogle at T.'s pet lizard before rolling out the door to continue their evening. Before they slipped out, I told T. his curfew is midnight and we'll be there on the corner to pick him up and I asked his friends if I could offer them a ride home too. "My mom is picking me up," his friends chorused in unison. Cute.
I think in some ways, T. held back from socializing until now, because he didn't want to blow it. He's been an avid if covert socializer in previous foster homes and he hasn't always made good choices. He also wanted a lot of time with us - to bond, yes, but also to check things out, see what's out there in the world with us at his beck and call in case he felt overwhelmed and needed to reverse course (he has what I might summarize as PTSD).
I also expected he might delay bringing friends home because we're white, so any friends who come over are gonna know he's not with his bio parents. Over the months, I've broached this subject with him a few times - I've offered to support any story he'd like to tell about our coming together, and offered him the example of the way I explain "chosen family". But he's straightforward by nature and he kind of shrugged me off and told me he'd already explained to his friends that we're white. I've heard him proudly refer to us as his "adoptive parents" in phone conversations, and he's not been shy about introducing us to old friends. I think our whiteness is a little geeky, but T. is also very chuffed that he set out to find adoptive parents and succeeded, so the embarrassment is offset by his pride in being self-determined.
I feel so old! I'm somebody's parent and it's Saturday night and I'm sitting here twiddling my thumbs and waiting to pick him up. I'm nervous and of two minds about letting him go, but I know that part of adopting a teenager is accepting that bonding and differentiating all happen simultaneously in one big whirl. Mostly I'm happy to see him happy, to see him in the company of people who like him, experimenting with a reasonable degree of freedom that makes him feel like a "normal" teen.