How I Became a Parent
The Little Boy I Learned to Love
Me? A Foster Parent?
I have a confession to make. I did not think I wanted to be a parent. I didn't get married in order to have children. I was ten years old when my brother was born, and when I was two, my mother slipped a disk. When she came home form the hospital, she could not lift my brother for months. I had always helped Mom with Bob's care from the time he was born. But after Mom's accident, I was called upon to do a lot more. It took Mom a long time to heal and by the time Bob was of school age, I was kind of tired of caring for a toddler and a preschooler. It wasn't high on my list of things I wanted to do. I began to think there must be something wrong with me, since I seemed not to have much materal instinct.
When I got married in 1964, I took a semester break from school and then my husband and I both went on to grad school in Long Beach, California. I got a teaching credential, and taught for a few years -- first as a full-time teacher and then as a substitute when we decided to start a family. The problem was that the family didn't start according to plan. Unlike many who are in a marriage where there are fertility problems, I wasn't unhappy about it. My husband wanted children more than I did. I was almost relieved.
In 1972 I took another part-time job -- as a card buyer in a bookstore in Los Angeles. I loved my job and kept at it even after we moved farther north to Newbury Park in 1976. The commute was very long and not really worth it, so I took a more local job as a Hallmark store manager. It was not a good fit, and I was soon home again. I decided to enjoy being home and I began to work more on my garden.
Our home was in a cul-de-sac, and we were near the end of it. My next door neighbor had a couple of adopted children and she often had foster children, as well. So I was not really surprised that when I was working in my front flower bed near the curb, I should see a new face -- a four-year-old face, as it turned out. It came toward where I was working.
"What 'cha doin'?" said the stranger. As it happened, I was pulling weeds around some long-neglected flowers. I answered that I was pulling weeds. I asked his name. "Jason," he said. I asked if he lived next door and if he was a foster child. He said he was. And then he added that he had a sister who lived somewhere else and that his dad was in jail. Then he asked me more about what I was doing and we continued to talk about flowers and weeds, and he seemed quite interested. Little did I know that he would later become my child. .
What do you think? - Was Jason shy?
Do you think Jason was an introvert or an extrovert?
Jason and Sarah Before I Met Them
Jason became a regular visitor.
He came to see me almost every day.
Normally he would come by when I was outside working in the front yard. After over thirty years it's hard to remember all the conversations, but they were often pretty deep. He was a curious boy, always full of questions, and it was fun to answer them. He often talked about his sister and how he missed her. He said her name was Sarah. He didn't seem to know as much about his mother as he did about his father who was in jail.
My neighbor Joanetta and I began to share information about Jason. I learned his father was in jail for molesting Sarah, who was four years older than Jason. Sarah was in another foster home in a close-by city about half an hour away. Her foster sister was the same age and it was a good home. The children's mother had no longer been able pay the rent after her husband was gone, and when she was being evicted she took the children to the department of social services because she couldn't take care of them. She had evidently told them she would come get them when things got better.
I was beginning to look forward to Jason's visits, and he had learned that if I were not outside, he could ring the doorbell and be let in. Sometimes he neglected to tell Joanetta where he was going, and at those times she had to look for him, she made him go back home so that he would learn to ask before leaving. Unfortunately, this happened often and interrupted many a good conversation.
During this period, two things stand out in my mind. One was a discussion about my husband Kosta's slippers. He had neglected, as usual, to put them away and they were sitting by his chair in the family room one day when Jason came to call. Kosta had a long commute and wasn't around on work days until dinner time. I was busy in the kitchen and Jason saw the slippers by Kosta's chair in the adjoining room. He asked me why they were there. I replied that Kosta had not put them away. "Why doesn't he put his slippers away?" Jason asked?"
When he comes home, why don't you ask him?" I replied.
A while later, when dinner was about ready, Kosta got home and Jason was waiting for him. "Kosta, don't you really think you should put your slippers away?" he asked?
I don't remember Kosta's answer, but I was trying to stifle a laugh at Jason's very serious expression. It was almost as though he was a parent getting on a child's case. Sometimes he could act like an old man when he was four. But most of the time he was just a delightful little person and all boy.
Another evening I remember that I was preparing dinner when Jason rang the bell. I let him in and he joined me in the kitchen. He wasn't quite as high as the counter, and I was dicing bell peppers at the bread board. Always curious, he asked, "What's that?" I explained it was green pepper. "How does it taste?" he asked. So I gave him a taste. "That's good," he said, hinting another bite might be nice. That's when our game started. He would be a mouse, squeak, open his mouth, and I'd put something in it. What was amazing to me, though, was that he was four and liked raw bell pepper. I had been of the opinion children that age didn't like odd vegetables. The photo is of Jason on his first birthday, with Sarah, who must have been five. This picture had belonged to Sarah.
Helpful Books for Those Hoping to be Foster or Adoptive Parents - Sometimes we can learn from the experiences of others.
This book shares what has worked at Boys Town in foster parenting troubled children. I wish such a book had been available to us to help us through our early parenting years. It teaches strategies for solving the sort of problems every foster parent has to face -- from behavior to dealing with natural parents. It's full of practical tips.
Making Plans - Falling in Love
We Decide We Want to Adopt
Joanetta and I often walked together after our husbands got home from work. Sometimes we just talked in the yard. She was beginning to notice how often Jason came to visit. I'm not sure what Jason might have been telling her. But she finally told me that she was quite sure that Jason and Sarah would go up for adoption. According to Jason's social worker, the mother did not seem interested in getting the children back. She had remarried, and evidently the new husband didn't want to take in the children. The father was expected to remain in jail for some time.
Joanetta said the children were sort of lost in the system. She suggested we get a foster care license, since she could see that we were falling in love with Jason, and vice versa. She told us about the fost-adopt program that allowed children to be placed as foster children with foster parents who wanted to adopt them so that they would not need to be moved again for the adoption and everyone could get used to each other first. We decided to go for it. We went to classes on foster parenting and got our license. But we were told not to mention it to Jason.
Very soon after that, there was a gathering of the neighborhood children under the favorite climbing tree in our front yard. Jason was there, along with a couple of his foster siblings. They had come to tell me that Jason was going to be moved. Jason said, "I'm going to go away."
I was biting my tongue during the discussion among the children on where he might be going. Jason's foster brother TJ suggested Jason should move in with us. Jason sort of blushed and shrugged off the suggestion. My heart dropped. Maybe he wouldn't want to move in with us.
By this time Jason had had his fifth birthday and we had been invited to the party specifically so that we could meet Sarah in a non-threatening situation where she would not be aware that she might become our foster child. After this meeting, it was also arranged that we would take Sarah to the Santa Barbara zoo to get better acquainted with her.
This trip revealed that Sarah was very hard to get to know. She pretended to be a cat most of the day. She was probably afraid to be herself for fear we might not like her. She had told the social worker she wasn't sure she wanted to live with Jason again, but that turned out not to be quite true. In any case, the foster care changes were arranged.
Within a week, the social worker, Julie, told us she wanted Sarah to move in first, since she was the older one, and that would establish her place and give us time to settle in one child at a time. So Sarah moved in on a Thursday toward the end of August, a couple of weeks before school was to start. Jason was scheduled to move in a week later.
The way things turned out, though, was that they decided Jason could stay with us that first weekend Sarah was there, and then they just decided to leave him there, so we never got the week alone with Sarah. This was to have repercussions much later on.The picture was taken at Jason's fifth birthday party where we met Sarah. She is standing on the right, behind where Jason is sitting. She is shy, but still a watchful big sister.
In this book, a foster parent reveals how a particular group of children she was fostering almost tore her own home, where her own three children also lived, apart. We have seen this sort of thing happen to at least two sets of foster parents we have known. One had my son before I did. The other took in my daughter after she left us. I think those considering foster care should read books like this to have a more realistic idea of what foster parenting can be like. It helps to have one's eyes wide open before making this kind of commitment.
You Will Cry
We Make the Adoption Legal
This happened in my heart when the children first came to live with us as foster children. We began to treat them as though the adoption had already taken place. In our minds, that's when we became parents. But the official adoption day didn't happen until 1984 when the children had lived with us for almost two years. That's when we legally became parents. The picture was taken on adoption day at the courthouse in the judge's chambers.
Becoming a mother was a matter of the heart. - It was a commitment I made.
I Appreciate Your Feedback
Someday I will write more about Jason's short but fantastic life. I finally have written about his death. But every story begins somewhere, and this is that beginning. I have told more parts of the story in other hubs, and you will find links to them below. Some parts of parenting were delightful and made me laugh. Some parts were not as much fun, and made me cry. I hope you will read the other articles, too, to get, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story. Please let me know you've been here by leaving your comments in the space provided, whether you are visiting from HubPages, Twitter, Facebook, or somewhere else. Thanks for coming by.