The little boy was beaming yesterday.
“You know what?” he said, having barely parked himself on the little chair in my office.
“What?” I pretended.
“I’m SO happy.”
“You are!” I exclaimed, smiling. Even a boulder would see that the little guy was delighted. Delighted and relieved, actually.
“Now my parents can be my REAL parents!” he gushed. He sobered then–this boy does not take family for granted. Abandoned at birth with visible deformities, trundled through foster care homes and more losses, and finally finding an adoptive home with parents who were dedicated to him and where he was cherished. “If something happens to Daddy …” he paused, “then Papa will still be my father.”
He reached for my hand, excited and a little scared at what he just stated, momentarily overwhelmed by the proximity of both loss and hope. It took a lot of love to get this boy trusting that his home was a ‘forever home’ and that he was really wanted; and sometimes worry still snuck in, triggered by the destabilizing challenges of very real uncertainty.
Such as when he needed surgery and only one of his adoptive parents was allowed to escort him to the operating room, because only ‘legal guardians’ could, and the law did not allow both his parents to adopt him, only one. Daddy was recognized as his parent. Papa was not. It scared him that people could say that Papa was somehow not his real father, that other people could — again — decide about his life.
Or when his legal parent was away on business and the new school guard gave the boy’s papa trouble picking him up because there was no official note on file indicating that he was among the ‘approved caregivers.’ It took a tense while to locate the classroom teacher to confirm that this man that the boy called “Papa” was indeed one of his parents and had collected the boy from school before. For several days later this little boy refused to go to school. He insisted on waiting for Daddy to return. He was scared that school people won’t let Papa take him home.
Now in my office, this little boy fiddled with my bracelet, as children often do when they are feeling a little tender but need to be the ones establishing how much connection to allow. “Sometimes at nighttime I have bad dreams … about having to go back to foster care.” He looked up at me, dark eyes like deer in headlights, hair framing his little face in a frizzy halo.
I squeezed his hand gently. He looked at his papa, who was sitting quietly with us, his own eyes bright, and allowing his son–son in all ways but legally until now that the Supreme Court declared the constitutional right for equality in marriage and family–the space for these complicated feelings.
The boy reached out for his father and received a hug. “It is going to be more safer now, right?” the boy asked, face buried in his father’s shirt.
“Sure is,” the father planted a kiss on his son’s head, who at not yet six years old was already a veteran of too many worries. “Your home is with me and Daddy. We are a family, you and Daddy and I.”
“And Priscilla!” the boy added in reassured indignation. “You forgot Priscilla!”
His father chuckled. There was no forgetting Priscilla the ever-into-something dog. “Of course, Priscilla is part of our family, too!”
The boy snuggled into his father’s hug another moment. Sighed contentedly. Peeked at me and smiled. “The judges said that my Papa can also be my father now. Like my Daddy. Forever and ever and ever and ever.”