Family Dramas

I got to work just after seven this morning, and am here until around 9 tomorrow morning.

Nathan was busy, with a rare visit from Anber’s grandmother.  Her aunt was to come, but did not show up, and the grandmother was almost thirty minutes late.  She was late enough we were able to contact Alex’s biological dad, who came right away and played with him.  He and Kirk and Barrett’s mother are good to all the children, and all the children see them as more aunts and uncles, I think.

It’s such a struggle.  We want contact with their biological families as much as is safe to do so for several reasons.  The most important reason is that we believe in families.  Another reason is attachment, which is so important for development.  Another reason is to help equip the children with familiarity and information as they grow up, rather than slamming them with their entire biological children when they are suddenly adults by age but still struggling with developmental disabilities.  We want to be present now, and help them navigate those questions as they grow, rather than it being on them to sort out alone when they are older.

They have been sealed to us for all eternity, and we will always be their family.

But we are not their only family, and adopting them means adopting their biological families, too.

That’s easier sometimes than others.

Mary’s mom was back in jail last week for stealing again, and her mugshot revealed she is being beaten again by the man she thinks she loves but who uses her for drugs and dirty work.  Mary’s mother hasn’t seen Mary for over a year, and her father is still in prison.

Kyrie’s father was back in jail last week, too, for drugs and stealing also.  Anber and Kyrie’s mother has been transferred to a different prison again, and is now asking for visits there.  I am more open to that idea than Nathan is, but then today the grandmother told us Kyrie’s biological family wants to steal her and take her back to Pakistan.  While that may be true, I think it is more stereotyping than actual current threat, as mostly what we have heard from that side of the family is simply that she does not exist since the two parents were never married.

What do we do with that?  How do we still reach out to them, while keeping the children safe?  It’s “easy” when a family refuses to participate like Kyrie’s father’s side of the family, or when some of them aren’t functioning enough to participate, like Mary’s mother.  But that just delays the questions instead of normalizing them, and it leaves us wondering how to reach out.

Today was big because Alex’s mother was sober and also came to the visit.  Usually it is just his father.  He was so glad to see her!  They play hard, talk about serious things, and Alex does a lot of confronting.  It’s been good for all of them, and I am in awe of their healing.

Kirk’s father’s side of the family is involved, but far away, and we want to drive there sometime for a vacation and stop and visit.  He would love it, and I know they would.  That’s a real possibility, when Kyrie is stable enough for us to be in the car like that without involving any hospitals along the way.

Barrett’s father’s side of the family is skittish about participating because they think he won’t remember them, but we still think it is important.  I keep encouraging them to try.  Anyone who has met Barrett knows that his attachment issues swing to the intrusive side of the spectrum, so meeting new people is no big deal to him.  He would do fine to meet that part of his family.

The point is, that all we can do is invite and support.  We cannot do the work for them.  We can, sometimes, depending on circumstances, even help with transportation, but we cannot make them come.  We cannot make them be interested.

Some of the parents, the ones who have tried hard for several years, and so we are building relationships with them, like with Alex’s dad and the boys’ mother, that just feels good.  We like them.  We are getting to know them.  We are, maybe, even starting to trust them.

But it also feels like as the more that develops, the more significant is the difference between the parents who do not want to participate or do not try to participate.

We know Mary’s mother has lots of struggles, but that doesn’t mean we want her out there getting beat up all the time.

But we can’t exactly keep her safe, either.

We know Anber and Kyrie’s mother is amazing, but a monster on heroin and we can’t keep her clean.

It’s a helpless feeling, this agency thing, when people are free to make their own choices.

It’s hard when you can see what good could come, but others are not ready.

It makes me wonder what are others wanting to support me through, that I just am not aware enough to receive?  How can I do better receiving the encouragement and support of others?  How can I use my own experiences to think outside the box and continue reaching out to these parents in behalf of their children?

I don’t know that we can, except through the inviting part.

That’s what the Savior did: inviting.

He didn’t compel.  He respected agency.  He broke the rules to minister to those who thought they didn’t deserve it, but he was never pushy in trying to get them to engage.

This was what I thought about today, as I worked with families in the hospital, and saw the dynamics of their families in all kinds of different scenarios.

Nathan took the children to church, where a chaplain friend was visiting today, so I was sorry to miss that, but I am glad to be able to do my turn at the hospital.  It’s been hard, between Kyrie medical dramas and my fall, to complete all my hours or be as reliable as I used to be.  But I am trying my best, and my team has been gracious to me.

In the meantime, Nathan is homeschooling second graders on days I am at work, and wrestling with an almost 2-year-old who was way cuter before the terrible two’s!  She can scream “NO” with those lungs we prayed would be strong, and hit the other children with those arms that used to be full of IV’s, spit at you with that little face usually covered in tubes, and run away from you pretty fast with those little feet in their tiny braces.

We prayed hard for this, I remind Nathan.  We prayed hard for a family.

It feels an awful lot like mortality, he says.


About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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