Thursday, December 13, 2007

Nothing Else Much Seems to Matter Any More

Wow. My life has irrevocably changed.

Göran and I have spent the past three days getting to know and bonding with our first foster kid. Eating meals with him. Washing dishes with him. Having long conversations about his life up to this point, about our lives. Being amazed and in awe at the courage that's gotten him this far. Taking him to see the movie The Golden Compass. Getting him registered at the local high school. Buying new clothes for him. Taking him downtown to show him where Göran works. Playing video games, and laughing like fools at funny cat videos on the Internet.

I thought I was happy until three days ago. Suddenly I have made the shocking realization that our former happiness was a shadow of our present happiness. Nothing compares to seeing a kid smile at you and tell you that the last three days have been the happiest days of his life. Nothing compares to the realization that we can make a huge difference in a kid's life. Nothing compares to the realization, now that he's at the group home for four days until we return from my grandma's memorial service in California, that life just seems drabber and emptier.

When we dropped him off at the group home, he hugged us tight, and didn't want to let us go. He was almost in tears, but he kept up a brave front. We didn't. We got home and looked at our pictures of him, and cried.

Suddenly, parenthood seems like the only thing in the world that can possibly matter. Suddenly, I understand why bloggers like Chris, Scot, and Mr. Fob write about their families with such warmth, with such untarnished satisfaction. Suddenly I'm so much more interested in everything they have to say on the subject!

Maybe my life will go back to feeling the same way it did before, once he settles in, once we adjust to the dramatically different new routines. But I can't possibly imagine how.

This changes everything.

16 comments:

Scot said...

I know what you mean. :-)

I’m very happy for you all, and will hope to learn from your experience with the teen years, by whatever you feel you can share. I get tense just thinking about giving our boys car keys!

MoHoHawaii said...

This sounds great! I'm so happy for you and especially for the boy. Your being his foster parent may make a big difference in his life.

Congratulations again.

Mr. Fob said...

I saw Golden Compass this past weekend with my brother (though I confess I didn't take my daughter, she being four and all). What did you think? I enjoyed it and thought the hullabaloo over the anti-Christianity thing was a bit ridiculous--the movie doesn't say anything about the Catholic church that the majority of American Protestants who are ignorantly objecting to it wouldn't agree with. (Sorry, I know this has nothing to do with your post, but that's what you get for mentioning a movie I just saw.)

-L- said...

I can never quite articulate how amazing it is to have kids. I knew it would be good, had some fears that I wouldn't always like it, but I had no idea what it would really be like. I marvel at it all the time.

I think I'll go hang out with them now. ;-)

J G-W said...

Scot - We can learn from each other! We've solved the car keys problem by not owning a car. Though we actually did discuss driving lessons with our foster son! He's right at that age...

Mr. Fob - I loved The Golden Compass. I agree that the movie took no specific pot shots at anyone. It was not anti-religion so much as anti-religious authoritarianism (in a very general sort of way), so I'm inclined to think that will say much about who chooses to be offended by it.

-L- - No fair! We're pretty bummed out right now about not being able to see our foster kid again until Sunday or Monday at the earliest.

[əɪ̯ wʌndɹ̟] said...

I've always wanted to be a father, and for a while I despaired that I would even reach that goal.

I don't know how or when, but I am determined to eventually have a/some child/ren.

I cannot think of anything more rewarding. Perhaps its the mormon parts of me, but I cannot see life as really meaningful until I have children and the chance to teach them and show them all the wondrous things there are to see and learn.

Beck said...

As one whose kids came the hard way, I can seriously relate with the "instant bonding" phenomenon. From the first glimpse of the photo to the first hug, it is real; it is immediate!

Congrats.

J G-W said...

Beck - Thank you for validating that... I was starting to wonder if I was crazy. After three days with him, I feel as if we've known him for years.

I've written about this elsewhere, how we already loved him, even before we knew who he was.

It's as if there was this untapped reservoir in me, this whole world of feelings that could only be accessed once I was willing to open myself to becoming a dad. It's really quite wonderful and amazing.

Iwonder - I'm only just entering the path of fatherhood, but trusting what I've heard from those who've gone before, and going by what I've experienced so far, it's worth it. If you feel the desire, I can't imagine you will regret opening your life up to caring for a kid or kids.

yusahana6323 said...

I'm glad that things are working out well! :) He seems very nice, and I'm excited to get to meet him sometime in the future. Congratulations! I'm so happy for you.

Bored in Vernal said...

I am so happy for this blessing that has come into your life. I hope the memorial service in California will bring you comfort and connection with your family members.
The circle of life...

Peter said...

It is refreshing to read about your newfound joys. You deserve it!

Eleanor's Papa said...

Congrats - it is amazing how having a child instantly changes the kaleidascope of your world. And with those of us who come to parenthood late as a long-out gay couple rather than as one of these young gay Mormon married boys, I think that no one really prepared us for how it instantly alters your whole focus.

Although we were there for our daughter's birth, we're open to being matched with a kid out of foster next time. But probably not a teenager, you're brave men....

ProudMamaBlogga said...

It does change your life! And it's so wonderful! Congratulations; it's wonderful you can provide a wounded soul with some refuge.

GeckoMan said...

Wow, a boy his age is a baptism by fire into parenthood! Knowing that so much water has already passed under the bridge in this child's life, hopefully he will regard you and Goran as a trusted resource, and rely on you, even when he screws up. There will probably come times when he tests you both to the limit.

Be sure to understand what stages of mental and emotional development he is at, and don't always expect rational thinking or mature decision making! I truly hope it works well for all of you.

J G-W said...

Hannah, BIV, Peter, Papa, and Proud Mama - THANKS! We are excited beyond words.

Gecko - Thanks! We've observed up close the teenage years of a niece and nephew, and the kids of close friends. I admit, I approach the task with the expected quantities of fear and trembling. Fortunately, the foster son we are taking in is very communicative. A substantial portion of our first three days together were spent talking about significant concerns and life issues. He told his counselors (and us) that one reason he felt comfortable having us as foster parents is because he realized he could talk to us about anything. So we are (cautiously) optimistic that the communication lines will be wide open (which is 90% of the battle in raising teenagers, I think).

In addition to our experience with family and friends, we've gotten significant training through the foster care agency. And while real life ALWAYS throws curve balls, we feel we are about as prepared as we possibly can be. With a teenager, we realize that the #1 thing we can provide him is a safe home base and a structured environment from which he can explore the world and gradually transition to independence.

We're prepared to be proactive in the schooling process, and we've already made it clear that FRIENDS ARE WELCOME in the Gustav-Wrathall home. The other day he asked me, Are swear words OK? I said, We don't believe in censorship around our house. HONEST communication is always required, no feelings expressed are off bounds!

As I post this comment, we're waiting in the airport for our return flight to Minneapolis, and will pick him up as soon as we arrive. The adventure begins!

Jake said...

Congrats! I was surprised by the amount of emotion I felt when I read your post. Bursting into tears in the middle of Starbucks is an interesting experiment in people's ability to care about the wellbeing of perfect strangers.

I hope only the best for you! You've reminded me of what's really important in life.