Our five-year-old has a reliable reaction to any surprise in her routine.Something causes us to reverse activity 1 and activity 2. The place is closed. They’re out of her favorite X, Y, or Z. She is not pleased. Sometimes she puts on a grim face and powers through it. Sometimes there’s wailing. But it’s never fun.
I’m starting to understand how she feels. This week was to be “the last major legal hurdle,” the judge was set to terminate the birthmom’s parental rights and set adoption in our home as the permanent plan.
No one had mentioned that at this hearing, the mom could request a trial. Or that after the trial, she could request an appeal. Did you hear 6 weeks, and then possibly months more, just get added onto the purgatory that is nearly-but-not-quite-legal fatherhood?
From one perspective, this changes nothing. The overwhelmingly likely outcome is that we, having been the on-the-ground parents for nearly a year, will be given custody of our kids. The mom’s only actions towards them has been requesting additional trials. (To be fair, she’s entitled to these trials before the state removes her children from her custody. And I’m sure it’s excruciating for her. I can’t even imagine. But I’m not going to think about this right now.) She has not sent a card or made a phone call or reached out in any way to her kids. She’s not responded to any of the drawings and notes they’ve sent her, if she even got them. It’s hard to imagine anything she could say if she shows up at trial that would change the outcome. And I’m told California courts will be increasingly unlikely to move children from what has been their home for coming up on half the little one’s life, even if an unlikely suitable relative shows up.
So if this isn’t a huge setback, why do I feel like I’ve been punched so hard in the stomach this week? I literally lost my lunch and have had trouble eating, and anyone who knows me knows that’s saying something!
It feels like a giant threat that’s supposed to be removed from our life is still hovering there, menacing me with its dark “what ifs.” This was supposed to be lifted in the Fall, then Winter of 2012, then March 2013, now end of April, with further appeals possible. And the adoption is likely to take 6 months more after this “last hurdle.”
So I’m trying to stay in day-to-day life. The kids have school, there’s dinner to make, we’re planning a 6th birthday party. Easter is coming up. And—this is really weird—St. Patrick’s Day is a major school holiday now, did you know? There were traps for Leprechauns and gold coins and candy. This is news to me.
And as I’ve reflected on frequently, there are all kinds of terrible things I could be worrying about if I didn’t have this one. I don’t want to give possible scary outcomes any more energy than I absolutely have to.
The intangible machinations of the legal system continue to putt along in the background. It’s not the surprise I wanted, but we will make it through this. I will.