The phrase, “This ain’t my first time at the rodeo” keeps coming to mind. The wife and I have already raised four kids. The youngest is 28, the oldest 33. That in itself doesn’t seem possible. I mean, when I was 28, my parents were way older than me; at least they seemed like it. At any rate, somehow my wife and I have found ourselves raising a 5 year old boy while we are in our mid 50s. Certainly not where we planned to be at this stage in life, but everyday convinces me even more that this is exactly where we should be.
For purposes of privacy and protection, I’ll avoid real names. I hope that won’t offend you or put you off. Our newest arrival, “Tobey”, is ours only under a guardianship arrangement. While we are pursuing adoption, we’re finding that path more difficult than one would imagine. Despite Tobey’s really rough start with his birth mother, followed by almost 4 years of only sporadic contact and neglect, the law still favors birth parents heavily in contested adoption situations. I suppose I can see some rationale for that, but you’d think that, in a case like this, common sense would prevail. Yet, 18 months and almost $10K into the process, we’re still guardians. So, for his protection and our legal standing, we’ll stick with “Tobey” for now. I’m simply “me”, and the wife will be, well, “the wife.”
All of our kids were long out of the house, graduated from college, and living successfully on their own when Tobey entered our lives. The wife had been working as a child advocate volunteer and a foster parent in a residential home for a couple of years, and really felt a tug to become a full time foster parent… or possibly adopt. I was not a fan of either idea, to say the least. Through an odd sequence of events, which I won’t explain here, we became acquainted with Tobey’s desperate situation. Abandoned just before his first birthday, Tobey was being raised by a woman in her 80s who loved him dearly but had growing health problems. Everyone familiar with the situation would regularly wring their hands and lament that “someone needs to do something.” One day, while repeating that refrain, I was struck with an unavoidable thought… I had more than enough capacity, resources, and ability to be that someone, yet I had done nothing. Without intending to sound overly dramatic, I was reminded of the quote, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” All that was necessary for Tobey to be doomed to a life of poverty and despair was for me to stay comfortable. So, here we are.
Eighteen months in, I can honestly say that it’s been no walk in the park. Tobey came with a long list of behavioral and emotional problems, many of which we are still dealing with. But every day, when he looks at me and says, “Hey, dad, I’ve got a great idea…”, I know we are exactly where we are supposed to be. We’ve got a long road ahead of us… lots of challenges. But then, this ain’t my first time at the rodeo.