We have waited for this day for years. Literally, years. Now that the day has come, it feels somewhat anti-climactic.
At the end of June, we were able to finalize the legal process of step-parent adoption. We are now officially the Stones, Party of Eight.
While I’m obviously happy (and relieved) to be at the end of this legal journey, there have been all sorts of emotions during this process. In our case, there is still a biological father. This wasn’t an instance where the biological parent had died. In our case, the biological parent is still alive – just absent. I’m not going to go into all the legal grounds that allowed us to even pursue this. Frankly, the legal reasons don’t matter much. In the end, the Guardian ad Litem, the kids’ counselor and the judge all felt that this was what was best for Nick and Tori.
I wish this hadn’t been necessary.
I truly *hate* that we got to the point where this was what was best. Seriously. In an ideal world, even in a divorced family, both parents are actively involved with the children. This wasn’t a route that we took lightly, nor did we arrive at this decision quickly. The decision wasn’t made to punish anyone or for any personal vendettas. During the days leading up to the final hearing, I saw someone make a statement in a bio-mom support group that parental rights should never be taken away, and that if the parent is harmful to the kids, then supervised visits should be put into place. I can understand how someone might feel that way if they’ve never gotten to the point where they even remotely considered terminating parental rights. I cannot express the emotions that a parent feels when there is nothing they can do to prevent the hurt his/her children are going through. When I read this person’s comment though, I did take a minute to pause and reflect…but no, I knew it wasn’t true. There are absolutely cases where terminating parental rights is the absolute best thing that can be done for a child.
Don’t assume you know everyone’s circumstances.
Every family is different. Every TPR/adoption case is different. Sometimes, it’s hard to figure out what is the best way to really handle the details like future communication, especially in a situation where the children know the biological parent. These are decisions that can’t be taken back. While TPR and step-parent adoption can’t be undone, we have already told both kids that in the event that they want to find their biological father when they’re older, that we would help them do so. The kids already know how to use google, and they know his name. They’re able to find him today, if they wanted to look for him. Maybe that makes this easier – knowing that they can find him if they want to. But for now, they have a sense of security in this family unit, and that’s what matters most.
Expect there to be bumps in the road.
The judge did ask at the hearing where the children were. I explained to him that it had been a long process and I didn’t want the kids to be disappointed if for some reason it didn’t go through that day. Two and a half years. That’s how long it took from when we filed the paperwork to when the judge signed the official adoption decree. We had what was supposed to be the final hearing the prior month, and unexpectedly had to jump through some more hoops for that judge, so we knew that nothing was for certain. Thankfully, there were no additional hurdles and everything was finalized. That night, we already had a celebration dinner planned with some other friends, but this was icing on the cake. The kids didn’t know what to expect when we told them we were presenting them with something. I had made adoption certificates for them, signed by me and DJ. The judge had stuffed bears for them, though he laughed and said he wasn’t sure a 13-year old boy would be too impressed with that. LOL. Tori asked me if she could frame her certificate and hang it in her room.
We had all of the kids with us for a week starting the day after the adoption was finalized. Honestly, it was one of the best weeks we’ve had as a family in quite some time. Little to no fighting amongst all the kids. Not a ton of attitude towards us parents. All of the kids were openly talking with vendors and customers about the fact that their dad had just adopted Nick and Tori and that we were now all the Stones. It felt so good to hear them talking about it like it was totally normal. DJ had a chat with Nick at some point over that week to just check-in and see how he was feeling about it all. He made a comment that now, when DJ says “come on Stone kids, it’s time to go!” that he now felt included in that and not like he was just another kid tagging along. He said he felt like he was part of the family now.
Adoption isn’t an immediate “fix” and we still have things to work through.
Y’all. This boy doesn’t talk about his emotions that much. He’s a teenager after all. It’s crazy that a piece of paper can change that much about the situation. We didn’t change how we were treating any of the kids, but they felt the difference. Hearing that made every shred of doubt caused by that other bio-mom fly totally out of the window. There is no doubt that this was the right decision. That’s not to say that there aren’t still things we are working through. We’re now wrapping up the third summer week with my step-kids. There were comments made when we got them for this week that could be taken as being hurtful. I’d like to think it wasn’t intentional. This has been a hard week for us. Maybe it’s especially hard because we had such a good week the last time. We still have things to work through with the kids. All of them. But we are doing it together. Forever.
Adoption is hard. Step-parent adoption is hard. Blending families is hard. That is our reality.
It is worth the work.
Keep doing what you believe is best for your family.
– The Blended Mama –