We make it through security, bears and all, and find our way to the 2nd floor courtroom where our adoption hearing is to be held. We see Steve our adoption social worker, one of four social workers we’ve worked with, waiting for us by the courtroom door. There are two ways adoption hearings can be done, group or private. In a group setting you’re one of several families that appear before a Judge, whereas in a private setting it’s just your family. We learn from Steve that ours will be private – Yay!
Outside the courtroom is a man, I assume an attorney, who is waiting to see the Judge as well, even though his case doesn’t appear on the electronic docket to the left of the double doors. Brooklyn, a poster child for Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), immediately strikes up a conversation and shows a particular interest in all of the files and papers he is carrying (she’s a shredder). Please don’t ask him if he’s at the whorehouse too, pierces through my mind like a skewer. We are so close to the finish line that the last thing we need is an attorney thinking we’ve taught our daughter the word “whorehouse.”
One thing about courtrooms and Judges is that you’re on their time schedule, kind of like at the doctor’s office. Even though our court hearing is scheduled for 1:30pm, we aren’t called into the courtroom until just after 2:00pm. I’m sure if this was an actual “whorehouse” we wouldn’t have been kept waiting.
The attorney gets called in first, likely to get some motion filed. A few minutes later he leaves and we are still left waiting. Finally the door opens and we are greeted by a petite long-haired brunette, wearing four-inch heels, a mini-skirt, and an almost see-through blouse. Screech!!! Maybe Brooklyn is right after all?!
The four of us – excuse me, the six of us (I can’t forget the bears) — enter the courtroom and sit at the counsel table while Kim and Steve sit in the gallery to observe. All four of us humans are told to raise our right hands and take the oath to tell the truth. The Judge asks us some preliminary questions, basically confirming names, birth dates, etc. and then he starts asking the children some questions to get them involved in the proceedings.
“So you must be Carter.”
“My name is CJ.”
The Judge flips through his paperowrk, “I see your name listed here as Carter James Lister-Looker.”
“But I go by CJ,” he replies confidently.
“Okay then, so you like to be called CJ?”
“Yep. My name is CJ.”
“Alright then,” the Judge pauses and redirects the conversation. “That must make you Brooklyn.”
Both of Brooklyn’s arms shoot straight up into the air, “That me!” and everyone in the courtroom lets out a laugh.
The Judge asks me and Jim a few more questions before starting round two with the children.
“Carter, do you think this adoption is a good idea?”
“My name is CJ.” The things little kids can get away with in front of a Judge.
“Oh, that’s right. You’ve told me this already.”
“Yes. My name is CJ – Carter James.”
“Okay then, CJ. Do you think this adoption is a good idea?”
CJ gets a serious look on his face and nods his head, “Yeah. Can I play on your computer?”
Everyone in the courtroom laughs, except for CJ. He’s serious about getting on at least one of the many computers that are taunting him.
“Well…” there’s a slight pause from the Judge as he makes sure to use the right name this time, “…CJ, all of these computers are for work.”
“You don’t have any games on your computer?” I gently touch CJ on his arm and tell him that we’re not here to play on computers. I give a look to the Judge as if to say, You should really change the subject now.
“That me!” Once again both of her arms shoot straight up into the air and everyone lets out a laugh.
“At least I know I got one name right.” CJ is still too young to understand sarcasm, even though there is plenty orbiting around our home.
“That me!” Arms fly into the air. This is turning into a Saturday Night Live skit.
“Do you think the adoption is a good idea?”
She ponders the question for a moment and finally gives a thoughtful response of, “Yeah,” followed by, “This is my pretty bear.”
What a relief to know that both of our children have grasped what this momentous occasion is all about (orbiting sarcasm).
“Okay, well we’re almost done with the adoption, but I need a little help. Would the two of you like to come up here and help me?”
They both leap out of their chairs and race towards the Judge’s bench seeing who can push the other out of the way first.
“Take turns!” flies out of my mouth, as if I have turrets.
They move around frantically, sort of like blind mice searching for cheese, to see where the secret entrance is to get up to the bench. When they finally find it, with the help of one of the bailiffs, they disappear behind a six-foot wall followed by the sounds of uncoordinated feet clamoring to scale the steps (I think one of them fell and likely trampled the other), until the tops of their little heads are seen bobbing around the Judge’s desk.
And then just like Santa Claus, the Judge scoops them up and places a child on each knee. The kids wave to us enthusiastically and we wave back. CJ could care less about sitting on the Judge’s lap; he just wants to get to his computer. And Brooklyn is eyeing the stacks of papers and files (remember, a shredder is amongst us) until she spots the gavel – or in her world, a hammer, a weapon.
To Brooklyn’s delight, but to our horror, the Judge hands the gavel to her. “Look! Look!” she squeals with joy while flailing the gavel around. This girl has spatial awareness issues, easily bumping into walls, doors, and pieces of furniture, so all I can see is her bonking the Judge on his head and Jim and I being held in contempt. To her surprise, and our relief, she ends up hitting herself on the head. Then after a slight delay she laughs and says, “I hit my head!” This little girl is built like a tank.
The Judge gives some final instructions to the kids and then launches into his decree to finalize the adoption. When he’s done with all of the legal speak he gives a nudge to CJ who announces, “Adoption granted!” followed by Brooklyn banging the gavel. Followed by CJ saying, “I want to do it.” Followed by Brooklyn saying, “No, it’s mine.” The lump that was forming in my throat quickly disintegrated.
Before this day arrived I had visions of getting all choked up and teary-eyed – emotions running amuck. But it didn’t really happen. For a year and a half we have been preparing for this day, thinking there would be a greater sense of permanency, for us, for them. So when the day finally arrived why wasn’t there a tsunami of emotions for me and Jim? Why wasn’t there a release, a sense of freedom, that as of this day we will no longer be living in a glass house – our lives no longer under a magnifying glass and open to scrutiny by anyone and everyone (some more than others)?
As we leave the courthouse and make our way back to the car CJ holds his bear in one hand and holds my hand in the other. “You’re very nice. I love you, Daddy Thomas.” I grip his small hand a little tighter. “I love you too, buddy.”
And then I feel it, the slight burning in my eyes as tears form, and a soft, gentle wave of emotions caress over and through me. It doesn’t crash down onto me and knock me over, or hit me like a two-by-four. And why should it? The only thing that makes this day different from all of the others is that today we happen to have a piece of paper, a legal document with an official seal, which legally declares us a family. From day one the four of us have been creating our family. Has it been fun and fulfilling? Yes, there have been moments (my favorites are when you least expect them). Has it been easy? Hell no! Will it get easier? I certainly hope so.
There will always be laughter and tears, hugs and time-outs, and moments of pride and pouting. There will be days, like so many already, when I want to give up and not be a parent anymore, because this is by far the hardest thing I have ever done – EVER! No matter how many times I sit back and try to fantasize what life would be like without kids, without a family, nothing ever materializes. I guess that is what happens when something is meant to be, when the universe has spoken.
Later that afternoon when I’m back in my shorts and t-shirt and enjoying (okay, guzzling) a glass of wine I wonder why adoptions are scheduled on a Friday afternoon, and then it dawns on me. All week long family courtrooms are filled with tough decisions, bad news, and heart-wrenching stories. So what better way to end the week than with some good news – an adoption, a success story! It warms my heart knowing that our little family could be responsible for bringing pleasure to a “whorehouse.”