We have done a lot of parenting.
For two long weeks, we had five foster children under age two. We had teenage runaways who stole Greg’s car; preteen siblings who wrote graffiti about us on our living room wall; an amateur arsonist; and dozens of hypochondriacs, but no point of parenting has been as interesting as the years after high school.
Of course, I’ve watched hundreds of former students make their way from adolescence to “productive citizenship.” I’ve watched scholarship students flunk out and come home; seen capable kids waste thousands of Daddy’s dollars, choosing partying over academics; known scores of kids who excelled in the service or blue collar jobs; and I’ve seen students follow a straight and narrow path to college and grad school and jobs in distant cities. I’ve known that the roads to stability are varied, but most kids usually get there.
Today, kids’ routes are documented on social media–successes and heartbreaks advertised for their worlds to see. Or alternate realities are presented, where things appear to be going far better than they are. It is difficult for some kids to see their peers hop-skip-and-jump through traditional career routes when they neither feel like skipping nor know where to hop. It’s hard for parents, too, to watch.
But, to paraphrase a wise friend, as much as we may want to save our children from every heartbreak and see them follow safe, predictable paths, parents of young adults can’t control or cushion their launches.
This week, April decided to launch. 104 days after Stephanie Grace’s death, she made a big decision. Yes, she flipped and flopped, like many of us would do if we were considering a thousand-mile move, but she ultimately decided to stay in New York in the rural area where her father and brother have established their roots. She has decided to launch in New York, with them.
Some people support her decision, while others act like she went to live with kind strangers who happened to sit next to her one night at Cracker Barrel. The befuddled generally have never adopted and don’t understand open adoption; they aren’t really very interested in learning about birth families, and they certainly haven’t been on this journey every day since 1995.
She is with family. Greg and I know how strong April’s affection for her birth family has always been; we encouraged that connection. The pictures of her parents and siblings hung in her room; she slept every night with a stuffed dog her birth mother gave her at their final visit, and a plastic rabbit her grandmother gave her sat on a bookshelf. We drove to New York to visit when she was twelve, and we saw her half-siblings several times in the years since. Her brother has texted her weekly for years: they are full siblings, near-twins.
The very friends who would advise us to ask her brother for a kidney if April needed a transplant are wary of her being under his roof.
I’m me. I am a mother duck, in protection mode always. Before April left, I used Mapquest to figure out how far from April my collegiate best friend is–it’s only ninety minutes. In an emergency, by the time April got through ER triage, someone I know well could be there. My cousins (and a handful of trusty former students) are three hours away in New York City. We have not sent her to a third world country.
And we are not rejected. Neither is she. (We sent 92 texts today.) No one is angry–or even miffed.
Although parts of this story feel like reality television, basically, this chapter has been drama-free. It’s not about us and them or here and there. It’s about April; it is her launch.
May it be the first of many.