You seem confused with all this talk about becoming a family lately.
I get it. To you — and to us — we became a family when you moved into our house three and a half years ago. It didn’t take long before you started calling us Dad and Mom. It was a little confusing at first, since you also called your birth parents Dad and Mom when you were 3 and the foster care system took you out of their home and put you into ours.
Like so much of our family life, though, we figured it out. You quickly changed from being a guest in our house to being one of our four children. Your sisters all started calling you their sister, and you’d call them your sisters too.
I sense your apprehension, that the talk of Monday’s adoption hearing is going to change something profoundly. It must be a big deal, if we’re taking everyone to the courthouse for it.
This is a silly thing adults like to do. We make things more complicated than they have to be. We’re making it official by having a judge sign some paperwork that says you are, now and forever, a Trinko.
It was never in doubt for us. You won us over with your sweet demeanor and your joyful optimism about things. And your giggle — that crazy, vibrato giggle we get to hear when you think something’s outrageously entertaining.
It wasn’t always easy. Life never is. The case file says you went through some bad things before you came to us, things that make me feel sad, angry and helpless that I wasn’t there to protect you then. You used to wake up with nightmares that were too real for you to explain to us. All we could do was tell you that you were safe in our home, and we took you to people to talk about your feelings. Eventually those nightmares subsided.
This adoption hearing puts into writing what I hope you already know, that I’m there for you any time you need protection, a joke or even a hug to remember everything’s OK.
People used to ask me if it was hard being a foster parent, knowing that some day I might have to let you go. I’d answer that we just wanted to give you the best today possible and change the trajectory of your life. Now that you’re joining us in your forever family, I’ll admit it: It would’ve crushed me if you ever left, in the same way it would crush me if something happened to your mom or your sisters.
We didn’t choose you to become our youngest daughter. Fate and government bureaucracy originally put you in our care. It was you who chose us, accepting us into your heart and letting us be a part of your life. We’d been foster parents to other children, and not all of them accepted us the way you accepted us.
That’s why we decided to “propose” to you back when the courts finally said we could officially adopt you. You giggled as one after another of us walked to you in the living room, handing you a rose and asking if you’d join our family. You looked quizzical at first, as if to tell us you already thought you were a part of it.
Still, we wanted to give you the choice, and we’re so glad you said yes. It must’ve made an impact on you, too, since you asked to change your middle name to Rose.
Our life won’t be a fairy tale. It’ll be more of what you’ve already experienced in the past 42 months. We’ll ask you to go to bed, do your homework or get ready to go someplace, just like we do now. You’ll fight with the other girls over what belongs to whom, just like sisters do. Sometimes I’ll come home crabby from something that happened at work. We’ll all get mad when the dog tears something up.
You’ll have no way to ever confirm this, but this is what life as a family is like. It’s wonderful and frustrating and rewarding and exhausting. Mostly, though, it’s wonderful, and that’s because you’re part of our family now and forever, my wonderful daughter.
David Trinko is managing editor of The Lima News, a division of AIM Media Midwest.