I'm still numb from all that yesterday was.
I've never wanted to say goodbye to someone so badly. Yet...it wasn't an easy thing to do.
I wrote about a million blog posts in my head throughout the trip. I want to document everything. Somehow though, I'm betting I don't.
I am amazed at Pumpkin's new family. They honestly have NO IDEA what they are getting themselves into. But at every turn, they haven't flinched. When I told Pumpkin's aunt that in three weeks she's going to be questioning everything. That she's going to feel more alone than ever before. That the frustration she'll feel will be entirely new to her. She didn't flinch. She didn't try to gloss over things and say, "oh I'm sure we'll be fine". Instead, when I followed all that up with, "I want you to know you can call me about anything," she simply said with the most amount of sincerity possible, "thank you." (And to her credit, she's already called me three times to ask very valid – but very simple – questions. She is not going to try and navigate all of this on her own. I'm impressed!)
It wasn't as awkward as I thought it would be traveling with Pumpkin's social worker. She's a very nice young thing. (And by young...23 with her Master's!) She's still quite naive. We had a few really good conversations though. I was able to open her eyes to the value of foster parents interacting with the bio families. She was so surprised when I told her how we continued to stay in contact with our foster son when we did this years ago in Iowa. I told her how we even babysat for him and his sister a few times after they were out of Care. She had never heard of co-parenting programs in foster care (like I know some of my readers are required to do). Her eyes practically bugged out of her head when I told her how some foster parents are required to transport to and supervise all visits. She may have a lot of education but she's still wet behind the ears!! My favorite thing I was able to work into conversation though was about "real" parents. I asked her to NEVER refer to any parent as a "real" parent. I then pinched my skin and explained to her that I am very real and that it's really hard to hear a bio parent referred to as real. It diminishes our role and really puts us down. If that's the only thing she takes to heart, I've done something good.
Pumpkin traveled well. We stayed in a hotel room the night before because our flight was at an airport an hour away from where we live and we flew out at 6:15AM. I could tell from the moment we left the house Thursday night that Pumpkin was horribly confused. But, in her own way she trusts me enough to not fuss at me.
There were no issues at the airport. The staff at each airport treated us well and as we went through the security line it was perfectly painless. Pumpkin wasn't phased by flying. Whew!
Aunt L and Uncle M picked us up at the airport. We went back to their house and immediately went about the last "training" session if you will. They showed Pumpkin's worker around the house. I sat down with Aunt L and went through each section of Pumpkin's binder. Aunt L asked really good questions. I feel confident that she's going to be able to do what needs to be done to take care of Pumpkin well.
Both Aunt L and Uncle M want to adopt Pumpkin. I was disappointed in the State's lack of information to them prior to this actual transfer. Aunt L and Uncle M were asking when they would be able to make the adoption final. I actually had to explain that right now they are simply taking placement of Pumpkin. Pumpkin is still in foster care. This is just a kinship placement that comes with no monetary support. At Pumpkin's next court hearing in January the aunt and uncle could be granted PMC (permanent managing conservatorship). The State hadn't even told them what that is though. I had such a brief amount of time to explain these concepts and also explain what could happen in the future. (That Pumpkin's bio mom "could" get her act together, hire a lawyer, and try to get Pumpkin back if the status is PMC.)
I feel bad that the State is hanging Aunt L and Uncle M out to dry. That's why I hope that they continue to stay in contact with me. I made sure to give them the names and phone numbers to Pumpkin's lawyers. They are going to have to fight a bit in order to get PMC I'm sure. They will have to fight a lot more if they are ever to adopt Pumpkin. I'll help where I can. But this is also where I have to let go. I'm not responsible for helping Aunt L and Uncle M fight. They can utilize my assistance if they want. But I know that I don't have to keep fighting this fight myself.
Aunt L drove the social worker and I back to the airport right around noon. The actual goodby with Pumpkin was so uneventful. I simply bent down in the car and gave her a hug. Pumpkin didn't understand! And once again, there wasn't a thing I could do to actually explain it to her. I was overwhelmed with emotion. I wanted to scoop her up. I wanted so badly for her to understand that THIS move was a GOOD one!! I think that's part of the reason why I was so overwhelmed with emotion.
Parenting Pumpkin for the past 21 involved so many daily interactions that Pumpkin didn't fully understand. It's really hard to look at a person, care for them, and have no way to explain to them what is going on. Pumpkin suffered a traumatic brain injury at birth. Pumpkin then suffered through 5.5 years of abuse and neglect. Then...Pumpkin came to me. Everything I did at first confused her. Made her mad even. I expected her to do things for herself. I expected her to participate. I made her do things that were difficult (doctor visits, personal hygiene, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, school and oh so much more). But never did she really understand. And never did she warm up to me. Never.
It hurt to say goodbye. I know that Pumpkin is going to have to learn a whole new routine. Pumpkin isn't going to understand. And that hurt. I just wanted to protect her and make it better.
But I had to hug her and say goodbye. It was all I could do.
I'm numb today. I don't know if it's because of the emotion or just fatigue from jet setting across Texas and back all in one day. I know I will heal though. I'm not upset about this. I just have to get used to my new reality. Every time I think of Pumpkin I will pray for her and for her new family. Prayer is so vital to me as a foster parent. And once again, it's all I've got to cover this new situation.
Pumpkin is home.