#1: We were so naïve when we started out! First imaging it would be a simple process and that we could handle it without a lawyer. Second how quickly simple was immediately made complex as soon as the legal aspects were involved. Third, how nervous we always were to go to court, always feeling as if we were some sort of child snatching criminals instead of two people trying to do the best thing for Kiana.
#2: How astonished the judge was when letters, even certified ones, to the biological mother were signed for by the Army post office staff but Alicia* did not respond. Alicia always told us she never received anything which seemed to be unbelievable to the judge. Or how neither we nor they were able to locate the biological father at all, regardless of how we tried.
#3: In response to the question why Alicia wanted to give up custody of her child I simply parroted what we had been told, that the Army wouldn’t allow her to maintain custody of her child and enlist. That had to make me sound ignorant. No wonder the process seemed so slow! It probably took the judge that much time to be sure I wasn’t lying; I was just trusting enough to believe what I had been told.
#4: The very first time Kiana’s court appointed lawyer and I arranged for us to meet with her after school was one of those times Kiana got into the car looking like she’d worked in the fields all day instead of going to kindergarten. She was smeared with dirt, lunch and sweat. There wasn’t enough time to run by our house and clean her up so I had to do the best I could with baby wipes and the emergency set of clothes we had in the car. Kiana had grown enough that the pants were short enough to be noticeable. But off we went to the appointment anyway and as it turned out that visit went very well.
#5: Our attorney asked us to have some character witnesses come to court during one of the last custody hearings. In addition to my father and his wife, we had two benches full of people willing to vouch for us. The judge took one look and after having them identify themselves for the record, asked them if any of them was going to say anything negative about us. All said no. Then he directly addressed my father, “You Sir are this woman’s father, I can presume you aren’t going to tell this court anything negative about your daughter are you?” To which my father replied, “Depends on what you ask me.” I didn’t think it was funny, but the court did. Now I can laugh too.
#6: At the final Family Court hearing on the custody issue during my husband’s testimony the judge asked him about any special times he and Kiana shared. He told them about her fear of bugs and how I had invented a “bug dance” to keep bugs away at night. Kiana however insisted he had to do the dance because his feet were way bigger than mine and would scare the bugs more. So as part of the nightly bedtime ritual Daddy performed the “bug dance”. My husband turned fifteen different shades of red when the judge suggested he show the court the “bug dance”. Fortunately for Daddy the judge was only teasing!
#7: Having gone to court many times to obtain custody when our attorney called with a date and time for our appearance in probate court, where the actual adoptions were handled, she said the adoption would likely happen that day. By now, we were used to Family Court where everything was postponed until the “next time” so we cautiously prepared ourselves.
On the chance we would become Kiana’s parents we invited my father and his wife and Kiana’s play therapist for the court appearance. We were trying hard to not be excited and that meant I was extremely nervous. For some reason on this day Kiana didn’t want to take “Charlie” her stuffed dog we had purchased her and that she took everywhere she went except school and wanted to take her teddy bear “Teddy” instead.
Sitting across the table from the probate judge Kiana looked scared, she never liked going to Family Court because she left always afraid that “judge man” was going to take her away from us. The probate judge took the time to ask Kiana who her friend was that was with her. She told him it was Teddy. When the court stenographer listed the names of those in attendance that day the judge insisted that the record reflect Teddy was present with Kiana. It was a sweet gesture on his part and earned a laugh that relaxed everyone.
#8: Another funny part of this stage of our adoption journey was how worried I was that Kiana insisted on Teddy instead of Charlie that day. I knew how much she missed her biological mom, how hurt she was from all that had happened and how in her viewpoint Alicia had just abandoned her. So, what if, when the judge asked her if she wanted to be adopted by us she said, “No”?
I was overwhelmed with an irrational fear that Kiana didn’t want to be with us. It wasn’t until when we got home and “Teddy” was returned to his place on the shelf and “Charlie” was in her arms beneath the covers I understood. Teddy went that day because Kiana wanted to be sure all of her, her past included was being accepted and wanted by us. Why it took me so long to understand this I can only relate to every adoptive parents fear that the child they are adopting will surprise everyone by saying, “No I don’t want to be adopted by these people!”
There are many other humorous things that happened on our way to becoming Kiana’s parents that didn’t occur in court. The best ones are the ones bonding us as a family during our daily lives. This one I just have to share.
I don’t like mice. I detest them. But we lived in a very rural area surrounded by woods so occasionally a mouse or mice would attempt to invade our home. We routinely kept means to capture or eliminate them in the house (of course safe guarding Kiana from touching the items). One Saturday morning I was cleaning and Kiana playing when I turned around and spotted a mouse just laying on the floor, midway from the oven to the island. It was clear he had gotten into the mouse poison.
It would happen on a day Chris was working. My fear of them extended to them alive or dead. So I did what any fully grown woman would do, I called my father. He promised to come and remove the dead mouse. Meanwhile, I am afraid the mouse is not quite dead and afraid he’ll recover. Cautiously I put a plastic container over the mouse and have Kiana bring me three of my college yearbooks which I then placed on top of the container. When my father arrived he could only shake his head as I removed the “cage” and he removed the mouse. Not wanting to instill a sense of fear in Kiana I had, throughout the event, told her, “We are two tough cookies except when it comes to mice, then…we call Papaw!” So we managed to laugh even though I felt as if I was going to lose my skin at any moment. That mantra though as kept us “brave” through many fears we have faced.
Adoption is a serious choice and deserves to be treated seriously. But a little humor, even in court, doesn’t hurt anyone. I hope in your journeys to adoption you have even more laughable moments, both inside and outside the courtroom and lawyer’s offices.