Friday, 28 February 2020

Care and Consent

My baby boy just hit the eighteen-month milestone. He's about 30lbs (but I'm not precisely sure because my doc keeps giving metric measurements and they just don't stick). He's an absolute ball of energy, and if he's not sleeping (or trapped in his crib), he's running. My kid is all social, all play, all giggles and suddenly all opinions. He loves bathtime, emptying drawers and sitting on my lungs, whenever I am level enough to climb on top of.

He does NOT love getting his diaper changed.

One of these days, my Liam will be able to sort out his own bathroom business, but for now, it seems like we are in a season of strapping down, bribing, cajoling with funny voices and otherwise forcing him to be still long enough to clean the critical bits. This is emotionally exhausting and physically difficult (those little legs pack a punch). But this is what parenting is, right? Doing what needs to be done for your kid, even when it's not what they want. Making the best decisions you can for another human being, because they are still too small to do... well, almost anything, by themselves.

I make a hundred decisions a day for my son: I determine when, what and roughly how much he eats; I purchase and choose his clothing; I schedule my day and drag him along on errands, outings, library visits, etc. I pick him up and move him around. I snuggle him when reading and drop him in the crib for naps when it's time to sleep. I completely micromanage my toddler, and sometimes neither of us love it.

I wonder, sometimes, if he will hold any of these decisions against me when he is older. Probably nothing that happens for another year or so will be clearly remembered, if at all, but some of our choices for him will have forever consequences, for good or ill. We elected to have our son circumcised, for example. When adolescent comparisons inevitably happen, will he resent the call we made? Will his future spouse have opinions? I don't know. When we put him in soccer, or encourage the piano, or radically change the diet of our family (no sugar for Lent) -- those decisions we make do shape his future. It's a monumental responsibility, in daily fragmented pieces.

We have just been approved to adopt through our local Children's Aid Society (CAS), an institution that (in alliance with the government) constantly makes decisions for families, in the worst of circumstances, to the best of their abilities. They have not always done well (I just finished reading Seven Fallen Feathers which accounts the devastating history of Canada's residential school programs, the Sixties Scoop and the generational fallout from ancient treaty betrayals), but in their time, from their perspective -- did they do their best? They did what they believed was in the best long-term interest of hundreds of children despite passionate protests by Indigenous families. And, in 2020 (the year of all hindsight puns), we understand their actions as racist and unjust.

Sometime soon, a child will be placed in our home. Permanently. We will become family, we will bestow our last name, we will pour our energy, resources and love into this precious little life for whom we have been long praying. CAS will entrust someone else's baby into our hands, but very rarely does this happen with the true consent of his or her biological family. Often kids are loved and wanted by their birth families, but for whatever reason, kin cannot safely care for or adequately provide for them. They are claimed by the country, and Canada sends them to us.

Do I believe we can be a healthy, safe and loving home for an adopted kid? I sure do. And I am filled with anticipation for the next step in this process. But I'm also aware that I will make decisions for this kid that his or her biological family wouldn't make. I'm going to do things differently. The life they lead as part of our family will be critically different than the life they were born into. Will they grow to resent our decision to claim them? Will they be disappointed or angry or bitter or sad? We can't ask for an infant's consent.

All we can do is love the children entrusted to our care. We will change diapers, make meals, buy clothes, teach piano. We will parent them through adolescence and into adulthood as best we can, leaning on the support of our community and relying on the grace of God.

All we can do is our best.