He’s trying to balance it just right.
The plastic gray phone is tucked between his right ear and his right shoulder, just the way I taught him. He’s pretending to multi-task, walking back and forth from the living room to the dining room, chatting away.
“Mommy, there’s a phone call for you,” Ryan says, thrusting the toy toward me.
“Oh, who is it?”
“It’s the lady who’s going to get us a brother or sister!”
Our caseworker, he means. The woman who talks to him in a soft voice and promises to play Legos with him the next time she visits. The woman who will play Legos one day and drop off his sibling another day.
I *talk* to her, and she *reiterates* that we should get the third bedroom ready for his brother or sister. That we should make sure we have a bed, a dresser, and a few toys and books. We cheer and high-five because we’ve already done all of those things, so we must be pretty close to being ready.
We hang up, and Ryan decides she’s probably bringing his brother or sister in six days – or two days – or four days – or FIVE days! Yes, she’s definitely bringing his brother or sister in FIVE days!
He’s excited. Which, of course, makes me happy. That’s been my goal over the past couple of months, after all — get him excited without allowing our preparations to overshadow him. When packages arrive on our doorstep filled with books or a new hamper or a toy bin shaped like a fox, I use my Excited Mom Voice to tell Ryan how we did the very same thing when I was pregnant with him. How when he came home that first day, he had a room full of things that made him feel comfortable and loved, and that every child should have that.
He gets it. He really does. He is a sensitive child who is always looking for ways to connect, ways to give. He understands that he has a hundred books and his sibling only has 10. He understands that he has toys upon toys upon toys, and he wants to go through all of them and pick some out for his sibling, who has but a few stuffed animals.
He has embraced this process with a grace and confidence that is equal parts awe-inspiring and scary.
Awe-inspiring because he has never – not once – questioned why we are adopting rather than having a baby. This new child will be his sibling from the second he/she walks through the door. I feel that deep in my soul, and I see it reflected in his eyes.
Scary because I know it’s not quite that easy, at least not legally. It’s likely that his sibling will live with us long before anything is a done deal, long before biological parental rights have been terminated.
Ryan can’t understand the lack of guarantees. There is no way to tell a four-year-old that this child may or may not be his sibling forever depending on the circumstances.
And really, I don’t want him to be anxious or confused. I want him to be excited and hopeful, to love his sibling without fear.
But I know that means he could be hurt.
I want to empower him, but I want to protect him.
I’m not sure there’s a way to balance it just right.