This week we celebrated the 18th birthday of our “Nephew”. Technically he is our Foster Child. My wife has known him and his family since he was born, I only for the last 7 years. Four years ago, on Easter Sunday he moved in with us. The circumstances are not something to air out here, but let’s just say things reached a point that his safety was in danger and he needed somewhere to go. We contacted CPS, and started the whole process of becoming his permanent legal guardians. The alternative would have been the Foster Care system, but would have meant being with yet more strangers. At least this way he was with his Aunty he had always known. He was one of these good natured kids that had been put into a bad situation, left with little to no guidance or discipline, and as you can bet he fell in with some not too good for him kids. It was never all easy or all hard. We really gave him the chance to be the kinda person he was at his core, but we also were there to rein him in when those not so good impulses came calling. He went from Special Ed & failing grades to the Honor Roll and the rank of Officer in NJROTC. He was accepted to UH Manoa and will be studying Japanese in the fall. At his birthday dinner we presented him his class ring. He was so surprised to get it. He had designed it, and turned in the order & deposit, but figured it would be a nice dream and the beginning of another broken promise like so many before. Although that ring represented his work in school and his coming graduation, in it I believe, he saw the opportunity that came with moving in with our family. And it hit him, emotions…gratitude for what he’s been given, remorse for putting us through the usual teenage trials, and finally happiness that things worked out the way they had.
He’ll be staying with us until the Fall when he moves into the dorm at UH. His younger brother (who moved in with us 3 years ago) will take his room for his own, no doubt a relief, since he’s been sharing a typically small bedroom with our 4 year old son. Although he’ll be at school and his brother occupying “his” room, there will no doubt be a messy pile of stuff in the corner to remind us he’s part of the household too.
Our legal commitment to him is over, but as I told him, I regard him as my son as much as any of our boys, and always will (cue the theme for 60’s TV show My Three Sons).
His younger brother and I also had a great heart to heart talk about school, girls, & friends. He is often the closed book “I don’t know” type. This time he opened up. I shut up & listened. And I think he realized that Uncle isn’t the fire breathing dragon he always though I was. I’m hoping the communication stays more open like this.
And finally, my son, 4 ½. The other morning as we were getting ready for work & school. He grabs me and gives me a hug and says “Daddy, you’re my best-est friend”. I thanked him and asked “But what about Mommy?” He said “oh yeah, Mommy too”. I than asked the same about his two cousins and Tutu, and he proclaimed them his “best-est friends” too. Then I asked if our dog Lani-Girl was one too and he said “ahhh, noooo”. So I’m happy to know I out rank the dog.