If all goes as planned, we will go before a judge on or around May 23, and officially Bailey will become our son.
Not a small thing, to be sure. A heady responsibility, in fact. To take into our home someone else's child, and legally make him our own. And while he has been living with us since last November, and therefore already seems like "our" son, to make it official is scary. We snip the ties he has to the State on that day. There is no turning back. There's no "official" guardian in some 10x10 office in Augusta to whom we can turn and seek refuge if something goes wrong.
He will become dependent on us for all things. Including our resolve to raise him as we do our other children: with love and affection, but with a mind to discipline.
Which brings up an interesting conundrum. In the last six months, the prescribed time frame required of us, under state rules, to house Bailey, we have noticed a disturbing trend. Because of Bailey's history, of abuse and neglect, the tendency of some is to over-compensate. He is showered with affection and gifts from a biological aunt, for example. He is coddled by others when, in the same breath, our other children are disciplined. He is doted on and taken places, given things, while his two younger siblings (our two youngest children) are ignored.
I don't exaggerate. Bailey very quickly, upon entering our home, became a pet, not a boy who needed a family. He was celebrated, elevated, purred over. To his detriment. And to the detriment of our efforts at creating a parent-child relationship with him. Like any child, Bailey saw this treatment as being natural, and therefore expected it. And when he would return to us from, say, his biological aunt's or from one of our own family member's home, he expected the same treatment from us.
We don't praise Bailey more than the others, we don't expect less of him because of his past. We have deliberately treated Bailey as if he took his first breath with us. He is disciplined when he does wrong, and he is praised when he does well. (He does many things well. In fact, he does many things experts claimed he would never do...)
So Corrine and I, when we put Bailey in timeout for whacking Griffin, or for stealing keys from Corrine's purse, feel like bad parents. There is a part of us that flinches when we have to scold Bailey, because we-more than any others in our family-know his history. We know what he has gone through. And there is that moment's hesitation when we wonder if we are contributing to a long history of "abuse."
Bailey, we have found, is very much a typical 6-year-old boy. He can be mischievous, curious, delightful, moody, exuberant, tired, excitable, stubborn, and introspective. But he is extremely loving. He is not retarded (as his diagnosis reported), he is not incapable of learning at his age level (as his diagnosis reported) he is not unable to play well with "normal" kids (as was reported), he thrives in an assortment of educational settings (contrary to what was reported).
Bailey is a boy. With a past. But that is the past. And while it certainly has affected his present, it has not defined him. To a person, Bailey has made phenomenal progress since being placed with us. The most-often heard remark from state officials, case workers, former teachers, and those who have worked with him, is "Wow. He's doing so much better..."
Bailey has needed structure, not gifts. He has needed direction, not a parade of well-meaning adults treating him like a broken toy.
In a month he becomes Bailey Turner, legally. This is the day he ceases to be a statistic, or bound to his past, or treated like anything other than a 6 year old boy with a truly caring family. Within the fold, not above it.