It’s not every eighteen-year-old guy who decides to take his sister to prom …. Then again, Chris isn’t your typical eighteen-year-old guy. And this isn’t just any sister … it’s the sister he hasn’t seen for six years for reasons beyond anyone’s control. Except perhaps the PA Juvenile Court System. But this is a day for joy, and so let’s not muck it up with the details, shall we?
One of the few things both the judge in Michigan (who granted our adoption) and the one in PA (who presided over our case when Chris was 11) agreed to was that once the minor children turned 18, it would be up to them to decide whether to get in contact with their birth family members.
On his 18th birthday, he was on the phone with his first mom. I dialed the number for him. And when it came time to choosing a prom date, there was one girl he most wanted to spend it with. And they both look happy, don’t they?
Here’s the thing, and it’s the takeaway I wish someone had clued me into: Just because reunion is a (potentially) happy occasion, doesn’t it mean it won’t ALSO be an overwhelming occasion. And this deluge of emotion may come out in strange ways.
I learned something else, too: Just because they are legally adults, doesn’t mean that they don’t need their parents to support them. No matter how much they want to call the shots themselves. While there is such things as helicopter mothering, when it comes to helping our young adults transition to adulthood, we can never forget that their stories are much more complicated, such that they need help processing it all.
So . . . when meeting your sister for the first time in six years, it might be good to have a bit of time in private, to catch up, before taking it out on the dance floor, for all the world to see. Put away the iPhone, set aside the distractions, breathe deeply, and embrace the moment.
And encourage your kids to do the same.
What wisdom would you offer a young person (or his parents) who is going to reconnect with birth family when he or she turns 18?