By Executive Producer Rachel Dueker

My son graduated from high school. To so many a common rite of passage but in our home,  just another amazing affirmation against the nay sayers that two lesbians with less the perfect pasts could be the safe landing and family for a 16 year old prepping for life on his own.

Its amazing really what faith can do, here we were in our forties with zip, zero, zilch parenting experience. We had no desire for either of us to get pregnant; we would get a little freaked out at pregnancy and births stories from our friends. To be frank, we really had a deep dark secret that in this culture is almost taboo. We wanted to be moms but had no desire to raise a baby. Many times as we talked adoption there were so many things that led us to believe that someone else had already birthed our child and they were out there in the world somewhere. We did not believe that our child could not be completely ours unless they were with us from infanthood on. We believed our child would find us. Michael was not even on our radar, it was a series of fates that led us to him and rocked our world on a level we never expected. To be so in love with a young man that at times does not even think we are cool enough to hang out with LOL!

Mike rocked our world and us his. Here was this kid with the biggest heart, being the biggest hard ass and drama stirrer he could be,  just to keep anyone from seeing him, the real him. Man, I could relate to that. He had to trust us and that did not come right away and we were ok with that. He had to learn to be parented. That he could sit back and let others drive the bus and it would be ok. Wow! To turn over control, be ok with being vulnerable; we were the folks for him. We all learned to connect not on our perfections but through our flaws. How they were accepted unconditionally and every issue was discussed, put to bed and moved on from.

Sometimes the past overtook him. The anxiety of remembering and how it could turn to anger and rage; urging him to push us away. What he never knew was once upon a time, I used the same tactics and the people in my family walked the path next to me, loved me when I felt I was unlovable and supported my growth for the better. I now do the same for my son. His healing is not because of any stellar magical powers we had as parents but is a testament to the good and passion and light and drive that lives in my son. It lives in so many of these kids but sometimes is just pushed further and further down as the idea of family is taken more away.

And the educational gaps, let’s chat about them. So many of these kids, Mike included, were labeled delayed. I would just like to point out the Russian roulette of being moved to new foster homes 19 times and trying to navigate the scholastic and real world. School, yeah, gets bumped down. In most treatment centers, kids are medicated to the eyeballs for compliance and the only way to get the jerks off your back is adopt a prison mentality; break the nose of a staffer and folks let you be. Term papers, fair benchmark tests, research projects are not going to happen. Mike came to us with a 1.3 GPA and a not so great view of his intellect. His paperwork from his old school called him unmotivated ( the stress of coming down off pysch meds was never factored in ). His IEP had several places where it was someone else’s name and the goals cut and pasted. So much for individualized, right?

Mikes first nights of homework were horrible. Several times, the table was cleared by an angry swipe of the arm. ” I’m never going to get this. This is stupid! I cannot do this!” 3 pages of reading took 2 hours gone. Then a funny thing happened. Finally he was placed in a school without not viewing him as a troubled foster kid. In 3 short weeks, his dyslexia was brought to light. As he learned to manage that, it opened his world to education. My kid, who hated to read, got A’s in English! His interpretations of classic pieces of literature swelled me with pride and made me want to bawl as he saw the tragedy’s through a childhood lens fraught with challenge. His insight floored me.

On May 29th 2015 with pomp and circumstance playing, I saw my kid start the processional…and I am sure many around me saw me as a nut job. My hand to my chest, tears flowing. I saw a happy, confident, strong young man when only 2 and a half years ago, this loving but unsure kiddo came home to us. Love is not just concern or birthing or raising a child, it is truly seeing your kid, no matter what age, take the next step to growing and reaching their potential. Not just the skills and values you have imparted but the greatness they carry within themselves.

Imagine what our world would be like if the kiddos still in care had someone who saw them clearly enough to weep for them. Not for their tragedy but for their potential and triumph through unbelievable circumstances. Just imagine…

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