We used to take these really long road trips when the kids were little. Our first trip, nearly a month long, took place when our youngest (we only had four children at the time) was just 6 months old. We zig-zagged across the country from New York to Washington state and then down the coast of Oregon and California, then zig-zagged back. All 6 of us slept in a tent each night, and we scheduled one night at a hotel each week. There, we would shower and do laundry and use a toilet that flushed. After weeks living outside, indoor plumbing is truly a marvel. We did three big trips like that. (You can go back and read about the Capuano Tour De USA parts one, two and three.) It was hard work and a lot of preparation, but those trips go down in our family history as some of our very best memories.
People thought we were nuts. Maybe people were right, but I really didn’t care.
I wanted my kids to have a sense of adventure.
After taking those three trips, life changed for us a lot. We adopted our son Jay, so all of our money was tied up in adoption expenses. Jay was born healthy, but there were some complications within 24 hours of his birth that led to him receiving very high levels of antibiotics in the NICU for 12 days. This caused damage to his brain and permanent hearing loss.
Almost immediately after we brought Jay home, we began therapies and interventions to address his various delays. Oh, and bonus, Tom got laid off from his job of ten years! Around this time, our other son was diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder and our life was consumed with intensive attachment therapy, weeping and gnashing of teeth.
I think it goes without saying that family camping trips to “nurture a sense of adventure” took a serious backseat to survival. Adventure felt like pure frivolity in comparison to preserving whatever shred of sanity we could. Still, in some small way Tom and I grieved these times we had. We felt a sense of simplicity and freedom on those trips, and even though almost every possible thing went wrong, we made some hilarious and wild memories. And for years we have missed taking these trips.
We have made some very noteworthy progress in our home in the past few months. After ten years of hard and intentional work, our son appears to be securely attached. He is thriving, he is loving, he is connected. We still have challenges but this summer felt different. It felt like adventure might be possible again. So, we started to plan a trip. This time, just a week. Start slow, work our way up.
In the weeks leading up to the trip I started feeling this longing for adventure once again. But, this time… it wasn’t about the places our family would go, this adventure, felt more like the people we were supposed to be.
For years Tom and I have considered whether or not we were in a place where we could be considered a stable family for a child in the US Foster Care System. During these past several chaotic years, the answer has been a resounding “awww he!!-to-the-no!” Yet, during these past few months we have been closer to “normalcy” and stability than we have been in the past 5 years. And I can feel the question creep back into my heart again.
As Tom and I were processing this possibility, we included the kids in some of these conversations about what life might look like if/when we ever did become a foster family. There was this unbelievable moment when I was listing some of the sacrifices we would have to make as a family. I told my oldest daughter, Annalee, that she would need to share her bedroom with her little sister, London. This may not seem like a big deal but Annalee is 14 years old and we are JUST NOW finishing her bedroom in the attic. The kid has been waiting over a decade to have her own bedroom, and what was her response?
“Having your own bedroom is a luxury. Having a family, should not be.”
Going into this trip, I no longer felt grieved for all the years we lost to chaos and suffering. I no longer feared that my kids would not have a sense of adventure. In that one pure moment with my daughter it was unequivocally apparent that our children are ready for adventure. If and when our family is ready to become a foster family, I can be confident that they will have what it takes to endure with a sense of true adventure. Not the frivolous kind that comes from seeing Mt. Rushmore or from using a vault toilet in the mountains.Their sense of adventure is of a much grander scope. To them adventure means sacrifice. It means being a family to a child who needs one. It means abandoning frivolity and taking the harder path. To them, adventure no longer means exploring the world.
It means changing it.