Wednesday, April 19, 2000

Family matters

There's a strong opinion these days among my kids that our family needs a new member. My daughter is desperate for a sister, but would settle for a puppy. My son would like a brother, or a cat, or maybe a cow. The necessity for a new addition is a given, but its species appears up for debate.

Their dad and I are so far resisting all suggestions. The care and feeding of pets is something neither child is really ready for. And the care and feeding of siblings is something we're probably not ready for, either. To say that our two little bundles of love and neurological impairments fill our days to the brim is an understatement. I'd like to think we have enough affection and energy left to fit a fivesome instead of a foursome, but you can't exactly return a child if it doesn't work out. You can't really even return a puppy, if it turns out not to fit my daughter's stringent criteria of "a dog that likes me."

I've always thought we would adopt again one day, and it's always on my mind, somewhere, in some small, nagging place. I see the billboards around New Jersey inviting people to adopt, and even though I know I've called the number and left my address and never heard from them again, the images tug at my heart. I see the posters at Wendy's during their annual adoption campaign, and even though I know the National Adoption Center's failure to match us up with kids is one of the reasons we eventually turned to Russia, I can't help but look at those little faces and wonder which one is meant for me. I read about efforts to place boarder babies with foster families, and even though I know I can't afford to quit my job right now, I think about how much I'd love to give one of those little fetal-alcohol-affected infants the loving start my son didn't have. I hear about programs that place Russian orphans with American families for the summer in the hopes of finding them permanent placements, and even though I know we could never take the time away from our existing kids to go to Russia and finalize another adoption, I know how much my two would love to have an in-house playmate for even a month or two.

Still, for every reason my heart gives for adding on, my head can think of two reasons not to, and my gut kicks in a third. If the thought of handling a puppy or a kitten fills me with exhaustion, how would we ever juggle a child? I've always thought that if God wanted us to have more kids, He'd show us a sign. But what qualifies as that, exactly? Does seeing a billboard count? Does picking up a newspaper that happens to have an article about boarder babies? Does tuning in just as Rosie O'Donnell is talking about adopting out of foster care? A baby in a basket on the doorstep would be so much easier to interpret.

For now, I guess, we'll stand pat.

Well, maybe a goldfish.

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