A few months back, we went on a family vacation.. as you all know. The details I left out about said vacation were that of a very memorable request and conversation between us and Riley.
On the first day after Hearst Castle, we had dinner and returned back to our hotel to swim. As we were all getting ready, Riley, very stoic and sincere walked straight up to Sean and said, "Seany, I want you to donate me." .. Sean laughed and said, "what?".. to which Riley replied, "I want you to DONATE me.." as though yelling this and speaking slower, might help Sean understand.. (Duh!).. I rounded the corner from the bathroom and asked what he was talking about and his reply was gut wrenching, heart breaking, yet brave and exciting.. all at once, if possible. He said, "You know Mommy, when Seany becomes my daddy here on Earth!" .. to which Sean replied, "You want me to ADOPT you?" and with a big grin, Riley said, "Yes."
After Jason passed away, A LOT of people asked me if this were a possibility (never in the vicinity of ear shot to Riley.) to which I commonly replied, "Maybe someday, when Riley can have an opinion and a say.. but it isn't anything we need to address right now."
After Jason was laid to rest the first part of May, a few weeks passed and Riley asked me what "adopt" meant. While playing with friends he had heard another adult ask me about it and heard my common reply. A lump formed in my throat and I asked Riley what HE thought it meant. He said, "In school it means you go live with another family.." GAH! My poor child thinks were going to ship him away now, was all I could think.
I calmy and in my best "Mom voice" explained to my boy that SOMETIMES, your family can adopt you. I explained that this was the case for me, when my grandma and grandpa adopted me. He then asked, "Why would Seany adopt me?" .. My reply went much like this:
"Riley, Seany would adopt you because he LOVES you. I need you to understand something though, ok? Your daddy Jason is ALWAYS going to be your daddy.. He will always love you but now he's doing it from Heaven. Some day though, if you wanted Seany to adopt you, you two could talk about it and he would be your Daddy here on Earth. If you wanted, you could change your last name to Ehart or you could stay Ashworth.. but what is most important, is that someday, if something happened to Mommy, Seany adopting you would just mean that Seany could take care of you and you would stay with your brother and sisters."
Riley looked at me with those large doe eyes and walked away. He had all the information he needed and he set off to play. Not another word was spoken about adoption until our vacation, when Riley completely side swiped us with his request to be donated.
Fast forward from then to now.. with lots of therapy and counseling sessions, classes required of Sean and some extensive back ground checks.. Sean is a candidate to adopt Riley and we have received our date for a home visit from the social worker in charge of our case. The fee's have been paid in full and to my knowledge, after the home check is cleared.. we sit and wait.
Initially, after Riley's first request, Sean and I had decided to continue to hold off on this until things were "less raw".. and maybe his understanding of "permanent" was a little more clear. Two weeks to the day from Riley's first request, Riley asked WHEN was Seany going to adopt him? Why were we waiting? HE did NOT want to wait! .. So, this is when we brought all of this to the therapist. She helped us through the patches and helped us to understand that Riley is feeling lost.. almost like he has nowhere to belong. Though our family was far from conventional before Jason's passing, we were ALL his normal.. and now that "normal" was upset and RILEY was trying to tell us how to fix it but that as the parents.. we needed to decide if this was right for us.
This in no way means that Riley is "fixed".. and most days Sean and I both feel like we're doing everything wrong. The adoption evokes good feelings and bad feelings from Riley on any given day, which his therapist reassures us that this is normal. Someday's he wishes his last name was Ehart right now because he wants to be like the rest of us!(But mostly Cooper, he identifies with Cooper) Other days, he's sad because Seany adopting him makes him miss his Daddy Jason.
Riley has gotten in the habit of calling Sean Dad and this was all his own doing. We have never forced the kids to call us Mom or Dad and we had mutually and quietly decided that the adoption wouldn't change that.. that Sean would be happy to be called "Seany" the rest of his life as long as he is in his life. I can see the bond between my husband and my son changing each day and that makes my heart smile. It seem's to be coming effortlessly and naturally for both of them..
Our life certainly wasn't black and white before April 18th and most days we can't even be defined in the "gray" area. This is all new to all of us and were doing the best we can with what we have. Regardless if it's wrong or right.. were doing what we can to help Riley move forward.
I am beyond thankful for my husband. I know exactly how lucky I am and what a special man he is. Though he is remarkable, this situation has humbled us both in a lot of ways. He in no way intends to replace Jason and he has always been comfortable in his role as Riley's "bonus" dad. Stepping into the role of "Dad" for Riley were big shoes for Sean as he has always been cautious not to upset that line. He has always done a great job with our children and I have no doubt in my mind that this isn't a positive decision for our family.
We do not wish to phase Jason out or allow Riley to forget. We still regularly talk about Jason, he still talks about Daddy Jason and Jason's family is very much involved in Riley's life. None of that will change and as Riley gets older and deals with his loss, time and time again.. we will all be here to remind him of what he still has, how much he is still loved and how much his Daddy loved him and didn't want to leave him.
As we progress, I will do my best to update. I seem to be here less and less and more involved in day to day living.. which has been REALLY nice. (: