The car pulled up and as the doors begin to open letting its passengers out, I heard her say, “I love our family.”
I watched as this newly formed family exited the car. A new mom, a dad, and three blonde beauties ranging from ten month-old to seventeen year-old with smiles that light up the darkest of moments.
The mom of this crew is the newest adult member of our family. When she promised to love our eldest, she promised to take the good, the bad, and the baggage – and there’s a lot of baggage. It includes a difficult relationship with an ex, step-children and an inevitable custody case. She now finds herself the mom of a 10 month-old, the step-mom of a 9 and 17 year-old (with hopes of bringing the last one home).
A year ago Jeff and I were asked if we’d consider having our 16 year-old step-grand-daughter live with us. Without hesitation the response was, “Yes, of course.” We had no idea what was to follow. Neither did we realize how our lives would change.
We’ve learned about another way of life. One that includes police officers showing up at the house regularly. Probation officers stopping by to check up on how we are doing. Social Workers asking interesting questions that make you feel as if you’re on trial. There’s lawyers, magistrates, judges, District Attorneys, subpoenas, and evidence.
We’ve had moments of frustration, anger and outrage. When a CFI (Court Ordered Family Investigator) submitted her recent report to the Colorado Courts, we read statements about how our grandkids have been treated and how the system has failed them. Statements such as, “I have not seen a more appalling handling of children’s best interests than in this case.” “This is one of the worse accounts of abuse I’ve seen in forty years.” You’re not sure what to do with the emotions that erupt within you. You wait for someone to do something. Someone to step in and make it right. Someone to come to the rescue. When they don’t, you begin to walk down paths you’ve never walked before.
Then, in the midsts of the muck, there are moments, like Uncle Brian saying, “We just have to keep loving.” An unexpected, “I love you Neenee.” A delighted cousin asking, “Does Elin get to live here now?”
We were put under the microscope three weeks after moving into our multi- generational homestead, when this same court ordered Family Investigator spent three days watching us and asking deep and personal questions. In her 32 page court report that outlines abuse and neglect by a troubled mom, we found statements like, “Visiting the Bruenning’s was nothing but a heartwarming and inspiring example of family life in an extended family. There was a great deal of respect and understanding, open communication among them all… I have seen and evaluated many homes and families and many varieties over my years and have not seen one that appeared healthier and more functional than this one…”
I don’t believe such statements would have been made a year ago. We are closer because we’ve accepted to be on a journey, that at times isn’t pleasant, it isn’t easy, there is no escape and there are no rules. It’s time consuming, finance sucking and emotionally draining. We wonder at times if our Hacienda is really here to allow us to support each other as we welcome home these young lives who come in need of love and healing.
Is it worth it? Some days I’d say I’m not sure.
But then there are moments when I hear statements like, “I love our family!” And I watch three blond sisters and their mom and dad walk into the house that is now their home…and it all feels right.