Kathy Sullivan is the mother to five marvelous children, three of whom were adopted out of the foster care system. Kathy and her husband, Dan, first connected with her children's social worker through the CAP photolisting.
The drive to Chicago to meet our three older children for the first time took 15 hours-about as long as my first labor. Dan and I entered the Catholic Charities adoption party with our two sons, James (then 6) and Nick (3), with no idea what to expect. We had seen only a few photos and a brief write-up of the children we were intending to adopt.
Charles, 9 at the time, was introduced to us by his social worker. He just nodded and moved to the table where children were gluing and cutting craft materials. His brother Kevin (12) was talkative from the start-about the sneakers he liked, the bike he was hoping for, the sports he enjoyed. Meanwhile, Nicole (8), oblivious to the significance of the day, was focused on her winnings at the carnival games and whether Dan would hold her booty of plastic toys and candy.
Later in the morning Charles, still silent, handed me a carefully crafted paper-bag puppet decorated with glitter and feathers. His gesture was worth a thousand words.
The following day was packed with activities-fun at Chicago's Navy Pier children's museum followed by renting bikes. When I would not allow them to ride without safety helmets, the boys had their first taste of our family rules. This was clearly a shock to them. My shock came moments later as I watched Kevin do wheelies up and down the brick walkway at a speed that brought my heart to my throat.
At lunch, we told the children they could order what they wanted-so Kevin and Charles ordered the biggest thing they could find on the menu. Halfway through the meal Charles looked up, pale and nervous, and whispered "Do I have to eat everything?" We told him if he was full then he had eaten enough. This was a taste of things to come-it took about a year for Kevin, Charles and Nicole's fears about food scarcity to diminish.
That first meeting was two and a half years ago. We've come a long way from those days of being strangers to one another. We now have a sense of comfort with each other. There is recognition of the habits and funny personality quirks that annoy and endear. There have been frustrations and resolutions, challenges and triumphs. And, oh yes, there is lots of love. From those nervous, tentative, hopeful beginnings, a family was born.