Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Southern Star - "From Diesel and Dolce to PJs and puzzles" by Peter Cross

Last Monday we went to some friends’ place for dinner.

Normally this isn’t newsworthy but over a year ago Matt and Peter fostered two boys, T and J, brothers in need of love and stability. When they were going through the process we all said, “isn’t that wonderful, what a great thing to do … are they mad!” None of us thought through the implications and responsibilities. I don’t think even Matt and Peter did.

We turned up for dinner at their beautifully restored New York-style high ceilinged,inner city apartment. What once was a room of clear surfaces and clean lines was now an obstacle course of puzzles, Bob the Builder, toys and plastic children’s chairs. Flannelette pyjamas versus Abercrombie and Fitch. It’s gone from Sex and the City to Malcolm in the Middle. It feels and smells like a family home now. Dinner was in the oven, two tables were set, one for the boys and one for the “old” boys.

Matt and Peter have taken two brothers, both under ten, who’ve had a tough time of it, and provided them with a safe environment where they are experiencing nurturing and love for possibly the first time in their short lives. This is an act of total selflessness.

After the boys had been fed and bathed, “Grandpa” Michael read them a bedtime story and when they were safely tucked up in their beds, the adults sat down to dinner. I asked Peter and Matt how they were coping.

Their lives have changed dramatically. Things that were once important are now irrelevant. No more smart restaurants and opening nights — now it’s soccer practice and parent-teacher meetings. Lazy Sunday mornings reading the paper in bed are a fond memory when you have two Energiser bunnies waking up at dawn and wanting to rumble. The boys don’t know the meaning of downtime.

None of it’s easy. It’s a constant twenty-four hour seven day a week focus. It’s made Matt and Peter a much stronger couple who talk and more importantly, listen to each other. They have a common purpose outside of themselves, something much bigger than their own needs.

I cannot imagine where they have found the resources to achieve what they have. There’s been no nine-month pregnancy preparation. The boys landed fully formed and damaged in their laps. There have been hard times when it has seemed overwhelming. Peter travels a lot for work and T and J have not been easy. As Matt said one night, “Mommy Dearest only tells one side of the story”. He was joking but I think at that stage he was lost in the enormity of this force that has taken over his life. And yet both of them have maintained and grown their own careers.

The boys’ lives have changed dramatically as well, from abuse and anger to love and compassion. They had been shunted from one home to another. Now at last they have stability.

There is a photo of J pinned to a once-pristine beam of hardwood in the lounge room; it shows a clear-eyed, open-faced soulful child staring straight into the lens of the camera. There is no artifice, no agenda and no lie in his eyes as he stares back at you. The photo was taken on one of the first days when J felt safe enough to again look anyone directly in the face. He was so used to seeing anger, judgement and threat, now he saw love and security. It’s one of the most moving pictures that I’ve ever seen.

The change in all four of these “boys” is enormous.

Matt and Peter don’t expect or seek approval for what they are doing. I know how embarrassed they will be when they read this. They don’t think of reward or recognition. They do it because they can’t not do it. They all have grown in so many ways not only as individuals but as a couple and as a family. They are still Peter and Matt but … more.

Now that’s a Christmas.

[Link: Original Article]

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