Can we talk about the thing I knew was coming and how I shouldn’t be surprised that I’m getting tired of it? Yes. Yes we can.

As the foster licensing process gets closer (lol no. No it doesn’t. My main action today has been texting my parents to move my desk), I find myself mentioning it to people more, maybe not even because it’s closer but because it makes conversation. Especially in circumstances where it seems relevant, like at baby showers.

A conversation goes something like this (or, exactly like this):

Person: Do you have any kids?
Me: No, not yet.
Person: Are you married?
Me: No, I’m actually working on getting licensed as a foster parent.

Typed out this conversation looks more awkward than it was. It was pleasant and with a friendly and comfortable person with a two month old son. And her response was then, “Congratulations!” so this is a poor example.

And then there are the conversations that, I realize now, are probably asking more about my mother’s maiden name than mine:

Person: Oh, you’re Sarah!
Me: I am.
Person: What was your maiden name?
Me: …Hyatt. It’s still Hyatt. I’m not married. But if I was, I would probably keep it. Unless their name was really good.
Person: Good for you!

None of this is the point of the entry. That’s not even on topic.

The point of the entry is the response: “Oh, I could never do that/that would be so hard because it would be so difficult to give [foster children] back.” And this response as it comes from really kind people who are just trying to make conversation. And who probably mean it, and are expressing their feelings honestly.

But I lack a gracious way to respond, and honestly, I’m tired of hearing it. I’m sorry. I know you mean well. I know we’re just making polite conversation here. I’ve heard this before. I’m tired of it. I don’t care. I’m not asking you to do it. I don’t have a brief, kind, challenging response yet. It’s taken me fifteen years to decide on the easiest answer to the question everyone asks or wants to ask when they see a picture of Josh (which is: “I was adopted” and I haven’t yet had the chance to use it since deciding on it. Which I guess is good).

These are my problems with it: I am not telling you to look impressive. I am telling you because I am making small talk. I have no other interesting facts about myself. I don’t expect it won’t be hard. I don’t really feel capable of it either, but it’s right. I didn’t feel capable of most of the things I’ve done in my life (but you can’t say this, because that DEFINITELY looks like some kind of expectation of the other person). I am just talking about me. I didn’t think I could go to college, I didn’t think I could go back to college. I couldn’t do those things but I did. I couldn’t watch my dog die but I did. I couldn’t imagine ever failing or losing a job but I did. I couldn’t do most of the things I have done.

This is not impressive. I want to pull out a long list of other things I don’t do. Like, hey, I can take the risk of losing someone I love (except can anyone? Really? No. It just can’t be avoided anywhere at all, and I can’t live in fear of that fact anymore), but here’s what I can’t do: be on time to anything ever. Deal with three quarter length sleeves. Tell my left from my right. Bugs. Airplanes. I have days where EVERYTHING IS TOUCHING ME. My bangs touch my face and I seriously can’t deal. I shut down if I feel someone has expectations of me. I get anxious in megachurches, or churches that look like megachurches, or want to be megachurches, or even just have chairs instead of pews. I can’t find my keys. Not ever. I don’t handle details and planning well. I just shut down. The minute I get bored, I start tuning you out. If I have to talk about some mundane issue like traffic or Justin Bieber or the performance review process with my coworker again I will lose my mind. There are many many things I cannot do. I just put my phone on airplane mode because the text tone was sending me into sensory overload. There are other things I can’t do so intensely that I won’t even type them here because they are such deep levels of I can’t.

There are a lot of things I can’t do. There are a lot of things that distinguish me from you, whoever you are, whoever I am talking to. There are a lot. Can we not focus on any of them, whether foster care or keys, when we are in small talk getting-to-know-you mode? CAN WE JUST NOT. It’s defeating and useless and does nothing but create distance.

And how do you say that, without sounding heinous or flippant? You can’t.

It’s not badly intentioned but in retrospect, why can’t you? I guess I could, but not well. I could flip things around and say, “Well, yes, and I could never adopt internationally” which is what one person is doing. Because I can’t. I can’t afford it, it’s not an option for me, personally. I want to say, “Oh, no, I hadn’t heard about the orphan care conference at Vineyard Columbus, but I wouldn’t be able to handle going to that,” because I wouldn’t. For me. I couldn’t. But I can do this. Sort of. Right now. You can do that. Let’s just accept it as something that is. In the future, I will do whatever things I have to do then. And so will you.

In the meantime, let’s just make small talk. Here are some responses that you can use:

“Congratulations!”
“What age?”
“How exciting.”
“[insert fact about yourself].”

All of these are not emotionally exhausting. Please feel free to employ them.

In the meantime, any suggestions for responses from my end? Because I have none.