April 1, 2010. People often ask me – sometimes whispered in nervous apology but other times blurted out like a distasteful joke, whether I would adopt Peter, even Sophie, if I had it to do all over again. The short answer, at least regarding Peter, is no. But the long answer, the one where hopes and dreams weave themselves into a beautiful tapestry of reality through utter will and desire? That answer is yes. And here’s what I mean. Before we met Peter we were financially secure, I was on target in terms of career goals, we were socially and physically active, we took far less medication for various complaints, we were thinner and more fit, and there’s no doubt we slept better. Before Peter, our lives together were full, our marriage filled with love and laughter. Becoming parents has changed all that, of course. Almost anyone could say the same, even those with perfectly typical biological children. But then Peter’s different, that’s clear. Even Sophie with her hypervigilant need to control, her anxious personality, and her often stubborn refusal to accept parental direction, is a daily challenge. In her own, more manageable, lovable way, she’s different too, and shows prominent signs of damage. But Sophie’s traits that exasperate us as parents, at least we hope and pray, can be shaped and channeled into traits that can benefit her as an adult. With Sophie, I can envision a successful parenting path to guide her toward adulthood, and so the sacrifices we’ve made are worthwhile, of course. But what about Peter? Will we have been successful if he’s potty-trained 24/7 as an adult? Will we have done our jobs if he’s never arrested? If he understands who can help him and who only wants to take advantage? I don’t know. Pat and I constantly redefine and reconsider what success for Peter (and us as his parents) means. If I could wave a fairy’s wand and go back to that day in September 2004 when we opened his referral, I would see different features; a face with a philtrum and a plump upper lip, a baby perhaps with normal growth parameters. Given the choice, I would never choose to parent an FAS child. Thank goodness there are better people than I who aren’t so afraid of the challenge. They have my greatest admiration. But for me, it’s too hard and the price too great. Having said this, would I still want the face in the magically recast referral to be Peter’s? Absolutely. In my fantasies, Peter is whole. His intrinsically sweet nature, his kind heart and gentle soul, the bravery he exudes and the unfettered resilience he exhibits every day – that is who Peter is, who he was meant to be. The bad stuff comes from shoddy assembly, his birth mother literally drunk on the job. So again, the short answer is no. FAS is impossibly hard! Not only does it selfishly rob innocent children of any potential for normalcy, but its an isolating, lonely, misunderstood, and financially and emotionally crippling disability for their caregivers. But I still want Peter. I’ll always want Peter. And that’s the long answer. I can’t imagine my life without him. I will love him every minute of my life, even through the times when I don’t much like him, because he is my son and he deserves my best. I will love him through all the tough, probably heartbreaking decisions we face down the road, in the coming years or given the recent school situation, maybe even in the coming months. He has taught me so much and I’m in awe of his courage and noble heart, of the love that he’s able to express every day despite the impossibly tangled wiring in his brain. But I do wish he could be reassembled. In fact, I wish both our children had “grown in my tummy”, a wistful fantasy into which Sophie and I often escape. In the pinnacle of my dreams, Peter would be Peter, sober and whole, just like all FAS victims deserve to be.