Some times in life feel particularly absurd. As a foster mom, you roll with it. You really have no choice. The absurdity is everywhere. The questions people ask that they think are any of their business. What is the background of your foster children? People, with disapproving looks, who tell me my grandkids are a handful. Questions about whether you will adopt them while the children are standing right there. The looks of puzzlement when the kids are a different color than you or your other kids. Do your kids have different fathers? Are you babysitting? The looks you get when your kids don’t act like theirs, so you must be a bad parent.
- Every child deserves privacy
- Not every child is meant to act the same
- I don’t really care if you approve
- Yes, they are all mine, and no, it is not any of your business.
I love my family. I really do, but they are not exempt. We have had my son since he was 2 months old, so they can not imagine what trauma he could have suffered in such a short time. They do not understand the effects of trauma on a young developing baby, in or outside of the womb. They are exposed to any manner of things inside their mother, then they are born and neglected. Children who are denied their mother’s touch, and have had their needs left unfulfilled, suffer trauma. This trauma inflicted at such an essential time in their development can completely change their mental wiring. This may leave babies without the will to live. It is called failure to thrive, and it can be deadly. Yet in his first two months, my son survived. He then arrived at our door. We have done our best to fulfill his every need, and he slowly adjusted to us. He does not consciously remember his beginnings, but his subconscious always will. Some children end up with an inability to bond to others, some panic whenever they don’t have food within reach, and many suffer from PTSD. These are all severe struggles for adults. Imagine facing them as a child!
Compounded with that is the fact that we are foster parents. In his short life, my son has lost several brothers and sisters. Why was he not potty trained until he was almost five? He lost his little “foster” brother and reverted. He has suffered trauma, and he is the little fighter who survived. I had a “friend” tell me all foster kids were damaged or troublesome. Fighting the desire to slap the stupid out of her, I just sighed sadly. If that is all you see when you look at foster kids, then you clearly don’t look very closely. They are all beautiful, resilient, enduring, and brave. Most foster kids overcome more trauma in their childhood than the rest of us will deal with in a whole lifetime. Do they need some help dealing with it? Of course! Does that make them broken? If so, we all need to look in the mirror, because we are all broken. Everybody needs help at some time.
What I see when I look into their little eyes is hope. I have witness kids who have been neglected, beaten, or sexually abused learn to trust again. Their little faces smile and burst into fits of joyful giggles when they were allowed to be kids again. These are not snapshots of the broken but of the unbreakable. My son has to work hard to catch up with his peers developmentally. He never complains. Working hard to reach his goals, he has pride in his accomplishments. Many adults could learn from him.
I learn from him every day. He is helping me to become the person I want to be. He has taught me patience, changed my view on a lot of things, and he has shown me parts of myself I did not know existed. Motherhood has had a steep learning curve for me, but I have loved him as a mother since the day we met. The kind of selfless love I never felt until I met him. He is my hope and joy, he is full of love and strength, and he is my hero.
So the next time you look at foster children and think of them as damaged, you think about how many things you’ve needed help with through the years. Did they break you? No, they made you stronger. We each fight our own battles in our own way. My son is my inspiration to do better and be better. It is for him that I want more. It is for my family I want to reach my full potential, and not settle for second best. My foster daughter takes pride in the fact that she has two mommies, two daddies, and one brother (my son). She is right! She has four parents that do love her very much. She may be in the system, but it is not from a lack of love from her parents. My son is also very loved by his bio parents. These kids had no control over how things worked out for them. They had to endure it all on their own, yet they can look back now and say, “I am safe and happy, and I have even more people who love me.” THAT is resilience, THAT is optimism, THAT is the ultimate strength.
As I go through my day, dealing with the most absurd situations, I look to my little heroes, take a deep breath, and try to respond in a way that would make them proud. We recently dealt with some bizarre situations within my family. If I had let my fiery emotions fly, I would have cut ties with parts of the family. The circumstances were hurtful, confusing, and felt like a slap in the face. I did not respond, other than to shield the kids. I am now working through the issues myself. When the time comes to resolve them, I hope I can do my kids proud because they make me so very proud every day!