Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Words That Take Your Breath Away

"Thank you for taking care of us."

Those were the words spoken by an 8-year-old little girl last night as a stranger tucked her into bed.  She and her younger siblings had just been removed from their home in the middle of the night and placed with people they didn't know.  So many times we try to anticipate our children's feelings.  Are they frightened?  Are they confused?  How can we help them?  And so many times, these children stop us in our tracks with only a few words.

"Thank you for taking care of us."

When I read those words on my friend's FB page this morning, all I could think was "wow..."  I kept coming back to it over and over again, my heart simultaneously breaking for that little girl and her siblings and thanking God that, at least for now, they are in a safe and loving home.  I kept coming back to those words and let them truly sink in, and I thought about all of the other times that a child's innocent words have left an ache in my heart.

I remember the first time I provided respite for a foster family, when 6-year-old Rocket asked me "So what exactly are the rules in your house?"  I think he was under the impression that I didn't have any because I really hadn't had to get onto him for anything.  I told him that my main rule is to "be respectful of others" and that included things like no yelling in the house (because I have neighbors upstairs), no hitting or kicking, etc.  He replied, "Why no hitting?" I told him that hitting hurts people, and that I never wanted anyone to be hurt. Rocket's face fell, and he replied in a quiet little voice, "People hit at my real house."  :'(   I knelt down in front of him and told him that that made me sad and that I was really sorry to hear that.   Then I assured him that no one hits at my house.  Ever.  He looked up, smiled, and said, "You're a really nice lady!" and then went on about his day as if he hadn't just taken my breath away with a few little sentences.  I'm so used to only fostering infants and toddlers that it was a whole new experience having children who could verbalize their experiences before coming into care.

Photo used with permission
Yesterday, another foster mama friend posted this picture in a foster parent support group.  It is a list of questions that her foster daughter has for her social worker.  Things like "Am I going back home," "How are Mom and Dad doing," and "Is any family member trying to get me?"  Her foster mom said that her foster siblings recently went to live with an aunt, and this little girl so desperately wants someone in her family to want her too. 

No child should ever feel unwanted.  No child should ever feel fear in their own home.  No child should ever be put in a position to thank complete strangers for doing what their own parents should have done.  No child should ever have to be in foster care.

Unfortunately, the sad reality is that children are living out these things every day.  Foster care is necessary because some parents will fail their children.  It is our responsibility as foster parents to walk with these kids through times of uncertainty, hurt, and fear of the unknown.  We do our very best to be an anchor for these children to hold on to when the big feelings come and threaten to take over.  And when their words hit us in a way that leave us heartbroken and breathless, we let them them know without a doubt that they are loved, that they are safe, and that they are most definitely wanted.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Letters Between Mothers

You might remember in early April, I reached out to Bug's birthmother.  In the two months since that initial letter, my son's first mom and I have been writing back and forth every week or two.  I tell her stories.  I answer questions.  I reassure her that Bug is growing up loved beyond measure in a home free from dysfunction and chaos.  She gives me pieces of his history.  She tells me her hopes and dreams for him.  She thanks me over and over for reaching out and giving her a chance that she feels she doesn't deserve.

It's a strange thing to have such a monumental connection to a woman you've never met - a connection to a woman who is so very different from you, and I know she feels the same.  I cling to every word as I piece together our son's past - where he came from and how he came to be mine.  She locks away every detail that I share about our son's present - his likes and dislikes, silly stories, and personality traits.  I smile when she responds with "Oh my goodness!  I know where he gets that!  His father used to do that all the time!" or "You said he loves cars and he loves to read, so I'm really hoping I can find a car book next time."  She cries happy tears when I send her little momentos like a handmade Mother's Day card from Bug and school photos - all things that she thought she would never be able to see when she signed relinquishment papers last September.

It's all still new, and we are still slowly figuring out the details of what we want this relationship to look like.  I am adament that any direct contact with Bug will not be happening until he is much older and able to help make that decision himself.  She completely agrees because she doesn't want to confuse him or let him down in any way.  I worry that frequent letters will cause her more pain than comfort when she reads about what all she is missing every day, and she worries that she will share too much about her past and how she was raised and I will decide that it's not worth the risk.  It's a balancing act, but it's one that I truly believe is worth every ounce of effort we can put into it for Bug's sake.

Every time I open the post office box to see a letter...  Every time I find a lone key to a parcel box...  Every time I address an envelope and drop it in the mail, I know that my son is gaining a little piece of his history.  I watch my little guy as he reads the first book his birthmother chose just for him and I see the collection of his birthmother's letters growing as I store them away, and I know without a doubt I made the right decision the day I reached out to the woman who loved my son first.  With every word, I am able to piece together my child's story in ways that I never would have been able to with only that big black binder handed to me by CPS.  With every word, I also have hope for the future.

I don't typically ask for prayers, but please lift up Bug's first mother over the coming weeks/months.   Please pray that she can feel my hope for her and my faith that she can overcome her addictions and learn to live a life that is not filled with dysfunction and chaos.   Pray that she can feel God's love and know that she is not alone and that this time she has people who believe in her and who are lifting her up in the best way they know how.   She is lost and struggling, but wants so badly to find a life outside of what she has always known.   As hard as it was for her to admit to herself that she couldn't be allowed to parent her son, she knows that he is exactly where he is meant to be, and we are both so hopeful that by seeing my love for him and how he is being raised, she'll get her first glimpse into how things should be.   Please just remember her in your prayers.   That's probably the best thing I can do for the woman who gave my son life.
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