I wasn’t cut out for being a foster parent. It wasn’t on my list of things to do. It wasn’t where I thought my life was going. But it is where life took me. In many ways, years into the process, I still don’t think I’m cut out for it. My heart has been broken. My heart has been mended. It’s not easy to say no to any of those little faces. I want to help them all. I want to save them all. And I know I can’t.
Before being a foster parent, I was extremely judgmental. I did not have a heart for the parents of these children. They were once children, and in many cases, they were children exactly like the children they have put into the system. They don’t know how to parent. They’ve never had that example. I now see my son’s first mom as broken and healing. I hope that I add value to her life. I don’t think anyone else cared to add value to hers. Every day she fights to stay clean and sober for her son. The son that I’m raising. The son that calls me mommy.
I am sadder than I used to be. Ignorance is bliss. And I used to be blissfully ignorant. I know how the abuse and neglect has changed my innocent toddlers. They are skittish and shy. They bond too easily to strangers. They don’t bond easily enough to me. It took my son over a year to truly bond with me. Now he openly asks for kisses and hugs, and that still catches me off guard. He’ll tell me he loves me out of the blue. That’s new too. My daughter is still wary. She doesn’t trust me. But she will. Someday.
I am strong. Stronger than I ever knew I would need to be. I have watched as someone tried to tear my family apart. Sending law enforcement to my home to check out bruises, sending all my children into a frenzy of fear, distrust, and anxiety. We will all heal, because I won’t stop helping them know that they are completely safe.
I am no longer naïve. I know that parents of foster children have too many opportunities to make changes, and too many opportunities to continue to hurt innocent children. That the laws of foster care are not in the best interest of the children. The children get lost in the logistics of the process. And sometimes they don’t have a chance to recover.
I am happier. While I don’t believe the old adage that “kids are resilient” in the way that I used to. I know that they can and will be extremely happy in their lives. I hope that they don’t struggle. And I know that they struggle every day. But they bring unimaginable joy to my life. Frustration, fear, and heartache are part of our daily life, but they are joined with giggles, fun, and belly aching laughter.
I am fulfilled. Not only have they brought me endless joy, they have brought me strength, flexibility, perseverance, and love. They inspire me to work harder to be a better person every day. They have taught me far more than I will ever teach them. I love deeper, stronger, and more completely than I ever thought I could. And when my heart breaks again, it will mend again. And these children, they are worth it.
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