Thursday, March 5, 2009

Living in Foster Parent Land

I had a conversation the other day that made me stop to think about the relationship I have with my biological children versus my foster children. I thought I would share those thoughts here as I have a few friends who have just entered "Foster Parent Land" or are training to be a part of this crazy roller coaster ride.

Please understand that I am writing this to prepare those friends for some emotions they would probably not have ever imagined and maybe will never experience. These are simply my experiences (as well as what I have heard from more seasoned foster parents).

Although we have been fostering for over a year we are still "newbies". We have had only 4 foster children in the house thus far. One is Iggy. He came home from the hospital at about 2 1/2 days old. He is now days away from being 14 months old. The next two were brothers who only stayed with us temporarily last summer. The fourth is 3 1/2 year old Eazy who has been here since December.

There is a big difference between my feelings for Iggy and Eazy. I care deeply for them both. If Eazy were to go home tomorrow I would be sad to see him go and would pray for his parents' success, but life would carry on quite seamlessly. If Iggy went home tomorrow I would mourn the loss deeply. But life would still have to carry on. Seamlessly or not.

As a foster parent there is a bit of a wall that goes up around your heart. It almost has to for you to survive the realities of the mission. In a "normal" family, there is no risk of one of your children being whisked away from you (even on those days you wish that they would be!), but your foster children can be. There is little to nothing you can do about it.

I kept that in mind for the first 7 or 8 months of Iggy's life and then I got a little too comfortable. When BioDad showed back up again when Iggy was around 11 months old, my heart almost stopped. Why was this man bothering me and MY baby? That's the trap to avoid. You have to love them as your own, but accept that they are not your own. That is where that small wall comes into play.

I have no wall with my biological children. I know that my days with them are not guaranteed, but I will love them with my whole heart as if they were. I can only assume, and those of you with adopted children can attest to this, that once/if the adoption decree is signed on the boys (one or both), that wall will instantly disolve and they will fall in line with my biological children. That is my hope.

There are also a couple things to prepare for when you bring home foster children. Others will treat them differently. Not on purpose or with mailce, but it will happen. Little newborn foster babies tend not to get baby showers or big "welcome home" celebrations. They are fawned over certainly, but no one wants to attack that big pink elephant in the room, "what if they go back?"

There are no "congratulations", just questions about their previous situation and what happens "next". Toddlers are pitied and older children are suspect. After all, they were taken from their previous environment. Something was wrong there and may be wrong with them, right? Nothing you do will squash any of this. You just have to hold them close and try not to hurt for them.

The most important thing I have learned in all of this is that it is absolutely NOT about me. Although my feelings, hurts, opinions and desires are real, this journey I am on is simply about them. How I serve them and make life easier and as normal as possible for them is what really matters.


Dawn said...

I can so relate to this post! I won't elaborate on my adoption experience here except to say that the wall did not "instantly go down" for me. It has gone down, but sadly there are still remains of the wall even 6 years later for us. I doubt if this will be the case for you. I have yet to talk to anyone who will admit there is a difference between the children.

Carolyn said...

Thanks for posting your feelings. Especially the reminder that it is not about you (or hopefully soon, not about me). I need to remember that.

KeeperatHome said...

You make some excellent points and give lots to think about to those who may be on the road to fostering. When we return to the states, we will pray about fostering with the possibility of adopting at some point. In Christ, Talya