We all have some truths that feel more like monsters in the closet. The truth behind words buried deep within us can be bewildering and frustrating while also astounding and humbling. So many times over that is my experience as a foster parent, a temporary parent, and a co-parent.
My nephew came to us only three weeks old. He returned home at almost nine months old. The time in between, and honestly ever since, has been heart wrenching and magical.
When he returned home it felt as if we had lost him forever. I couldn’t get my heart to listen that things take time and I needed to give his parents space. My heart felt let down. As time went on we started visiting more and more. A hole in my heart began to heal as I was no longer living without my “son” but rather I had gained a “nephew”.
As the years have progressed, I feel blessed by the relationship we have with his parents and the time we are allowed to have with him.
Sometimes I am still concerned that I will wake up and this will all have been a dream. While I am not seeking out something bad to strike, I fear as if the joy of having our nephew present in our lives is tenuous.
Because I feel as if our happiness comes at another’s expense. We are living on borrowed joy. Every time my nephew learns something new while he is visiting I feel as if I have robbed his parents of this experience with him.
When my nephew returns home I am a bag of mixed emotions. I am glad he is building loving relationships with his parents yet I am terrified I will never see him again. That doesn’t even bring up all the things I worry about when he is away.
If you ask his parents they seem quite happy that we are around. They admit to being sad that he is not with them 24/7 but also admit that they are unsure of what they would do if we were not in their lives. To them co-parenting is the only answer that makes sense. While I honestly never thought of being a co-parent, I could not imagine doing anything else.
We are so very blessed that our nephew is still so active in our lives. He is more than our nephew, he is also our son.
One truth from fostering in the system:
As a foster parent, when you receive a child that is between the infant and toddler age it is important to make sure that child bonds with at least one person in the house. This is especially important when the length of that child’s stay will be longer than the time they have been alive. One form of quick bonding is simply referring to you and your spouse as that child’s parents.
This is something we hear all the time from speakers at foster care classes to DCS caseworkers. Some people take naturally to this as it is a fact that you want what is best for the child in your care. Others struggle with this as they feel like they are robbing the birth parents of their “birth” right.
Truth is that child needs your bond. They need to feel safe and loved by you. For the time spent in your home you are that baby’s mom and dad.
Uncertainty of sharing this truth:
If you are concerned about how the birth parents will react, I know I was, ask for help from your caseworker. Tell the birth parents you don’t want this baby to feel different from other children and you want this child to be able to be confident. That forming bonds with others helps build that confidence. Remind them that they are still mom and dad and that your family is just a place holder for when they are ready to step in and take over.
Some birth parents listen and others don’t. Honestly you will have an idea of whether they will understand or not based on how they treat you over the first couple of months. If you feel they won’t understand then don’t bring the subject up.
Example: our foster daughter lived in our house for almost two tears and had attended daycare where she learned the power of having a mommy and daddy. She proudly claimed us to her classmates at pickup time. When the topic came up with her parents, we just reminded them that love is powerful and she feels extra loved by having more than one set of parents. We also provided another reminder that they would always be her parents while one day soon enough she would begin to call us by other names.
A very common thread through most foster care and adoption blogs is a Jody Landers quote:
Children born to another woman call me “Mom.” The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me
These are truly beautiful words that I think almost any foster and adoptive mom can relate to. Each of our stories may be different but we can all agree that being called mom is a privilege and to be called mom by another woman’s child can leave one with mixed emotions.
I for one am always in awe of what children do even if I see it a thousand times. Each child is a new interpretation. I always feel blessed to witness new beginnings but sad at the same time as their birth family is missing the same magical moments.