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Explaining life choices, like fostering, to an 11 year old is not quite what I thought I would be doing on Father’s Day. Instead of our normal low key Father’s Day activities spent with some variation of the kids in our lives we divided and conquered. Rent-a-Dad spent the afternoon with our nephews and their dad at a dinosaur convention. That left me with their mom, sister and half-sisters making a trip to the aquarium.
Sounds like fun.
It was for the guys.
For us girls, we had a mixed bag. Part of our day was supposed to include our city splash area but a good portion of that was closed. We also forwent our ice-cream treats as our afternoon took longer since a camera got mislaid and an a few other small mishaps took place.
The half-sisters only have summer visitation with as they live put of state. This means the only times we get to visit with them is also over the summer.
Ever since we first met the girls, they have readily accepted us into their family. From what I have heard they like to tell people we are their aunt and uncle too. It’s all very sweet. We like spending time with them when we get the chance.
We had all been looking forward to our Sunday outing. For the most part we took all of our glitches In stride.
The first sign I had that our day might be a little challenging was when the seven year old informed me she wasn’t going to ride in the booster seat. She is very tall for her age but she is still in that grey area where she should be in a booster seat. As she is not my child nor was she riding with her legal guardian, it meant I enforced my traveling rule. Either she could ride in the booster seat or she could stay home.
Of course this meant I received not just flack but questions starting with “but why?”. My general answer is “It is my car and as a foster parent I obey laws pertaining to seatbelts and child safety.”
In some ways that was that. Child got into the booster seat with minimal grumbles.
That wasn’t really the end of that. It just switched the subject. By reminding the girls I am a foster parent that opened up the flood gate of questions I received about being a foster parent. Both girls (ages 7 & 11) are very curious about what fostering means and why Rent-a-Dad and I do it.
The girls were respectful and asked if I minded that they wanted to know more about what fostering means. It is true that each time they get alone time with me they ask me a lot of questions about fostering. Often it is the same question or a variation on a theme. Honestly I don’t mind. My answer never truly changes so the girls get to have an example of an adult being consistently open and honest with them. All kids need that and the more they get that the better the chances are that they will have healthy honest relationships with others.
After I got home that afternoon I thought about how important that conversation truly was. Not only was I open and honest in explaining our decision to foster, I was reaffirming my own decisions and gaining experience on how to talk with those age groups about life choices. I look forward to future conversations with the girls about fostering and wonder what they will ask next.
If you are wondering what some of the questions and answers were… well I thought I would share a few here.
Why did you become a foster parent?
No-matter how many times I see the girls they always ask me this question. My answer is always the same. I always tell them it was something I wanted to do since I was a kid. That providing a safe heaven/home to kids who need one just seems right.
This time around they did also ask why we don’t have children of our own. Without explaining what infertility is, I explained that we tried and tried and tried. When the eldest told the youngest to stop asking me questions about why we couldn’t have kids, because that’s sad, I replied that it may seem sad but that I get angry too. That I still cannot understand the doctor who refused to run tests, even when I said I wasn’t feeling right, and six months later I was having masses removed from my abdomen along with part of my reproductive organs.
This then led into a brief conversation about not letting a doctor ignore their worries. That it is always important to be heard and understand what is going on with your own body.
Is it not hard to get attached to then say goodbye?
This is another question that gets asked often. The girls tend to forget that we have been lucky with the relationships we have built with the birth families. They have witnessed first hand those relationships. But it is still a good question.
The answer is yes, it is hard.
This year when I answered the question, the eldest replied that she thought so because she remembers her step mom talking about how sad I was when the boys first returned home. It was true I was sad but time helps with the sadness. It also helped that we didn’t have a forever goodbye with the boys and that they are still very much apart of our lives.
This then led into a variation of this question and a conversation about life choices.
If becoming attached and having to let go is so hard, why do you do it?
Right on the heels of that question it was followed up with a statement. The eldest girl declared how she wants to be a foster mom when she gets older. The difference is that she thinks she would only foster older children so she wouldn’t get as attached. That saying goodbye is too hard.
I laid out a few truths here.
No matter the age of the child, or how old we are, or how long we have been foster parents, we all get attached.
Saying goodbye is never easy. But we don’t foster because it is easy. We foster so that children entering the system have a place they can stay while the state and their family figure things out.
Then I pointed out a few other important things.
If we only ever did easy things, well there would be a lot of jobs going unfilled.
Being a doctor is not all about money. The schooling involved takes years. Once you get the job then lives of others are placed in your hands. That’s not such an easy thing.
Teachers are a lot like foster parents. Sometimes teachers see their students for more hours than the parents do. Teachers get to help guide their students through the year and at the end of that year they have to say goodbye.
Life would be pretty boring if we only did the easy bits. Think about some pretty great moments in our lives we would miss. Often the hard parts in life is what shapes what we want to do and has a hand in defining who we are.
There were quite a few other questions asked and answered but how can you top this? Nothing in life is ever truly easy. Don’t let the idea of something being hard be THE reason holding you back from doing it. That thing could be your defining moment, the greatest thing that ever happened to you.