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Children of my own
The Husband and I have been foster parents since 2011, we’ve fostered six children to date. We wanted to be foster/adoptive parents long before we were certain that we wanted biological children. I know that’s not normal, but it’s us. We felt like there were lots of kids who needed parents more than we needed to sire children. We weren’t against having biological children by any means, but we felt a sort of ‘calling’ to be foster parents and felt like God would sort out if/when we were to have any biological children.
People’s general response to The Husband and I becoming foster parents was positive. When you tell people you’re a foster parent, the general response is a mixture of curiosity, wonder, and amazement. People will generally praise you to the highest heaven and want to petition the Pope for your immediate canonization.
I keep using the word ‘general’ because I’ve run into people (usually former foster kids or others who have ‘dealt with The System’) who’ve said things like, “I’m sure you guys are great foster parents but [insert some generalization or wound from ‘The System’ here],” and who I knew were being polite but questioned our motives. That never bothered me. People have their own baggage and things to work through.
As we had placements come and go, I was always amazed by how people thought of us as a ‘real parents’ whenever we had children in our home but then the same people would act brand new when I contributed to conversations about kids when we had no children in our home. Like somehow my Parental Resume was stamped with a big, ugly, red VOID until the next child came in.
On more than one occasion, I was told that I would feel differently about certain matters when I had children of my own. [I’ve chosen not to name any specific incidents because I wouldn’t want friends who I’ve discussed things with to feel that this post is about them when it more than likely wasn’t them that said anything out of pocket].
Children of my own? That statement always ripped through me like a serrated knife. It wasn’t a clean cut but rather a nasty, jagged sawing from head to toe with special attention given to going through my heart. People have unintentionally said or implied some pretty gnarly things (that definitely didn’t pass the boob job test) to me about foster parenting, but the whole ‘wait until you have children of your own’ statement has always been the most hurtful.
Children of my own? These are/were my children. Did I give birth to them? No. Were we there for them from day one? No. But you know what? We were there for them and were the only mom and dad they had in one of the lowest points in their little lives. They’re not with us living day to day in our home, but they’re in our hearts. We talk about at least one of them almost daily…in some ways, they’ve never left us.
When our five-year-old girl got sick at school, who did they call? When they were sad and crying, who was there? Who took our 8-year-old boy to Cub Scouts? When our 11-month-old came to us with an ear infection, who took her to the doctor? Who took them to school and daycare, made their meals, and disciplined them (non-corporeally) when they acted inappropriately? Who signed permission slips? Who said prayers with them and took them to church?
It was their foster PARENTS. People focus way too much on the foster and not enough on the parent. We parent the children who come to us. We don’t lock them in a room with a crust of bread and pitcher of water while collecting a fat paycheck (we do get paid, but it’s by no means bank). We parent these kids. We laugh with them. We cry with them. We make sure they’re wearing clean underwear.
We aren’t glorified babysitters or rent-a-parents. These kids come into our home with nothing and we offer them everything we have. We are foster parents. We have a foster family. It looks and functions a little differently than a ‘normal’ family at times, but it’s a family all the same.
If you were to spend the week with us while we had a foster placement, you’d see little that differs from most families. Sure, some things would be out of place: Kids calling the parents by their first name (we let the kids choose what they want to call us, but we typically discourage them from calling us Mr. and Mrs. because we feel it’s way too formal). Kids who are too close in age to be biologically related (we had kids who were ten days apart once). However, in general, I’d wager a typical day differs very little from a traditional family.
I have a ‘child of my own’ now. There are indeed some differences in how I get to parent a child that’s mine forever as opposed to parenting a child that’s mine for now. HOWEVER, those differences are more mechanical (I can plan things more than a week or two in advance) than they are emotional (I would do anything to protect and love any child in my care).
Really, what I want people to understand is that I’m the mother of seven children and not just one. There are seven children that I’ve nurtured. There are seven children that I’ve loved. There are seven children that I pray for. You may find it absurd that I count foster children in my line up of kids, but it’s only right to me. They are my children.