As foster parents we would need more than our 10 fingers and toes to count the number of times we’ve been asked, “How do you give them back?, “How do you not get attached?”, “What’s wrong with that mother?”, “How could they do that to their children?” This line of questioning is usually followed by a series of statements like… “I could never do what you’re doing.” “You are a saint”, “There’s a special place in heaven for you.” And “I don’t know how you do it.”
My answer… “Some days, I don’t know either.” I don’t know how I will surrender a child that I have cared for and loved as my own even though I knew that was the original plan. I don’t know how to be at the mercy of people who don’t seem to really care about the trauma a child has endured. I don’t know how my heart will heal. I don’t know how their hearts will heal. I also don’t know the pain and hurt of one who’s been beaten, neglected, and abused in ways I can’t even imagine about without a churn in my stomach. I don’t know pain that won’t go away without the use of drugs and alcohol. I don’t know mental illness or what it’s like to sleep on the streets. I don’t know what it’s like to feel so alone and afraid that I will do anything for a stranger in exchange for shelter for the night. I don’t know that kind of fear and pain.
One thing I do know is… I’m no saint and some days I too question how I do this. I do grieve when they leave. I am wounded by the rejection of a child who is terrified to let me love her. I am exhausted from weeks and months without sleep. I am often confused and frustrated with difficult behaviors, no matter how much I study trauma. I am angry when judges make decisions that seem to have nothing to do with the best interest of a child. I often want to scream back. I am jealous of people who can have uninterrupted cups of coffee in the morning, quiet nights alone or sleep as late as they want. I am selfish. I am impatient and I am often tired, overwhelmed and even depressed. There have been times I wanted to run away and I have considered quitting on more than one occasion. That’s to be expected…I am a human, AND…
I am also more peaceful than I have ever been, more centered, more connected to the people I love in my life. I am more empathetic and compassionate. I am calmer, more regulated. I am more aware of myself and my emotions. I am a better listener and a more present wife, mother, and friend. I am learning that to be human means I will experience all kinds of painful experiences. I will walk through difficult emotions. I will face hard things. I will loose people I love. I will regret. I will fail and it is all part of being human and evolving into the most beautiful me. Foster care and adoption has played a powerful role in this “becoming” for me. It invites me daily to do hard things and although I have not always accepted the invitation with a smile on my face and this clarity I’m speaking from right now, I have not quit and I am so thankful for the gifts it’s given me and my family. This is what being a Real Life Foster, (now adoptive), Mom is to me.
The work is hard, the risk is real, but the rewards are unbelievable...This week I sat down with Real Life Foster Mom, Chelsea Floro, vlogger and founder of Real Life Foster Mom on Facebook and Instagram, wife and mother of 7. Chelsea understands what I’m talking about. She is living it out daily in a big way. She and her husband, Ryan, are fostering and adopting children with extreme needs. Her honesty and openness about what it’s like to love and care for children who have been left behind in the most fragile of ways is beyond inspiring. She is clear on her mission and she shares the very real ups and downs of foster care with others traveling this same path.