Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Light for Dark Thoughts

Each year around this time I sit down and write a letter to the children's birth parents, recounting highlights of the preceding year to go with the updated photographs. Some have suggested to me that this might come back to haunt me, should the birth parents decide to try something stupid (like kidnap the children). I don't see it that way -- I see it as the decent thing to do for two people who, though they were incapable of caring for the children themselves, did in fact give them life. Which is more than many people would have done.

I'll never forget the time I was sitting at the agency, playing with the baby while the older children had their family visit. A worker came down and, looking at the baby in my lap, said: "I'll never understand why she decided to have that fourth one. She might not be in this mess if she had just gotten rid of it."

I was shocked and appaulled (still am... too much to spell correctly, it seems), but after a moment I found my tongue. "I will always be grateful that Sarah's mother chose life for her. If she hadn't, it is very likely that the other children would not have a home today." The truth was, there were days when the only thing that got me through the chaos was the thought that I could not bear to give back this little bundle of joy. Which is a terrible thing, I know -- the older two deserved to be loved and nurtured as their younger sister, and I have since resolved my feelings on the matter. At the time, I was just coping the best I could . . . which meant looking for the bright patch in the middle of some VERY dark days.

There will be times, dear friend, if you are a foster or adoptive parent (or even a biological one, I'm told) that being high-minded and infinitely benevolent just isn't humanly possible. There will be times when you have some not-very-flattering feelings about the little rugrats who have come to claim every last drop of your rapidly depleting patience and energy. Your Mommy Monsters will come out in full force, particularly after you've been subsisting on Gold Fish and two hours of sleep a night for three days in a row.

Be kind to yourself, and send up a prayerful S.O.S. Stick the kids in front of a video, then lock yourself in the bathroom, turn on the water, and let yourself rant for five minutes. Hit or hug a pillow. Hard. Then take a deep breath, whisper a little prayer (perhaps in care of St. Thomas More, the patron of foster and adoptive children and their parents), and make yourself a cup of tea. Then find your favorite children's book, settle on the floor with your brood, and give yourselves some quality time. The dirty dishes and mismatched socks will be there when you're done. Another half-hour of television will just leave you feeling mentally flabby. (If it's not mental flab you're fighting, get out the stroller and walk the kids around the block.)

And remember, in your darkest moments, that you have just had a glimpse of what those birth parents must have been experiencing -- with far fewer resources to help them, most likely. If that doesn't give you empathy, to allow you to talk with your children about them in neutral if not cordial tones, nothing ever will.


Diane Viere said...

Very informative and useful post! I am currently posting on my blog a three part series on "Aging out of Foster Care." The response of the readers has been very positve...many had never given a thought to what happens to foster kids once they grow up.

I am so glad to have found your blog! God Bless you as you reach out to foster parents who are loving these kids.


Diane Viere said...

Thank you Heidi. Yes--I'll link to you as well. I'm excited about the energy these posts have found. I have been interviewed on another site...by a child advocate, and I have received so many postive responses. I pray that families will reach out to foster children in very meaningful ways--even if they are unable to offer a home...they can offer their hearts in caring. I hope to link sites such as yours to continue the awareness of this need. I also hope to motivate by offering ways that families can reach out. If you have any useful and meaningful ideas...please contact me! You can reach me at DV4242@aol.com as well. Thanks again!