Last year around Mother’s Day, my dear friend Ann Louise had this facebook status: “Yesterday was a painful moment seeing how fostering sometimes means you send the kids someone else on Mother’s day with the sweet cards you made not for you… But I know like I have hardly ever known anything else that foster/adoption of kids from hard places is our calling, our mission that God has for us to do.” As it’s that time of year again, I’ve asked Ann Louise to share about the unique struggles of a foster mom. Maybe it will inspire you, as it did me, to send a note of encouragement to any foster moms you know this Mother’s Day.
It’s not an easy thing to raise someone else’s child. I know a woman who birthed 10 children, and they all grew up in the foster system. She did not raise a one of them; actually she harmed them. But they all call her Mom and she can always say she has 10 children. Right now we have two children in our home – a boy who just turned 7 and a girl who just turned 5. They are the 10th and 11th children who have come through our home. We have had children as short as 5 days and as long as 9 months; our current two have been here for 8 months, and we have no idea at this point if they will stay forever or not. How do I write this post without sounding like I am trying to make you feel sorry for me or trying to make you pat me on the back for doing something great? I need no praise because I often do not like this job and many days grump about it to the Lord who has called me to do it. There is an occasional day where I love it and it is very fulfilling. But it was definitely not the plan I had for having my children. But yes I call these my children, even though they so frequently say, “I hate you! You are not MY mother!” I am pouring my mothering, my love, my prayers into them as much as I would if they had grown in my womb. At Christmastime I thought about Joseph who probably poured a ton of the same into Jesus, and yet “everyone knows that Jesus’ ‘real’ father is God.” I guess its part of the fall that most of the world, including me at times, seems to see a foster mom as “not the real mom.”
I want you all to learn a little bit more about foster parenting today as you read this post. It is very hard. Today I fought for my foster daughter at her school IEP, wanting them to know the deep deep pain she has been through so that when she hits someone at school, they can have empathy and see that it was a reaction to a trauma trigger rather than mean defiance. So that they will draw her into relationship and connection so that she can calm, heal, and change, rather than push her away in punishment. To parent this child means I have to hold her pain and her story in my heart; to attach to her is to carry this story and this pain in order to model for her and demonstrate to her how to process these intense emotions. That part of it is the hardest part for me today. But there is also the fact that I have poured into and worked to attach to this child for the past 8 months and will continue to do that as long as she is in my home, knowing that she could stay for 4 years and still return home. And there is also the fact that I have to face and deal with her violence also – she doesn’t just hit her classmates, she hits me most of all – because I remind her the most of the hand that hit her the hardest. This 5 year old hits me while at the same time she is crawling to me and begging for me to pick her up and hold her like a baby, something she never had and is desperate for.
But do you know that this is even more fulfilling than it is hard? This little girl that came to me 8 months ago was too scared to talk or to look people in the eye. Now she laughs and smiles in interactions with the FRIENDS she is able to make at school. And my son who has gotten the Reactive Attachment Disorder diagnosis already has started asking me if I would pick him up and hold him. These children are resilient. They have begun to show that they want love and have begun to receive love. They want to read. They want to learn about Jesus. They view the world in a beautiful way, noticing other’s pain long before someone else might. They see a man walking down the street and say, “he looks homeless – lets pray for him,” recognizing homelessness because they have lived there too, for years. And I get to know them. And I get to be a part of their healing. And I get a front row seat to watch the Lord work in their lives. And something else that has been sweet has been watching the Lord teach me that He has crafted my family just as much as He has crafted a biological family. This is way more fulfilling than when I went and earned money to pay the bills. Its way harder but way better. God has called me to it and has given me the ability to do it, even at its hardest. I am thankful for this calling.