I am currently trapped on the couch under a snoring 5 year old. He is stuck on The A Team right now and he really needed to watch just one more episode. I love that his current obsession was one of my favorite TV shows as a kid. I also treasure these nights when he asks me to stop working…
When I see a grieving mother being viciously attacked by strangers after she watched her toddler be stolen by a wild animal, I know that it is not safe to write about my own, lesser struggles. When I see a woman who loses her child in a crowd for a moment, and then almost loses him forever to a gorilla, be held up as an unfit mother undeserving of parenthood, I am afraid that I’ll be destroyed for my own shortcomings. When I read that a mother is told she should have aborted her children and deserves to die because she publishes a rant on sunscreen, I worry that sharing my truth will open my family up to similar terror.
Tonight I sat on the couch with my broken little girl and held her while she cried. Tonight we watched a movie and held a puppy while we waited for the grief to subside. Tonight, once again, I told her that it’s OK to hurt.
I stood in the aisle holding those little shoes and flashed back to the exploited little girl who came home to me four years ago. I tried them on Alyssa then took them off, disappointed that they fit. When my husband returned from his wandering, I showed the shoes him, expecting an equally distraught reaction. I hoped that he would at least think that she was far too young to be prancing through the church in half inch heels. Instead he questioned whether she would fall wearing them. I explained what the shoes represented but they didn’t mean that to him.
I relate to the other parents of children with special needs on many levels but I don’t bear the guilt of having been the one to pass on Alyssa’s genetic disorder or the constant questions of if it was something I did caused her problems. I relate to adoptive parents too but our story isn’t just about adoption anymore. I switch back and forth between groups depending on the support I need at the moment.
The problem with rehoming, as it currently exists, is that it fails both the children and the adoptive parents. Every time a child is placed with a new family, they suffer a new loss and it becomes harder for them to trust that they will ever be truly loved by anyone. In addition, many of the kids who find themselves in new homes are later abused or abandoned again. With no government or agency oversight to make sure that the new homes are safe for these children, the outcomes can be devastating.
Someone asked me recently if I thought that everyone who wants children should consider adoption. I am absolutely an advocate for adoption but I found myself pausing before I answered. The problem is that sometimes when we promote adoption and highlight the happy families it can create, we gloss over the darker side. The truth is that every tearjerker story about a family being brought together starts with another story of absolute devastation. Our children are not simply gifted to us, they are taken or abandoned or orphaned first. Sometimes the love of a new family helps to heal the wounds of that loss; sometimes it isn’t enough.
Family and love were foreign concepts for my daughter when I met her. She had been bounced around between unhealthy homes and shelters. She had experienced loss and hunger and absolute fear. She had no reason to suspect when she came here that our home would be any different. Even after our adoption, Alyssa would ask several times each day if I was still her mom. She does that less now but that fear of abandonment still rears its ugly head sometimes when she gets in trouble and she goes back to being the scared little girl who believes no one really wants her. In those moments she occasionally asks if I will still be her mom as if I might disappear while she takes a timeout in the corner. “Always and forever” I tell her. “No matter what you do, we are family and family is forever.”
I am a foster parent not a foster carer. I do everything that a parent does, only I do so with kids from hard places who might stay forever or leave tomorrow and take a piece of my heart with them. I think it is insulting to rebrand my position to appease child abusers who don’t want to be reminded that their baby needs a mom and right now, because of their mistakes, that’s me.