One of my greatest fears about moving back to Dallas is that my friends will find me such a different person– mainly, a sadder one. I don’t enjoy certain things the way I used to, and here’s why.
Having done foster care, I’ve seen another side to the world that I was blind to before. Once your eyes have been opened, it’s really hard to close them, as in, sometimes it’s hard to sleep at night. In a sense, I think that I have survivor’s guilt. I can’t hug my own kids without thinking about the kids in our own backyards who aren’t getting hugs. When it rains, I don’t rush to play in it, I cringe thinking of children sleeping on the streets. When I spend a few extra dollars on organic food, I think about how our 5 year old foster child drank “Monster” from his baby bottle because his mom didn’t take care of him properly, and what a few dollars could’ve done to feed our 10 year old all those times he was starving. Whenever we have extra time or money, I feel guilty spending them on fun things when, in reality, they could be spent on all of the hurting children around us.
It’s never been more clear to me that there is nothing wrong with the wonderful kids that these things happen to. My favorite and also saddest moments about foster care have been when I catch a glimpse of who these kids would’ve been without their trauma. They are so special, so soft and sensitive, so full of curiosity, until the circumstances of their life beat it out of them. Our foster children don’t get the luxury of nightmares about “bad guys” and “monsters”, they have real life memories and flashbacks.
My children did nothing to deserve their loving parents and stable home. They did nothing to deserve their food. And yet there are kids who don’t get any of those things.
I brought all of this to a friend of mine, and she pointed me to a place in the gospels where the Jews ask Jesus about the blind man, saying, “Who sinned, this man or his parents?” and Jesus responds, “Neither. It was so that God might be glorified.”
This reminder stuck with me for days. Every time I was hit with the “why” question, I remembered that God is glorified through all of it, even this messy icky stuff that I can’t make heads or tails of. I don’t need to see the end of the story to know that God already has been glorified in our three foster care situations.
Even if it has made me a sadder person. Maybe I needed to be sadder. More sober. Maybe God is glorified even in my sadness and changed personality.
For instance, ever since we started taking in foster kids 1.5 years ago, all the “Mom Wars” and petty parenting issues have seemed so hollow, so pointless. The conversations in my head usually go like this:
Cloth vs. Disposable Diapers: “Um, is your kid’s bum covered? Is the poop falling on the floor? Good. Sounds like you did the right thing there.”
Vaccine Wars: “Did you accidentally give your kid Hep C? Did your 3 year old test positive for heroin? Did you abandon your children with meth addicts? No? Whew. You’re doing better than much of America, so good for you.”
Hospital vs. Home Birth: “Did you abandon your baby after giving birth? No? Is your baby alive and healthy and not addicted to crack or meth? No? Well, sounds like the birth went awesome! Keep up the good work!”
See what I mean? If you hear these kind of stories day in and out, going back to the normal sheltered suburbia of “mom problems” sounds so insignificant and unimportant.
If you knew the mom that I was back when I was pregnant with Gregory (you know, back when I had just parented one kid who wasn’t even out of the womb and yet knew EVERYTHING there was to know about parenting!), you would know that I needed some perspective.
So, even though this fresh perspective is currently making me a sadder friend, I also hope that it’s made me a wiser and more compassionate one.
What Foster Parents REALLY Need
How YOU can Help Foster Children
The Blessings After Foster Parenting
Foster Care–Guilt and Messing With The Birth Order