There’s a lot of things I expected when we began the foster adoption process. We had one young son, and we were so anxious to add more children to our family. More to love. What I didn’t know is that adding them through the foster care process would be so hard. While both of my children from foster care are loving, sweet children, they have histories. Long, complicated histories of neglect, abuse, mistrust. This has caused a myriad of problems in many of our relationships.
Most people we know welcome them with loving hearts and loving arms. And while that has been beautiful to see, it makes for a lot of rules. My children have no idea how to count on two parents. They, most of the time, didn’t even know who their “parents” were. When my second son came home, everyone was mom. It wasn’t a loving moniker; it was a title, a name. We had many “oohs” and “ahhs” of how he “already” called me mom. Eventually, I just stopped explaining.
Some people in our lives were so supportive and understanding. They understood that adding these lovelies would temporarily mean different rules, roles, and modes of conduct. We asked that no one else would hold him—that we would do all the caring, cuddling, caretaking. That didn’t last long. I, particularly, was met with eye rolls, scoffs, and blatant comments. He had strength issues in his legs. He didn’t walk well and would tire quickly, so he wanted to be carried everywhere. I would demand that they put him down, and he walk.
So many people are so busy feeling sorry for them that they can’t see what they need, truly need to become healthy, happy adults. My heart breaks for them, and I nurture them more than I would my other son, when it’s necessary. When they are triggering on every day normal activities, I have them continue the task because I know that they can, and I know that once the task is finished, I can hold them and tell them how proud of them I am. I do many things wrong each day. But I know my children. I know how they react when they have “witnesses.”
This has been the biggest obstacle for me to overcome with my children and those that are a part of their lives. I recently had a life-changing argument with someone close to me over this very issue. They refuse to understand trauma. They refuse to listen, refuse to learn. The adults in our lives refuse to understand that sometimes you can’t allow children to live in their heads as the victim. Ultimately, that will mean pulling away in the relationship. While I understand what they think they see, it’s not a reality. These children are very good at surviving. Often, that means manipulating those around them to get what they want. But they are three and four years old. And they don’t know what they are doing. The adults can learn, can help. And sometimes they don’t.
I wouldn’t change a thing about my children—except that I would like to remove the hurtful pasts they’ve lived through. I’d like to rewire their brains to be neurotypical children. Not to make my life easier; they have taught me so much by being exactly who they are. But for them, to make it easier for them to love and attach in a healthy and normal way. I have learned that we can and will get there.
I have, and am, mourning relationships that are forever changed by a lack of understanding, compassion, and even interest. I have offered to teach them what we’ve learned, share books, share knowledge, and they don’t want to hear, listen, or learn. I’m sad for them. They are missing out on sharing the lives of these smart, funny, dynamic children. My children have overcome a lot to be here, to live, to love. And while I’m sad that there are some in our lives who choose not to see that, it’s okay. They make me stronger, happier, and more resolved to helping them be their best every single day.
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