My Story Monday features an interview with a foster parent. The purpose is to share stories from actual foster parents and shine a light on what it’s actually like to foster. Follow the series here.
My Story Monday
My husband was taken in by another family as a child. It wasn’t officially foster care, just a neighbor who recognized my husband was not being taken care of as he should be and kindly offered to let him live with her and her children. Listening to my husband talk about his childhood, how his mother just didn’t know how to parent or put her child first, and how it felt to be grafted in and shown what a real family is, it inspired my desire to help kids. Children that could have been my husband.
At first we were skeptical of actually becoming foster parents. We didn’t have children of our own, so we were afraid we wouldn’t know how to be parents. In a selfish way, we were nervous about giving up our freedom. Eventually we decided to give it a try. We thought we would take one placement and see it through. If we didn’t feel it was right for us, then at least we had given it a try.
When our 10 year old foster daughter came to us, she was very angry and she directed all the anger at me. For 3 months, she would make terrible comments about me (I was the dumbest person she had ever met, I was ugly, my food was awful, etc). Everything I did she made a snide comment about. She also worked very hard to come between me and my husband. She would make things up and play it off as if it were something I had actually said. I worked very hard to control my anger. I realized that every time I reacted in that way, she got what she wanted! About 4 months into the placement, she realized she wasn’t getting a reaction out of me anymore, and she suddenly stopped with the comments and lies. We now have a pretty good relationship and actually enjoy spending time together.
Lies aside, our biggest challenge has been the relationship with our foster kids’ birth mother. Bio mom refuses to work with us, she told her kids not to trust us, and she even threw away items we had bought for the kids. We have replaced both kids’ tennis shoes 4 times because she has thrown them away! I need to remind myself often to keep my emotions in check around the kids no matter how frustrated I am with their birth mother. I don’t want the kids in the middle of it, and I don’t want them to think badly of their mom no matter how bad her actions are.
There are definitely things I didn’t expect in this journey. I didn’t expect it to be so hard to be a foster parent with both my husband and I working. It feels like the kids have a million appointments and I’m constantly having to take time off! On a lighter note, I have become very jealous of people who can fill out forms for school, daycare, etc and actually know all the answers! I feel like every form I get stuck on at least 10 questions that other people just know off the top of their heads. I don’t know family medical histories or allergic reactions. Sometimes I don’t even know middle names.
I wish someone had told me that this is emotionally draining. You become emotionally invested in not only your kids, but also their parents. Just like any parent, you want what’s best for your kids. The problem is you never know what’s best. Just when you think you have it figured out, something changes and you’re back to questioning what is in the best interest of the kids.
On the other hand, I also didn’t expect to fall in love with these kids. I thought they would come in to my life and I would have affection for them, but I never expected such a deep bond to happen. As hard as this is, I would do it again. The benefits completely outweigh the bad, and there is no better feeling than the first time the kids show you that they trust you!
If I could leave you with any final advice, it would be to read the book Parenting With Love and Logic. This book taught me so much about parenting in a logical and positive way instead of relying on punishments. I don’t know if we would have kept our first placement had I not read this book and learned not to let my child have power over me by controlling my emotions.
If nothing else, you’ll need patience, patience, and more patience! These kids come with a lot of emotional baggage and many times they don’t even know how to express what they are feeling. They aren’t going to instantly like you or be grateful for you. You need to be patient and love on them without expecting anything in return. At some point they will come around. And that’s when you’ll start to feel like a family.
[This interview has been edited slightly for readability.]
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