Family – No Matter How
Family – No Matter How
There we stood, in the judge’s chamber, November 5, 2002. The three boys looked stunned, the social workers were ecstatic, and I cried. I couldn’t believe that after two years, our journey of wanting the boys to be a permanent part of our family was over. The boys, brothers, came to us in August 2000, as foster children making the total number of children we’ve fostered eight, since becoming foster parents in 1997. We seemed to get children that needed a lot of help and a lot of love. When they first moved in, we knew these boys; these traumatized boys, would more than likely not be going home. We were right.
Once the parent’s rights were severed on January 2002, we told the boys right away, on the advice of their therapists. They seemed to understand, being older children; 14, 12 and 10, what this news meant, what the word termination meant. They knew in their minds that their birth home wasn’t safe, but their hearts still cried for their birth parents. Their crying hearts being the source of the stunned, pained expressions on our big day. Split loyalties between their birth home; their family of origin, and us; their family of circumstance. Talking about the adoption and being adopted are certainly two different things. Obviously for the boys, any held fantasies of going home were signed away permanently by the judge’s pen. It was at that moment, the moment when the judged announced that they were now our children, that they truly understood the meaning of adoption. There we stood, in the judge’s chamber. No longer separated by different last names, a brand-new family, and an uncharted path ahead.
Decade of creating a new Family
We spent the next decade trying to figure out the how of being a family. My husband and I asked ourselves many times, how. How are we going to get through this? How are we going to make this work? How will we continue to enjoy our lives, while caring for the broken pieces of broken children? Friends and family asked us similar questions. How are you doing? How do you do all that you do?
The how of our family was not an easy task with three young men who suffered years of abuse and neglect, mixed in with our own biological daughter who was only three when they joined our home as foster children. However, through the years of hardships and big emotions, we also had several family vacations, happy birthdays, and Christmas mornings filled with joy. We laughed together and played games together. We enjoyed each other’s company. My mother-in-law advised me years before we became parents to always make happy memories so that during the tough times, we could look back and have something to anchor to during storms. We followed this advice and I’m so glad we did.
Patient – Love – Commitment = Family
The “how” of our family was, and still is, made up of long-suffering, love, commitment, and time.
Long-suffering – Be patient and look for the good. It’s not always easy, but even during the hard times, it’s important. What growth or progress has a child made? They may be driving you crazy now, but where have positive changes been made? While complaining about one of my sons, a friend asked me to say one positive thing about the child. My response? He is wearing clean socks today. It was true and it was growth – for both of us.
Love – Love them, even when they are not lovable. I know its a cliché and I get that, but it’s still true. You love who you serve. If you can’t love them right now, because you’re angry or hurt and I totally understand that too, then serve them. What does your child need? Even if it’s a PB and J, then make them a sandwich and cut it into cute shapes and serve them. Love will grow through service, even when you’re mad.
Commitment – Commitment is a big word and I think one many take lightly. Parenting does not end at eighteen. My husband and I had many conversations about what the word commitment meant to us. What does it mean to you? Know that when it comes to adoption, it’s more than just attachment. It’s more than just saying I love this child. It’s saying you will stand by this child through it all.
Time – Take time, and I don’t mean just as a family. Remember to spend time with each child individually. I used to take each of my children to lunch, just one on one. They really enjoyed that time with me. If you are parenting as a couple, don’t forget to take time to for your relationship. Don’t lose your marriage over the stress of adoptive parenting. I’ve seen many divorces after fostering or adopting. Take care of your relationships. Lastly, take time for yourself! Don’t forget to care for yourself while caring for everyone else. Do you have a hobby? A best friend? Or maybe, you’d enjoy a nap! Do what you need to do to refill your cup.
All our children are now grown. We are still connected today, maybe not at the same depth of connection or reciprocation, but connected all the same.
At the end of the day, a week, or maybe even a very difficult year, what you are left with is the love, commitment and time you put into your family and often it includes long-suffering, because we are a family – no matter how.