In traditional terms I wouldn’t be considered a parent. I have never given birth, I hold no legal guardianship over another life, but I was born a mother. My maternal instinct kicked in early. I love taking care of people and kids absolutely melt me. So when my mom started talking about wanting to become involved with foster care I absolutely supported her. My two younger sisters were slightly more hesitant but decided to come along for the ride. So we decided to take the plunge; after about a year of taking parenting classes, being interviewed and evaluated my mom became a foster parent.
Four years later we are still here taking these amazing children into our homes and into our lives. It has been some of my most rewarding, exhausting, and emotional years. But I’m not writing to talk about the ups and downs of foster parenting (although it’s been quite a rollercoaster). I would like to tell more of a precautionary tale to the onlookers gazing from the sidelines…
My family is beautiful. My parents are divorced; my mom works full time as a nurse practitioner saving premature babies in ways I can’t even imagine. Our home currently contains my mom, me, my two younger sisters (15 and 17), my newly adopted brother and sister (both 3), and our foster baby (6 months); needless to say, it’s a full house. After graduating from college I decided to stay home with the kids to give them the love and care they more than deserve. I really love spending time with my family; they are more than I could ever have asked for. I am glowing with pride when they learn to count to ten and discovering news reserves of patience I never knew I could possess. I am not a mother but I am devoted to these kids absolutely.
I am proud of my involvement in foster care and the fact that I am helping these children who have been in various ways neglected by their own parents which makes all the low points and heartache bearable, to get the chance to give them something better.
However, there is one aspect that frustrates me in a way that I can’t fully describe but will simply call: the look.
When I go out to the store with my family, I can only imagine that it does look strange. We are a melting pot of colors and ages. Onlookers can’t help but stare and try to break down how we are all connected, I can understand that this is part of human nature, but when people look at my sisters and me like we are the physical embodiment of their worst nightmares, I want to scream.
They turn to my mom, who works harder than anyone I know, with a look like “why can’t you control your children” or just flat out “you have failed as a parent.” Yes teen pregnancy is not what most mothers dream of for their daughters, but why is this the assumption? Furthermore can’t it just be accepted that we clearly have a nontraditional family end of story? I’m not involved in foster care for praise — but to see my beautiful family tainted in their eyes hurts me, it shouldn’t but it does.
I know we are not the only ones out there who have experienced “the look,” and it just goes back to the age old expression “don’t judge a book by its cover,” something that’s so simple is still so hard to grasp.
I wanted to write this to tell one story, in hopes that people will remember not to judge what they don’t understand because whatever story they have created in their mind may not be what they are really seeing.
I may not have what most would describe as a perfect family, but to me it’s the most wonderful thing in the world.