I’m a stay-at-home sister. Let me tell you about The Look.

Guest post by Anya

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.

Comments on I’m a stay-at-home sister. Let me tell you about The Look.

  1. Sorry in advance for the long story:
    On a somewhat similar note…My family is more than slightly unusual. My brother is transgendered, first of all, and he came to us when he was 18 and I was 15. We very close friends, and he had so much trouble at home that my mother brought him to our house and we kept him. 😛
    Once, we were waiting in line at an ice cream place and he and I were acting silly (we're making up for 15 years of missing out on antagonizing sibling behavior. we tease each other constantly, all in good fun)
    And I think I must have done something that seemed totally natural to me, like kiss his cheek without thinking, because suddenly we were being screeched at by a woman in the line. She actually yelled at us "Go wait [for my mother] in the car, you perverts, there are children here" because she assumed it was some kind of romantic involvement and she was obviously confused about my brother's gender. I was absolutely livid. I could have taken her head off.
    In a rather unusual move, my brother was the one to keep his calm and told her we're siblings. She said she didn't believe us and went up to harass my mother about it. Mama made a few well placed comments about open-mindedness and where must her mind be, if an innocent cheek kiss looked like sexual behavior to her? And I was able to control myself to toss out a pleasant "thank you!" to her as she walked away muttering about how we were a bunch of freaks.

    Part of what made me so mad was that it was my brother's special day. The anniversary of the day he joined our family. We still celebrate it every year, and here was this woman insulting my awesome family! Now it serves as a lesson on just how awesome my family really is, that we were able to go about our celebration and not let her bring us down.

  2. I was 12 when my half-sister was born and 16 when my half-brother was. There were SO MANY times when people would talk right out loud about me with them. I always bit my tongue but wanted to shout, “I’m actually helping out my parents by watching my SIBLINGS right now!” I wish I had even once to see the looks on their closed minded little faces…

  3. Once in college, I took a friend’s 10 year old daughter into a class with me because she wasn’t interested in her dad’s programming class. I realized about halfway through that all my classmates were frantically doing math in their heads trying to figure out if she could be my daughter. Everyone was polite about it though so I really ended up just finding it hilarious.

  4. Me Too!!!
    I used to live with my parents and their foster kids but i recently got married. I’ve transitioned from living with them and being there all the time to picking them up from school. When i was in college I would take them with me when they were sick, a laptop with a dvd and they were fine. The kids think they went to college and they consider most of my college friends to be there friends too. I still keep them when they are too sick to go to school. I take the to the dr. and do homework. Its the best job that i could ever have!!!
    My husband and i have started foster care classes our selves and the kids cant wait to be aunts and uncles, altho my little sis ask if she can be their sissy.

  5. I know that look. My parents did foster care after years of me begging for a little brother. (No sisters, I wanted nothing to do with them lol.) We were with the drug and abuse children, and many of them were latino (we’re as white as you can get without being redneck). My parents used to constantly get asked “Which ones are the real ones?” to which my parents said “All of them.” We ended up adopting our first two children that we fostered, and a wonderful little boy Anthony who has had a very hard past. They still get the look, and they still have as much snark as they always have.

  6. I got the same looks when as a 15-20 year old i “nannied” my little brother during the summer break from school. We looked so much alike people thought he was mine. I once was walking home from the library and a group of teen girls drove by while I was pushing him in the stroller and shouted “Should’a Waited, HOOCHIE! HOOOO!” Different specifics but same unnecessary and unkind judgement.

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