The month of May means a lot of things for a lot of people. Birthdays, anniversaries, deaths- we mark our time here on earth with these milestones and assign them significance. The month of May is particularly one of my favorite months of the year, as it represents the coming of summer, many personal milestones, and support for multiple causes as well.
In the month of May, whether you're celebrating National Pet Month, Mental Health Month, National Asthma and Allergy Awareness, Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness, ALS Awareness, Celiac Awareness, Lupus Awareness, Lyme Disease Awareness, Brain Cancer Awareness, Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness, Motorcycle Safety Awareness, National Bike Month, National Guide Dog Month, National Teen Pregnancy Prevention, Scandinavian American Heritage, Haitian Heritage, Jewish American Heritage, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, or another cause, the important thing is that we have a cause, that we care enough to have something to passionately support. Though our family celebrates a few of the aforementioned, this month is particularly special for us because it also happens to be Foster Care Awareness Month!
Currently, foster care is at the forefront of our lives, as we are living and learning all we can about it. There are days where I wish we could celebrate Adoption Month (in November), but most days when I realize that we are perfectly where we are needed right now. There are days where I wonder why I even try when I could make more progress talking to a brick wall than a five year old, and other days where a simple statement from a traumatized three year old can completely restore my faith in humanity. There are days were I'm faced with the brutal truth that the foster care system is broken and I fear not only for my kids but also every other child in care. Other times, one ruling from a sensible judge gives me the hope that maybe my kids won't fall through the cracks of the courts after all.
The biggest issue by far we've found, in our support groups and socializing with other foster families, is that despite changing times, people still judge families based on appearances and that many people still struggle with the idea that kids can love more than one set of parents/family. We don't have any experience with the former. Our kids are burst into flames in the sun white-skinned, with blonde hair and blue eyes, so based on appearances, they "fit" very well into our family. However, we struggle significantly with the latter. Little Man got in the car after the visit this week and about 3 minutes into the ride he burst into tears crying, "Mommy thinks we're her kids and she said I can't be your kid. We're your kids too, right?" From the back seat, his sister interjected, "She's just the lady we are staying with, then we are going home to our real mommy." Little Man was absolutely distraught and there was no consoling him until we were home and he was in my arms, clutching me in a headlock and not letting go until Dear Husband got home.
The awareness that we are trying to give our kids, is that family is not biological. Not even close. Blood and DNA are biological, but love is what makes a family. It's a choice we make every day. Foster care is unique in that it is designed to give children a family environment, whether they came from one previously or not. Some people struggle with the simple idea of children loving and accepting step parents into their families, and unfortunately the general consensus is that foster families are like having an entire step family, a family that takes care of you, but will never really be yours or love you like a biological family. Though their bio-family struggles with this, and the older girls felt this pressure to feel the same way, Little Man was unaffected by it for almost 4 full months until his sisters forced the issue. For us, these kids are in our care, and we parent them daily, they are our kids and we love them as if they are our own. There's always something happening with the bio-family saga that reminds me the plan is reunification and these kids are heading home. We expect it, but I know I will never be prepared for the day when we get that inevitable phone call or email to that tells us to pack the kids up.
That's the thing- we don't open our hearts, family, and home lightheartedly. When we volunteered to follow this calling, we committed ourselves to unconditionally loving every child that comes through our doors and to make them a part of our family. We get to choose our family, and when someone walks out our door, it does not remove them from our family. Many people have told me the writing is on the wall for the girls because they were in their home longer than they'll be with me, so our impact will be minimal at best. Little Man, however, is at a crossroads where he is still small enough to be molded, learn, and have the things we teach him now stick with him over time. Either way, no matter what happens, I am so blessed to have kids who will walk into a room of strangers, introduce themselves, and hug and kiss every single person. Despite all the ups and downs, we really did get the best first placement ever! I hope that the love the kids have found here continues to shine through them and positively affect all their future relationships.