This morning as we said our family prayer before rushing out the door for the bus, Neal asked Addison to pray for the little guy to have a good visiting day. She prayed for that and then added on her own, “And please bless his mom to not be too sad.”
It made me feel like despite all the craziness of the last two weeks we must be doing something right if Addison is thinking of and caring about this woman that she’s never met. I think as a foster/hoping-to-adopt-someday parent, you need constant reminders that the biological family is not the enemy. You’re sad/mad that they’ve made bad choices that hurt the child that you started to love the minute you held him. You’re scared about whether they will have learned the lessons they need to do better.
But if you’re honest, you know that they’ve probably been through things you haven’t. Maybe they weren’t raised with the kind of love and nurturing that you took for granted. Maybe they were exposed to, or not taught to avoid, drug and alcohol abuse that can impair all your good sense and positive parenting impulses if you don’t actively fight against it. Maybe they’re stressed to a breaking point just trying to keep a roof over their heads in the face of limited education or employment opportunities.
We have no idea what factors are playing out in the lives of baby B’s biological family. What we do know is that the police found him alone at home, and a judge determined that he should be retained in state custody for an undetermined period of time. We know that his mom is sad and confused.
Foster parenting is certainly the most emotionally and cognitively dissonant thing I’ve experienced. I want to be like Addison and pray for his mom. I want to believe that she can right the wrongs that have been done to him. I want to pray that she will have the enormous strength it takes to change ingrained habits, and eventually bring him back to a safe, healthy home. But I also want him to stay with us forever, because we can give him everything he could ever need (except his bio family). I want to pray for that instead. And so, often, I pray for nothing related to him at all . . . because too many thoughts, too many emotions. Too loaded.
The saving grace for me is that I have years of experience interacting with people who have made bad choices. When his mom and I talk in the lobby before they go behind the locked door and I leave (always, always leave), I can very nearly dissociate who she is from what has happened. How was your weekend? When is your friend’s baby due? What’s happening with her boyfriend? I chit-chat with the best of ’em and she readily talks, just as if she were a client sitting in my office. I make empathic responses to all the complicated situations she confides. Sometimes I give little bits of advice, the same things I would tell my clients who had lost their children to the foster care system. In those moments, she’s just a person and the emotional complexity falls away. Because I’m good at people. And she’s not bad or evil, just flawed. Like all of us.
And so I must remember, please bless his mom to not be too sad.