This is the phrase I dislike the most.
I hear this all the time.
“How many kids do you have?”
“I have 20.”
“you mean it feels like 20, right?”
“No, I really have 20 children.”
“No way! But you didn’t give BIRTH to them though, right?”
“No, I didn’t. We adopted them through foster care.”
“oh, okay. That’s better then.”
Wait. What??? How is that better? how is this way okay? How does this somehow make me less as a parent?
Oh that’s right. I didn’t carry them in my own tummy for 9 months. I didn’t go through labor. I wasn’t around when they started their growing up years. I wasn’t their when they experienced trauma in their formative years.
You are right, I guess. That is better then.
I have to deal with their separation from their birth family. I have to create a bond with a stranger. Not a superficial bond either. I need to create a significant parental bond. I need to listen to their anger as it comes pouring out of them. 90% of the time, that anger is directed straight at me, the mom figure. You are right, I guess. This is better.
Because if I am blessed to be able to adopt them….I have to live with their constant boundary testing. I have to live up to amazingly high standards. If I fail, as I inevitably will, I have to find ways to strengthen our parent/child bond again. I have to continually reach out to angry children and reassure them of my love. Better yet…I get to do all of these things.
It also skews my judgement of childhood and “normal” life.
I forget what it is like to have healthy children. I have a baby now that is so healthy. He hugs me spontaneously. He runs to me when I come home or when I have to leave. He will jump off of things into my arms. He loves to cuddle and he smiles. A Lot. without me having to work for it. This is what a healthy child does.
My other children have their own strengths as well. However, natural trust and affection need to be earned over time. They are not given freely.
My children have the idea that life is greener on the other side. They still live in that marvelous, self protecting fantasy that life would be better anywhere but here.
How do combat that day in and day out?
How do you try and enjoy them and their childhood, forging bonds, making memories while combating their “demons” with them? It is hard stuff. Not only is it hard stuff but it is day in and day out 24/7. Keep in mind we don’t have the natural parent bond that you do. So, we experience all of the highs and lows, joys and pain that you do…magnified. While trying to create that bond. Again, it is completely hard work and exhausting.
So, I go on a vacation once a year to sleep and relax. Time for John and I to bond and completely relax. However, last year one of our kids through a brick through their brothers car window. (So, I guess completely relax is unlikely) We encourage each other. We talk about trouble spots. We talk about the kids and we renew our commitment to come home strong.
Then, we deal with two weeks of severe issues because of the need to subconsciously punish us for leaving.
So, I guess if you think it is easier because I didn’t give birth…I will smile along with you. I will nod and think “if you only knew’. I will wonder “Do you even realize what you are saying?”. I will empathize with your child rearing plight because I get it.
The real question I will wonder though is “Do you get it?”. How could you?
So,”Did I give birth to them all?”
“NO” But, I have had to work for every ounce of affection you see between us. I have had to attend therapy, training’s, read books, talk to people who have lived it, and spend hours self reflecting.
It is worth all of my best effort. It is worth the sleepless nights,stress, tiredness and heartache.
Because I may not have given birth to them…but, I have been blessed with the opportunity to love them and share a small portion of their lives with them. I am certainly not less of a parent. I am not less for having them in my life. I am more. I am stronger because I have had to continually pick myself back up from the pain they inflict and love them for who they are. Love them because they need me too.