Saturday, May 14, 2011

Foster Diaries....Echoes of the past

Well dear readers...due to issues with blogger I was not going to post today but sometimes things happen in our lives that are too big to keep inside ourselves and this blog has become part confessional for me in addition to being a vehicle for marriage equality....

As many of you know. My husband Jay and I have decided to be full time foster parents. It was not something we planned to do in just developed in the natural course of events. Being a foster parent can be a very rewarding experience however it also comes with some challenges. Many of the kids you will care for will melt your heart and break it all in the same moment and sometimes the pain they feel will bump up against your own pain and the memories of things that happened so long ago you didn't think it could ever reach out to hurt you again. But if you are a thinking and feeling human being you can't help but go with kids down the sometimes painful road that they are forced to walk. This is what happened to me this morning...
We have just begun a new placement with a five year old boy and his two and a half year old sister. The boy I refer to hear as "little man" because his eyes are always sad and sober. His sister I haven't worked out a name for yet...but I will come up with one soon. These two came to us about a week ago and we are still trying to get used to each other and get into our routines together. One of those routines are visits with their parents....and this is where it sometimes gets difficult. Not every child will have great feelings about their parents and some want to get as far away from them as possible. Others don't understand why they have been taken away and for them it's all an unfathomable cosmic injustice they are just trying to get through day by day.

Little Man and Sis seem to have a great relationship with their dad and always run into his arms at visit time. We have already had one visit with dad that has gone very smoothly...some tears, but overall they bounced back once they had an opportunity to play and take their attention elsewhere.  Today however....things changed. I showed up after the visit to find the kids already in tears and not wanting to go. After everybody gave hugs and dad pulled away it was only a matter of seconds before the flood gates burst open and all the pain flowed out. Little Sister is cried out for her daddy to come back and her crying made her older lose control and soon both of them were inconsolable....beyond the ability to talk to or distract...just in raw unstoppable pain. This continued for our entire twenty minute ride back home until they simply ran out of steam and couldn't cry anymore.

Now, being sad can be a good means they love their dad and that's a good sign. I need to be clear with everyone that I am just recounting events and not complaining at all...I know exactly how they feel and know enough to know that some pains can't be reasoned with and can't be taken away. They must be felt. But it's so hard to watch them go through it and know it's all because of things so far out of their control. I felt their pain as if it was my own...because at one time it was. It was all I could do to be strong and be the parent they needed in that moment and not let their sadness and confusion wash me away too. Their pain had touched a very old part of my own. It's part of why I am writing now...because I was strong. I did my parental duty and now I need to get this out.

When My parents divorced, my brother and I went to live with my mom in a small town four hours north of the town I was born in. My brother and I felt hurt, and confused. We did not understand why dad and mom could not be together...why they simply could not say they were sorry like kids do and make everything better. I hated being taken away from my school and friends to live in a strange town  and go to a school full of kids that didn't know me. Every major holiday and Summer, we got to go stay with my Dad and for me it felt like returning home for just a little while...even though it wasn't the same. At the end of our time we had to go back to moms. When Dad dropped us off we would cry just as hard Little man and his Sister did. We cried till there was no more energy left in our bodies. It made my mom feel terrible and for that I am very sorry. I never wanted her to feel like the bad guy. But there was something that my mom did not understand at the time and that was that we loved her just as fiercely...and that when we cried so hard there was no reasoning with it, it was because we were crying for the thing that we didn't get to visit on holidays..."us". As our Dad drove away along the four hour stretch back to the town in which my brother had been born and raised, he took with him our memories of what it felt like to be a whole family...Mom, Dad, my Brother, and I. We were not whole anymore. When we mourned Dad leaving we also mourned for the times when were all together in what I remember as being one of the few times when I was completely and totally happy. Even though those times of sadness and loss are years behind me, I can still feel them like it was yesterday...and it's the reason why I still drive by the home we all used to live in from time to time. I can't go back in time and be there again..and I wouldn't if I could because the family I have now is just as precious to me as the one I lost so many years ago. But I can't stop looking back.

So as I drove back into Santa Rosa today with Little Man and Sister crying and crying out for their father...I wondered if it wasn't only him they were reaching out for but also a time when everyone was together and the world was right. You can visit your Mom and Dad but you can't go back and visit the past...all we can do is mourn it and remember it. One day our lives change and the hurt fades somewhat but it also marks you and changes you for life. In some ways it makes us stronger for having survived it and in other ways it leaves us always looking back for the faint echoes of happiness lost.

We grown ups make things so complicated sometimes. From a kids perspective, all our reasons can be overcome by simply deciding to not be angry anymore...or what we preach and say we are sorry.
They can not fathom divorce, getting arrested for drug use or violence. They don't understand mental illness or neglect...why a person that they love unconditionally can't love them back the same way and take care of them. All of the complexities of our adult lives can hit kids like the meteor strike that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs will the very same effect. It took me twenty years to be able to see my parents as fallible human beings and to understand the "why's" of everything that happened....but to a kid none of that matters or is even comprehensible.

I'm not writing this to run down divorced parents or shame anybody. Please don't take that as my meaning. Things happen and sometimes there is just no other way. I just needed to get this out of me you were lucky enough to be my sounding board...lucky you. This is part and parcel of my life as a foster parent. It's just life and we learn to roll with it. We hope that all the experiences we have...both good and to make us better people. And occasionally, what we thought of as bad experiences can allow us to help someone else later down the line. Perhaps that is the purpose of those experiences...and perhaps shit really does "just happen". It is possible that the events that Little Man and his sister are experiencing today will give them a strength they will need later on in life....who knows. Also...perhaps like day they may have a future life that they would not give up for the chance to undo the past. With all my heart I hope that is so.

Until next time dear readers....


  1. Sound away anytime. In emotions and sounds of the heart its not about rational. It is instead about just being there. Sometimes we just have to be there, and you are.

    It does not lessen the pain but its safe to get it out. Just love!

  2. Very touching to read this. Thank you for sharing it. As we start the process of being matched with older kids in the foster program, I'll keep your thoughts in mind.

  3. I completely understand when you say you can't stop looking back - when everything seemed to make sense. I haven't seen my father since I was 7, and will never get to since he passed when I was 11. But despite not being able to go back in time to change how things played out, I now take the truth with a passionate fervor - and that's to be the most awesome dad my own father wasn't.

    You guys have inspired me so much to truly live out my life. You have no idea how many tears I've shed watching your videos - both happy and sad (but all in all hopeful). You guys represent the future I wish to achieve in my lifetime - to be with the man I love, and to raise my children in a loving and caring world.

    You have an amazing family, and amazing children - and I assure you these foster kids will remember their time with you, when they grow up, with a positive light that can never be replaced.

  4. First: WOW, a vary emotionally powerful piece.

    When people feel secure enough to let go, cry until they can't, vent, explain to anybody, it's a good thing. Not only is keeping things bottled up almost always a bad idea, but in the case of tears they can literally cleans you body of a lot of exes chemicals. Crying over something you have no control over until you have nothing left, is in some ways freeing, an admission that there is nothing left for you to do but be where you are. It can be nearly as hard to be there for someone at a time like that, as it is to be that person. Empathy drags up the closest thing it can find in your past and makes you feel it again. Grief is hard to feel. I admire you enormously for being there for those kids and for others like them, not to mention your own family.

  5. Very inspiring as always. Please find time to read a blog post that I wrote about you guys on my blog:

  6. Sorry you have to go through this all the time. Feel free to "vent" as you educate us on this situation.

    As I've said before, you guys are Angels on Earth. Those kids are lucky you are there for them.

    Stay strong and know how much we all admire you.

  7. Thank you for sharing this with us. It moves me to tears.