Thursday, September 20, 2012

fostering honesty- i could never...

This is the season of life (at least if your kids are at school in a traditional school year as we are) that we're meeting lots of new faces...  New classes, new meet & greets, new fall kick-off events, lots of new friends, lots of new parents, and if you're a mixed family like ours currently is, lots of new situations to introduce your kids (foster and non) to others and others to your present mix of a family.

Which often results in lots of questions and conversations for me.

Which is great, which I love... for so many people, orphans and foster kids aren't normally something they give much thought to and I love sparking those conversations.  I love hearing the inquiries, I love hearing the stories of friends or family members of others who might have done foster care or are maybe thinking about exploring foster care.  I never get tired of hearing it or of talking about it.  Love it.

But honestly, the one comment that still stumps me... the one that makes me stumble a bit and the one that makes me leary of whole-heartedly answering, in fear of coming off as soap-boxish... is the one question/comment that is hands down voiced most often to me;
"I don't know how you do it... the letting them go, the giving them back to their parents?"
"I could never do it... I couldn't love and care for and bond with a child for months on end and then say goodbye. I'd get too attached.  It would be too painful."

And depending on how well I know (or don't know) the person, I don't always know what to say to that.
Cuz here's the deal.
While I completely understand that reasoning; I absolutely understand the feelings behind it, and believe me I do know how hard it honestly is...
The complete bottom line answer is quite simply,
It's not about me.

It's not about my feelings.  It's not about how much I love them or how much I'll miss them or how hard it is for my kids to say goodbye to them or how I will worry for them for the rest of their lives.  It's not about how loving them and letting them go might completely stretch us or at times even feel like it might break us.  It just should not be about how hard it might be for me.

The bottom line is, it's about the kids.  It's about what they need.
How can my need desire to guard my heart, my fear of loving and having to let go, my hesitation of the unknowns... how can that trump a child's basic need for someone who is willing to offer them a bit of love and security when their world is turned upside down?

Honestly, it boggles my mind when people say "I don't know how you do that part of it", because I wonder... are we really that self-centered?
And please hear me when I say that I include myself as part of that "we"; I have the same fears and the absolute same instinct to want to avoid the pain... the same desire to just be handed a perfectly healthy, happy baby who'll stay with us forever and ever no questions asked live happily ever after...
But quite frankly, while I humanly, naturally want that, at the same time, it hurts my heart to think that our instinct to want to stop there is what is normal and perfectly acceptable in our culture.
"It seems too painful to me, so I wouldn't want to do it."
Isn't that essentially saying, It seems a little painful for me, so I don't want to help?

Because yes, of course it's hard.  Of course it hurts.
But you know what else hurts?  Way worse? And who is way less equipped to deal with and make any kind of sense of that pain?
A group of three little girls who've taken care of each other their whole short lives when their neglectful, mentally ill mother tries to kill herself, finally thrusting them into actual state custody.
Or a little boy, who's mother was murdered and who's father became clinically depressed afterward living in a fog of alcohol and drugs for way too long because of it before giving up and saying he couldn't/didn't want to parent anymore.
Or a sweet tiny baby who's the ninth in a long line of kids who's parents care about drugs and drama more than their babies.
Or a toddler who's been nothing more than collateral damage in an ugly domestic dispute.
Or a kid who's dad has to serve time in jail and has no family to turn to.
Or a baby who's mom is sick with addiction.

These kids have no choice.  They have no option to avoid the pain.  And that is real, life-changing, heart breaking -and ultimately, heart hardening- pain.
These kids get handed that; no escape, no avoidance, no choice, no "oh, sounds like it might be uncomfortable, no thanks!".

So here's what I want to say.
Before the next person tells me, “Oh, there is just no way I could ever do that, I would get too attached, it would hurt too much. I just couldn't do it...”,  I want to say this:
You could do it.
You could do it and it would hurt.
And you would cry when you have to let them go.
And you would think of them and pray for them for months and years to come.
And you would worry. You would always worry.
And... it would all be worth it.
Because I wholeheartedly believe we are given the opportunities to get to love on and know these children that God created for a purpose... He helps us love them, He helps us to attach to them, even if it's only temporarily.
Because it is what they need.
Because isn’t every child worth being cried over?
Isn’t every child worth the kind of love that makes it hard to say goodbye?

I believe that they are.  I believe that they all deserve at least a little bit of that.

So honestly, bottom line, that's how I can do it.


kim said...

i love this. you put it so well.

i think, totally just my opinion, that it isn't necessarily a 'culture' thing... i think it's just a human thing, like you said, an instinct. to protect yourself from heartache.

i have seen it in other places. in my family... i've seen how a fight pushes people apart for DECADES because it is easier somehow to just not deal with having to forgive, which takes a LOT more effort. no one wants to come forward and be vulnerable, and admit they were hurt, or were wrong. it's easier to not feel, and build up walls against ever feeling again.

i have a friend i haven't really talked to in years and while i would love to just let him know that i miss him... i think i'm too scared to see how he'll respond. i don't know what i have to lose. but something holds me back.

making yourself vulnerable takes the most strength of anything, i think.

Chrissy said...

You. Are. Killing. Me.

(in a good way)

Well written as always. You say so eloquently what I feel.

jessica said...

Your heart is just so beautiful, Heather. Your Heavenly Father is so proud of your disciplined and generous heart!


heather said...

kim- i just want to say i always love your comments... i love that you actually listen to what i'm saying and that you verbalize a response with your thoughts. i always love the conversations!

i absolutely agree with you... that it IS completely a human nature thing, the wanting to avoid heartache or uncomfortable relationships or situations.

i guess when i said a culture thing, i meant it more on the servitude, reaching out to help others side of it.
like of course we (some more than others) tend to avoid tough emotional situations, but when it comes to putting aside those fears and stepping outside of your comfort zone- not just dealing with something in your own personal little world, but moving beyond that to actually help someone who legitimately needs help... that's the part i feel like when people use the "i don't want to get hurt" logic, it can be an "entitlement" so to speak of our culture; it's acceptable a valid excuse for us. it's so easy to dwell in our comfortability and not look at the world falling apart around us. it doesn't often seem a priority in most of our american culture to help others at any real "cost" to ourselves... i think we tend to give when we have extra, to help when it's convenient, etc.
not so much to reach out when it's a given that it might cost us a few tears.

but definitely, the instinct to put up walls or ignore situations to try and protect ourselves from the crap in our own personal relationships with family and friends is a whole other topic i'm sure we could all talk about for hours! ;)

heather said...

and jess-
you are truly sweet to say that... but i feel like i should point out that, believe me, there are plenty of ugly places in my not so beautiful heart that He is also so NOT proud of.

(maybe even the fact that i don't mind highlighting some of these very small better parts for y'all to see a little brighter...?)

regardless, it's HIS heart for these kids, really. i just happened to have caught it. :)

Annie Schilperoort Photography said...

Love this post <3 Hope you don't mind I shared it on fb and pinned it. xoxo

kim said...

thanks for the email :) and yes, i agree with you completely! i hope you know i didn't mean what i wrote as disagreeing with you in any way... i was trying to say that because you see that same sort of... emotion? defense mechanism? all the time with people between them and their family and close friends... who you would think would be the people they would take that risk for... that it takes that much MORE of a special person to take that emotional risk with an unknown child/situation. i'm not very good with the words. :)

and i know you totally were not fishing for this with this post, but you are a special person. i wish everyone could read this.

i'm often behind on reading your posts because if i feel like i don't have the time to think about them, i wait to read them until i do. i mean that as a compliment. :)

Katie said...

REALLY great post, friend! One of your absolute best!!

Nicole said...

LOVE this post!!! I needed to read this today. I have been contemplating fostering in the future--- a year or two maybe??--- and just brought it up to Ryan like an hour before I checked your blog. His response (aside from being blown out of left field with my idea) "No... I couldn't get attached and then give them back". I'm sharing this post with him. Meanwhile, I'm hoping he'll ponder this a bit on his own (he always needs a little time to get used to an idea, to think about it in his own mind) and hopefully we can look into it!! I've always always wanted to adopt and I know financially it will never happen. I've been following you and Jessica's fostering stories and my heart has been tugged and tugged. Maybe this is something I need to explore.

Erin said...

As Chris and I have JUST started talking about what we want an adoption to look like down the road a bit, fostering comes more and more to my heart.

It's not about me.

And yet, I honestly think I could do it - give them back.

I have long had a heart for children - all children - the poor ones, the happy ones, the safe ones, the at-risk ones .... If being with their family is what's best for them, I honestly think I could give them back. It would be very sad and I would grieve deeply for a child I had loved, but it's not about me.

I wish we could learn more about how the brain of a young child develops - about the trauma we put them through and how love makes a difference. I want to find a way to KNOW if it's better for a baby to be bounced between loving, supportive homes or to be in a rough situation at home but only know one home.

As a stepparent, some of the concerns are the same: what's best for Ella? How do we do what she needs - and how do we determine what she genuinely needs? She's too young to trust her ability to decipher it still. So we're left with as much of the story as we can know (obviously we'll never know what she's too scared to tell us) and we have to put those pieces together.

Did I want to move 7 hours away from my family? No. Did Chris want to move Ella away from her family in Paducah? Nope. But it was best for her that she see us weekly and we couldn't do that as far away as we were.

It's not about us.
It's about helping a child who had no say in the life she's living try to make sense of the cards she was dealt.
It's about being obedient to the God who said, "Let the children come unto me." It's about realizing that the world is bigger than my sadness.

I had a friend in college tell me he would never father children until he could find an unselfish reason to have them. It was then that I first started thinking about adoption. (Not saying that anyone with bio kids is purely selfish, by any means! I just happened to be lucky enough to stumble across that thought and have it minister to my heart!) The longer I've hovered in that camp, the more my heart has longed to help.

Help kids stay with their biological parents.
Help the kids who can't.
Comfort those who mourn.

Thank you for continuing to share your heart along this journey. I'm learning from you.

Love you!

Anonymous said...

Thank you! This is what I needed to hear. We have two foster daughters. One has been with us for over two years, the other has been with us for 18 months. Both will be moving to adoptive families this year. It is hard to give them up and I have felt guilt when people say, "how can you let them go?" Yet, I know it is the best for these children and for my four bio-children that these little ones move on. Thank you for explaining in such a beautiful way.

Heidi said...

Thank you for sharing! We have been foster parents for 3+ years. We have fostered 3, and foster to adopted 2. Our boys were in our home for over 2 years until the adoption was final.
We have also had those comments "I could never do that" and I always think that is ignorant and selfish. We've of course had a host of other topical comments/questions asked/said in front of our children (argh!).

It it NOT about our feelings. It is all about loving that child and giving them the best you can as long as you are blessed to have them in your life. But, when we step out in faith into uncomfortable situations the Lord is able to comfort us and guide us graciously, and it is so good. It is hard. But it is good!

Thanks for sharing!

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