In my last post, I discussed that a mother’s bond to her children is different for each one. Factors like similar interests, similar personalities, and similar experiences make a bond stronger. But sometimes, the easy bond isn’t there.
When we first started taking in foster children, we were young parents with a two year old and an infant. Oh, I thought I knew so much. I mean I grew up with foster kids all my life. But there is a big difference from being a kid in a home with foster siblings, and being the foster parent. Each of the children that came into our home had another home. A home they wanted to go back to, a family, they loved and missed. Of course, the circumstances that brought them to our home were never good. These kids were scared, unsure, dirty, sometimes sick, and always survivors. We had sibling groups, we had children who had to be separated from their siblings for their own mental or physical safety. It was always so encouraging working with the children that truly wanted to be helped, and even more the parents that wanted to do whatever it took to bring their children home. But there were children that were so damaged they didn’t know how to heal, and parents so troubled they couldn’t even think about how to successfully bring home their children.
One of these children came into our home from my mom’s home. My parents were a licensed foster home at the same time as us. They lived close, and my kids and I spent more days at their home then we did our own some weeks. My parents had a very medically fragile child. It was unsure what had caused him to be so unhealthy, and the doctors were not sure what his prognosis was. My parents had this child in their home for over a year, when one of my siblings passed away. During their time of grief they needed to have this foster child moved to another home. So, since we had an opening in our home, “Abel” was moved to our home. My parents had done a great deal of work with Abel and he was getting healthier all the time. When he moved in with us he was three and beginning to walk and eat some soft foods. Abel continued to improve in his health in our home. But, there were days when he would seem so ‘normal” and healthy, and then the next day he would be back to doing nothing. It was very frustrating and there were times when I wondered if he was just being difficult.
Abel lived with us for over a year, and he continued to improve. But it was very difficult at times to not get angry with him. I was not sure if he was being defiant or if there was something else wrong with him. I would get so frustrated with him, that I would have to take myself out of the room he was in and just calm down. One day he would eat at the table with the family, feeding himself, swallowing his food, and then, the next he would hold all his food in his mouth and refuse to swallow it. One day he would walk, and the next he would only crawl. There were so many behavior issues, and he would be so gross at times. It was hard to love him. But love is not a feeling ,I would tell myself. No love is a commitment. And I was committed.
Commitment over time creates a bond. We were beginning to bond. Abel had been with our family for a very long time, and even though it had been difficult at first. That difficulty turned into love. A strong love built from hard work.
But as time went on, it became evident that Abel was going to be placed back home with is birth mother. Jeremy had become very close with Abel and did not feel a peace about him returning to his mother. But being foster parents it was not our decision to make.
So, once we realized the judge was definitely going to send Abel back to his mother, we decided that this child needed a fighting chance. So, we invited the birth mom to come to our home for visits and to learn how to take care of him in a home environment. Then it came time to pack his things up and send him home with his mom. It was one of the hardest days for us as foster parents. Sometimes you are happy to see a child returned to their birth parents, or other relatives. But this was not one of those times. There was just so much uncertainty. Abel had come so far, he had healed so much. But what had caused him to be so ill in the first place. It was still unknown. There seemed to be something inside both, Jeremy and ,I that just did not want to see him go.
Jeremy was depressed for a time after Abel left. It was very hard on our family. The kids had grown with him. He was missed. A few years later, we saw Abel. He was not healthy like he was when he left us. He was not well at all. He was living with his grandfather, and his mom had lost custody of him and his siblings permanently. It was heart breaking.
What do you do with that kind of pain? That kind of lose? Well, the only thing you can, give it to God. We mourned, we moved on. But a piece of our heart remains with Abel.
Loving a child is not easy. Loving a child is not about how you feel. Loving a child is giving them all you can, without expecting anything in return. Loving a child is saying no when they need to hear no. Loving a child is worth every heart ache.