A couple weeks back, we were talking about what was best to do for her birthday. At the time, she had been kicked out of her pre-adoptive home and was living in a children's shelter. As each day passed, we began to witness a little girl we love deeply go from being a kid in a family to being an unwanted kid to being a homeless kid. A part of us went quiet inside. Because we care so much about her. Because no one, especially a child, should ever have to live in a shelter anywhere, particularly in a country as rich as ours. Because she was the 3rd generation of Black women in her birth family to be currently living in a homeless shelter.
My partner, whom I respect deeply and fully adore, isn’t ready to talk publicly about her thoughts on all things Big Sister. I respect her choice. In many ways, she has been a compass for me as we both navigate these parenting waters. Her wisdom and humility are invaluable, holding clinical best interest and compassion over me in a world where I lead with passion and authenticity. We operate differently but not separately, oftentimes with polarity, but when we overlap, we complement each other so well. When we disagree, we learn from one another. We have always been two voices here and now is certainly no different. I have some things to say now.
I knew my journey to being the best version of myself as a parent would be an awakening of sorts. I could not have known just how tough or transformative. I could not have known that becoming a parent would coincide with the galvanizing of the Black Lives Matter movement. Or that we would go from fostering children on an emergency basis to adopting Black baby brothers. Or that building the foundation of our little family would coincide with the transition from the greatest president in our lifetime to the worst along with an uprise in visibility of our country’s biggest strengths and deepest race-based fears. What a moment in time we live in. What an opportunity.
Many of us find ourselves enmeshed ongoing in a battle of balance; protect without hovering; teach without enabling; bond without smothering. We research the best practitioners. We protect our kids from creeps and perpetrators. But what if we’re setting our kids up for failure from the very foundation we’re so invested in building? What if we are unwittingly inviting danger into their lives, now or in the future? What if we are creating a scenario that negatively impacts them as they find their own way in this world?
Updated to include an audio version of this blogpost.
If you were not happy at your job before you left you will not be happy when you return. Feel free to pin that. Being a parent now informs everything I do in a way it did not previous to taking leave. It is my greatest secret power.
It's easy to want to blame something else when things don't go well. Or, someone else - especially your parents. The day-to-day minutiae of raising babies to be their best little selves shines a light into the darkest folds of our own experiences of being parented and forces us to contend with layers of memories which we may or may not wish to venture toward or work through. I'm a gay white mom raising adopted black sons with a therapist partner. I don't have a choice but to figure this shit out.
There were a couple important things Therapist Mom wanted to carry forward from her childhood that were super special and a couple things I did not want to repeat from my own. The following were our big-ticket items, how we graded our success and some things we’d change for the rolling out of future seasons of magic.
I think a lot about what it takes for a kiddo to want to say out loud, to someone else that they're hurt, especially after there has been so many people and so much hurt, and so little apology. When life has not offered you glimpses of empathy, or repair you have no reason to believe these things exist and therefore when you are faced with people trying to repair or connect, you shun or skim around it because it's weird and uncomfortable and what are they even trying to get away with here anyway?
There are many moments I have experienced throughout our foster care journey I imagine I will not ever lose the feeling of: seeing Tiny for the first time in his little tattered, stained carseat, hearing Mr. T scream and claw his way out of his co-sleeper with night terrors, hearing my kids' birth Mom cry in a way only a parent who knows they chose a better life for their kids at the expense of their heart can. I will add walking out of the room with Mr. T looking confused and anxious sitting with a stranger who is in our life because of a case opened on just me. The case of just me, as it were.
In the summer you came to live with us, you and your big sister moved in for a weekend, while the grown ups in charge searched for a home for the two of you to live and grow up big and strong in. They were looking for a family that wanted to adopt you and be your parents forever.