Sometimes when I get home from work, it’s quiet. That means my wife is busy or resting and the kids are all upstairs or across the street playing. Other nights I get home and one kid screams “DADDY!”, one gives me a big hug, one gives me a long hug, and one tells me a story.
Then later on I tell one kid to pick up toys, one to clean dishes, one to put up dishes, and one to take out trash.
When school is in, one needs to go to bed on time, one has paper homework, one has computer homework, and one has a project.
All of them are stubborn in their own ways. All of them are helpful, smart, and innocent.
When they have a bad moment, one can be bossy, one tends to hide the truth, one thinks the world is ending, and the other throws a fit.
At their best, one is charming, one is helpful, one is sweet, and one is kind.
Unless you know each of them really well, it’s probably hard to tell which two are our biological kids and which two are our foster kids. Most days I get lost in the crazy schedules, things to do, and things to remember that I forget I have foster kids. They are all children in my house. I’m responsible for them. I also have to feed them, discipline them, and make sure they bathe and sleep from time to time. And in doing all those mundane things, I neglect to remember their circumstance.
Sometimes I intentionally “forget”, when someone comments on how close in age they all are, I respond with a definitive “Yep.” to avoid the awkward and unnecessary conversation. Sometimes I forget when they do something important like a band performance, or someone compliments me on how great they are. I puff out my chest as if I’m responsible for the majority of their life where they were raised to be great kids before I came into the picture.
Late at night is typically when they miss their mom the most. And not just their mom, but their former lifestyle. They miss all the things that we would consider less than appealing, but they wish to go back because it was theirs. It’s all representative of the last time their family was together. The life they’re in now is our life. We’ve grafted them into how we do things. We’re conscious of their preferences and traditions, but day-to-day life happens and those tend to slip away.
Today they both got braces. That’s a big deal! A really big deal they might remember forever. And the memory will be associated with having done it in their foster home. That’s neither good nor bad. But it’s in these moments I wonder if they think about their family and if they’re wanting to show off their smile to them.
They have moments where they miss their mom more than usual, and it’s neither good nor bad that they do. They forget to think about their old life, and that’s neither good nor bad. They absolutely love some of the things they get to do by living with us, and that’s neither good nor bad.
When they get injured, I wonder if I’m handling the way they’re used to (probably not – I’m more interested in how they got injured to start with.) When they wake up in the middle of the night, are they a little disappointed it’s me that came to check on them? When they come home with a good or bad grade, did I react to an appropriate amount?
But in forgetting that they are foster kids, it’s not that I feel like I’m purposefully taking ownership of them. I still know they have a mom who loves them. We advocate for reunification and make it our mission. It’s just not at the forefront of my mind. Then occasionally we have a rough day, and like waking up to a bucket of ice water, I remember “oh yeah, this is all really hard for them.”
I suppose it’s just like getting over a breakup or a loved one passing away, where time takes over and the moments of sadness and heartbreak happen less often than they used to. Right after the event happens your heart races so much you can feel it pulsing through your veins; you can audibly hear the beats pounding. But give it time and it levels back out to a new normal.
So it’s not that we would actually be doing anything different. But simply knowing and remembering creates an empathy to care for others.
It’s driving for miles not acknowledging a single road sign, but suddenly a “Proceed with Caution” catches your attention. Remember someone’s situation, know that this moment might be difficult, and intentionally put love first. In hard times, that’s all any of us need: to be known, loved, heard, and remembered.