Since I was a sophomore in high school, I knew I wanted to be a foster and adoptive parent. I never had that biological urge to mass-produce myself, and luckily, hubby felt the same way. Unfortunately, my mother didn’t. She didn’t agree with me taking this non-traditional route to family. She made this known through various avenues, starting with her “you’ll change your mind” and “just you wait and see” when I was a teen. She moved on to her more urgent, “it makes me sad to know everything that you’re missing” as I flutter my way through my prime baby-making years. After that came the distancing comments of “I just don’t want to get attached” to justify why she never visits and insists our kids call her ‘auntie’ instead of ‘grandma.’ Even the more hurtful comments that my biological nephew “will always be more special” than my adopted daughter.
My mother is not a monster (although the above paragraph may make her sound like one). She has certain expectations of what my life should look like, and I have torn them up and started from scratch using colors she just can’t see. Her children gave her life, meaning, and identity, whereas I don’t need that because she raised me with those things deeply instilled in myself. But she struggles to see that. She wants to be surrounded by her children and grandchildren of the same bloodline with no histories of trauma, or no worries about ‘other families’. She wants something that she won’t get from me, which makes me feel guilty, but also rejected.
I tried to talk to my older brother about it when his first child was only two-weeks old. He said, “I understand where she’s coming from; I wouldn’t want to get attached to a kid that you might never see again.” I was shocked. I’d heard this statement so many times as ‘one of those things you never say to foster parents,’ but I’d never imagine I’d hear it from my brother. The selfishness was dripping from that statement as I thought about the six children that have lived with my hubby and I. We fell in love with those six children, provided a safe and stable home for them, and advocated in their best interests for their forever homes. That love and attachment we shared with them was well worth the pain when they left. If everyone says, “I don’t want to get attached,” where would those kids be? Orphanages were not decent places, and residential facilities are only a last case scenario for kids now. The fact that grown adults in my family put their feelings above children who have undergone severe trauma, abuse, neglect, and loss is desperately disappointing.
Coming into the holidays makes it all so raw. Having to fly our family of four to a cold, small-town because it’s the grandson’s First Christmas and I’m supposed to act excited about that. To spend time with family that doesn’t accept my children as family; people who don’t send them birthday gifts or even know their birthdays. Now that there is a ‘real’ grandson, it’s all the more obvious.
I knew when we started our journey as foster and adoptive parents that it wouldn’t be easy. There would be challenges, hard days, pushback, and sleepless nights. But I wasn’t ready for the pain that would come from my own family. Luckily, our support system is comprised not of those who don’t agree with us, but of our friends, neighbors, fellow foster/ adoptive parents – our chosen family. And maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to tell my family that we’re spending the holidays here, with our chosen family who accepts and respects our non-traditional one.