Conversation with someone I had just been introduced to, after it was mentioned that we are foster parents to two little ones:
Her: Are you able to adopt them?
Me: Well, we are dual licensed as foster-to-adopt, so we can if it goes that way.
Her: Do you know yet if you will be able to?
Me: No, it's still too early in their case to tell.
Her: So you must really be keeping your hearts in check.
Me: No we fell head over heels long ago. We love these kids like crazy.
I don't really understand the common misconception that foster parents are not supposed to love fully...as if they are supposed to love just enough to cover logistics and amenities, but that's about all...as if there is a certain identifiable tipping point where you go from simply providing care to wholly offering love...as if there's a way to know where that point is and slowly back away from it if you realize you are getting too close.
"Oops, I feel some love for this child, better squelch that right away."
I do understand why people say things like this lady did, about "keeping hearts in check", "not getting too attached", "fill-in-the-blank foster care buzz phrase about kids going home". Because there's a big chance for hurt in all this and people tend to avoid hurt at all costs. So I guess folks think there's a way to guard your heart against that hurt, to invite children into your home but leave up a wall between you and them, so that when/if they are reunified with their family, it won't hurt you so bad.
Who is prioritized first in that scenario? You.
Who comes second in that scenario? The child.
It needs to be the other way around. The child needs to come first. The child needs to be loved and cared for wholeheartedly. The child, who has faced walls maybe his whole life so far, needs an open door and open arms full of unbridled love, not another wall.
Because she is a child. And we are adults.
Because he struggles with basic life tasks. And we have it all together.
Because she has nothing but the clothes she's wearing. And we have everything we could ever need.
Because his life so far has been nothing but hard. And our life so far has been easy.
She has been hungry. He has been beaten. She has been violated. He has been abandoned. She has been taken away from the only parents she has ever known. And we as comfortable adults are worried about ourselves being hurt?
It's worth it. These children are worth it. Worth the pain and the hurt and the inconveniences and the unknowns.
When their sunken, shallow eyes brighten up...it's worth it.
When their thin hair, dull from under-nutrition, fills out and shines...it's worth it.
When the nightmares stop and sleep is peaceful...it's worth it.
When tiny screams cease as drugs withdraw from a tiny body...it's worth it.
When they pass their math class instead of failing...it's worth it.
When they blow kisses and sing-song "la la love yooou"...it's worth it.
When they cling to you through their tears of confusion and grief...it's worth it.
We can provide a safe place amidst danger. We can provide hugs and smiles where there were none at all. We can draw out talent and skill and ability that was never given a nod. We can chip away at a beaten down spirit with self-esteem and worth. We can open our arms and hold tight when there is nothing else to do in the face of anguish.
Can we put ourselves aside for just a moment, take the focus off our own comfort just for a time, and consider the needs of these children instead? Can we stand up as mature adults and be willing to risk a little hurt in our lives in order to alleviate a lot of hurt for these innocent young ones?
Can we go so far as to pledge that we will welcome some hurt and pain into our lives, that we will jump head first into this crazy system, that we will stoop down and carry another's cross, even for an unknown time, even while knowing that the result might bury us in sadness and break our hearts to bits?