In 2017, I had an experience that simultaneously broke my heart and made me so angry. On this particular day, my very loud and messy crew walked into the store. I had already decided we would go slowly and forget half the list. We would eat our bag of snacks, grab a few groceries, and we would learn how to manage ourselves in front of other human beings. This trip was less about the task and more about our team achieving a goal, getting into the store and walking out alive. It worked for a bit, then all crazy broke loose. I was perfectly fine half anticipating this, so we just finished on the isle and walked to the checkout. Then, things went badly.
A lady (who I do not know well) stopped me and commented on how full my hands were. (I am not sure how that helps) I smiled and agreed and then she said it. “Maybe you should return one of them” in seriousness pointing to my two tiny, sweet babies. I was stunned. I made a gentle return comment and excused myself. I put back everything we had picked up and pushed my wild cart to the car. I just couldn’t rationalize or even conceive the amount of insanity in her statement.
My heart broke. My heart broke for my daughters, the ones that have already walked through and experienced hell on earth. The babies that have overcome addiction, brokenness, and abandonment. The children my family loves. The children my family would give our lives for. My heart broke for my oldest daughter, the one that had to hear that statement and had to process what it meant. My heart broke for that woman. I am not sure what she experienced in life or in what way she could justify that thought.
Then I was angry. I was angry at the enemy for creating the idea that people can be “returned” when they cause discomfort. I was angry that a huge amount of people don’t see the child, they see a broken system.
Why am I sharing this? I am often asked, what is it that foster parents need? I felt like this situation helped me to really see what it is that we need.
Meals are awesome, I will never turn away a meal, especially when you pick up a baby at midnight and have work in the morning. Cleaning is amazing. Again when you haven’t had time to “nest” for 9 months and someone volunteers to help do the dishes or sweep your floor, it is huge. Childcare is too good for words. Volunteering to keep babies (biological or foster) during appointments, visits, or for an hour is one of the most beautiful things I have been given. I didn’t know how many appointments one child came with, it’s a lot. Texts, Calls, Notes, Messages it is needed for the heart. This is hard. It can be lonely and if you aren’t careful the unknown can consume you. Friends being friends really helps.
I could go on and on. There are millions of ways to help a foster family, but you know what all of those apply to people in every situation. The woman down the road that just had surgery, the man who lost his wife, and the new momma. I believe the most important thing you can do to support a foster family or any family is to care about them and more importantly, care about their children. Lean into them. Believe in them. The thing that makes me very proud is when I see people pull my kids in and take off all labels. They don’t see foster or biological, they see a human. A tiny, immature, sometimes rowdier version of themselves.
My family has amazing support. We have had an outpouring of love from the very beginning and I don’t want to lessen that with painful comments. I just want to remind everyone, myself included, on the importance of our mouth. Watch what you say and the heart from which you say it.