Have you ever experienced the kind of joy that is born from someone else’s pain? It’s the kind where two parties give and get and both hearts burst but in opposite directions.
Foster care and adoption are full of that kind of mixed-bag joy. It is always holding your happy and someone’s sad at the same time. Every victory is a loss. It’s like a sports team rivalry where one of each of your twin brothers plays on opposing teams and the championship is on the line. How do you cheer? Yet, how do you not?
I’m a foster mom who believes in biology. I want families to stay together, to heal, to learn from mistakes and love better. I believe in being a safe place for a little while, while parents work things out. And I am for their success. Even when it means their adorable child will leave me to return to them. Even when it means goodbye to a bit of my sunshine and a piece of my heart.
Make no mistake, I’m a pretty awesome mom. Anyone would be lucky to have me – even for a little while. I’m full of all the arrogance that makes me believe I would always be the very best choice for any child. It takes a a bit of chutzpa to jump through each and every hoop – I mean law – to become a foster parent. You can’t do it without a pretty good sense of confidence and a feeling that you have something special to offer.
But in my heart, I know I should be temporary. Children need roots that sink deep into the ground and out into a family tree of look- and act-a-likes. Their hands need to slide into the hands of those who made them. They need pictures on their walls that anchor. They need the mirror of their own smile on someone else’s face so they can roll back their shoulders, walk into the world and say, “This is who I am!”
Anything less is tragic.
That tragic is where foster care and adoption begin. That tragic is how I became a mother. Someone else’s sad made me happy. It happened 11 years ago when a young lady placed her tiny 8 pound, 14 ounce linebacker into the arms of my husband (who has never let go). Then she stepped outside and crumpled to the ground.
It happened again when a system looked at a file of our family and matched us with a file of a four-year-old boy. The system thought he could be safe with us for a while, maybe longer. We squished all the love and joy into the time we had with him. This time, we were the crumpled ones when he went home.
It happens now as we wait for a very-long-time-coming resolution to the cases of the two littles we’ve wrapped our world around. We cross our fingers around an outcome we desperately want but dare not say aloud. We know the outcome of our heart’s desire means a world and lifetime of hurt for someone else. And the knowing tempers our hope and our joy. It sits in the same room, surrounds us.
Every victory is a loss. Every loss is a victory.
Sometimes, just sometimes, I wish for the moments of unadulterated joy other mothers experience. That one where she gets confirmation on what she has suspected for several weeks. That one where she gets to tell her husband news, making him giggle-cry and lift her off the ground. That moment in the hospital of counting toes and fingers and pointing out look-alike features. That moment when she gets to hold all of that and know it all belongs to her. Those seem like very, very good moments to me.
I love my moments of mothering and I wouldn’t trade them but sometimes, just sometimes, I could do with some straight-up, flat-out, selfish happiness untossed with sadness.