It’s funny how our foster child leaving replicated so many feelings from two years ago when my Dad passed.
It was the same time of year, exactly two years ago.
With both, the lead up was horrid. I was struggling. Trying to be strong and brave for them, but crying on my own. Wishing time away so I can grieve properly, but trying to soak in every second also. Both last few seconds went so quick. In a flash. We said goodbyes over and over but it is never enough to prepare you for their actual departure.
Then they are gone.
Then you don’t grieve at first. You kind of feel relieved. A huge weight lifts from your shoulders. You did it. It is done. But then days pass and they don’t return. You see and smell little reminders of their existence all over the house. You miss-count the dinner plates needed. You wake up every morning and have to actively remind yourself that they are not here anymore.
Is it a disservice to my dad to feel the same about a boy i only knew for 9 months? Or does it show how much love I have to give?
I am proud how brave I was to love a boy that made it incredibly difficult to love him. He was very unlikable often, and made it particularly difficult for me to get close. He didn’t treat me well daily and was very hard to live with… and yet here we are.
I miss being a daughter to a father.
I miss being a mother to a son.
People don’t usually experience both of these loses so close to one another. My little heart is working it all out. But there is room in there for more. That I know for sure.
I’m sorry i don’t think i made myself clear. I am not his mother nor will i ever be, nor will i ever be allowed to forget.
It is more than the suits involved too.
It’s because regardless of you having a social worker, you can care for your children in ways I will never be allowed to care for T.
You can bathe your children. I can not. His traumas make this too difficult.
You can cuddle your children. I can not. He finds this contact far too intimate.
You can take them on holiday. I can not. I have to wait for someone else to sign for him.
You can organise a haircut. I can not. I have to seek permissions every time.
You can have your say in what school they attend. I can not. I didn’t even get consulted.
You can lay in bed with them when they are scared. I can not.
You know their deepest fears and worries.
You know if they have allergies or a favourite food or a favourite place or colour or film or friend or anything. I’m kept in the dark until he lets me know.
I don’t want you to pity me, I love the life i’ve chosen. I love our relationship in spite of the above restrictions.
I know you say it with love, I just want you to understand that of course it’s different. Please don’t tell me otherwise.
In short the answer to this question is not one bit.
It’s kind of more complex than that though.
This all stems from being asked if I miss teaching and if I regret my decision to do fostering. The truth is I had to stop and think for a moment.
Do I miss teaching?
The answer: no, but only because I’m teaching more now than I ever was. I’m teaching someone how to love themselves and others. How to trust. How to belong. How to grieve. How to play. How to share.
Do I regret my decision?
The answer: sometimes. Foster care is hard. I would be lying if the idea of these constant battles for at least another eight years didn’t scare me. It kind of comes in waves. I doubt myself. Then ten minutes later I bounce back. Im still adjusting to parenthood, let alone special needs pre-teen foster care, I guess!
Overall, however, I do not regret my decision. Being his Mum is the best job in the world. It brings me so much joy to watch him learn and grow. I am emotionally, physically, mentally and financially better off for making this decision. I wouldn’t change back for anything.
I would love anyone reading this that is a little interested in finding out more to contact me somehow. No questions too small or silly. I would love to share this joy with others. There are so many kids out there needing a family like yours.
I have purposely not written lengthy blog posts about our journey since meeting him. I have given little hints on Instagram. The fact is, this is not my story to tell.
I didn’t think it fair that you guys knew things that he didn’t. He got told about us yesterday. I have no idea how he took the news. We meet him today, again I have no idea how we are going to be received. We’re prepared for the worst.
Foster care isn’t slow motions runs at each other with open arms. Foster care is cautious and heartbreaking. It’s confusing and just so darn hard. It’s joyful too, hopefully. All mixed into a muddy mess.
I can’t wait to see his face, having still never seen a photo, I’m desperate to see if my image of him is anywhere close. I can’t wait to hear his voice, see his mannerisms, start to learn him. Heck, start to love him.
Jim and I are nervous. We’re setting ourselves up. We’re both determined for this to work in the long term, in the short term our plan is to go with the flow. Roll with the punches. Take his lead.
I am so pleased we got here after all of those months. We first applied for foster care in May 2016! People that registered this Spring are at the same stage as us now. It’s mad, but I’m glad we were considered. This is a long term thing. We have to be right for him. Everyone else seems to think it’s a perfect match, I just hope that in time he feels that way too.
I don’t want to wish this week away. I want to soak in every moment and savour every piece of our lives and home as it is now. This is it. This will change us forever.
I love the body positivity movement streaming through social media recently. It’s something I feel passionate about and totally want to get behind. I’ve always felt an outsider though.
I struggle in my skin, but it’s not really things you can see in photographs. I can’t bravely snap shots of stretch marks, Mum tums and wobbly bum cheeks.
I feel excluded from the #lovetheshake movement because I don’t fit into that category.
But I still have major hangups with my body. I can’t be the only one.
My body has failed me. It doesn’t work how I thought it should. It’s hard to love your toned stomach when you would do anything for that mummy tummy so many women hide away.
I am starting a journey of self love. To give myself a break.
Maybe I have been granted a special opportunity? A wonderful duty to be a mother to many? After all every child needs a Mum, maybe I can be that. They will need me as much as I need them.
After all, I certainly have the heart of a mother even if I don’t wear the stripes.
It’s going to take time to come to terms with though. Please be gentle with my fragility. I for one wouldn’t wish my body on anyone.
Love the skin you’re in. You never know, the person who owns that body you so crave may be thinking exactly the same back at you.
Give yourself a break this Saturday, look in the mirror and say to yourself “my body is amazing just as it is”.
I know friends and family mean well when you lose a loved one, some kind gestures really are not helpful though. Well for me anyway. I would love to hear if you agree or disagree with any below.
- Do not send a bouquet of flowers. I know it’s your first thought but think about it: they remind your friend of funerals. They won’t want to be a person that receives flowers because they don’t want to be a person who’s lost a loved one. The flowers are a reminder that it’s real. They also die. You literally watch the beautiful flowers wilt a little more each day. Another reminder and a visual passing of time. You don’t want to be reminded that it’s been days since you saw them last. Finally it hurts so much when you have to throw the flowers away. You’re not ready to let it go yet. A potted plant is a much better idea. It will grow and flower year on year.
- Give fruit baskets. When you are grieving you aren’t hungry but you get incredibly thirsty. Fruit is a great way of putting goodness in your body when you don’t feel like cooking. Grapes and satsumas were great for me.
- Make a freezer dinner. A good home cooked meal that can be kept in the freezer for when they need food but don’t want to cook. Make sure you either don’t want the dish back or it is foil- they won’t remember whose it is.
- If you want to send a card or a message a simple ❤️ is sometimes enough. Don’t put your beliefs or feelings on them, they are far too fragile. A heart let’s them know you are in their thoughts.
- Invite them to whatever you are doing. If they say no the first ten times keep asking, they may want to one day and even if not the asking feels nice. It is much better than saying “let me know if there is anything I can do”- it means nothing. They won’t ask.
- Come over to their house. Sit with them. Laugh with them. Clean their house with them. Show you are there.
- Take their lead when talking. They might want to talk about their loved one. Let them. They might not. Let them.
- Don’t put your sadness, grief, shock, fears onto them. They won’t care. They can’t. Don’t be offended, they just aren’t the right people to talk to. Talk to someone else that can help you, and use all your energy’s to be there for your friend.
There is no rule book. These are my feelings. A little guide. I hope it’s helpful.
This week we have had the absolute pleasure of looking after my good friend’s little boy whilst she was in hospital. He has taught us so much about what it means to be a foster carer. I thought I would share some of them with you.
- It’s okay for them to grieve. Quiet moments, asking questions, seeming subdued is okay. It is not a reflection of how they feel in your home, they just want their Mum, and of course that is okay. Allow them this time.
- Even though you are parenting, you are not their parent. They have a family. It’s your job to talk about their family and facilitate contact.
- Even though you, as the foster carer, know you are doing a good thing it doesn’t take away from the huge guilt you feel. I feel it all the time. When I’m driving to school, when we’re playing, bathing or at bedtime I have a feeling in my tummy that is saying “this is not your job, it should be his Mummy”.
- I have noticed I have been extra sensitive when speaking to Mum. This is already heartbreaking enough for her, I want to do everything I can to support her in her heartache.
- All of the “holiday” activities that I have spent years looking forward to and all of the sensory play activities that I have been so looking forward to haven’t happened. And that’s okay. They haven’t been appropriate. They are so many more joys in just a normal day.
- Getting up in the night isn’t the drain I thought it would be. I can still function in the morning and I quite enjoy sleepy snuggles.
- It surprised me how excited I get on the drive to collect him from school. I can’t wait to hear how his day was and sing together all the way home.
- I have rediscovered Tesco grocery delivery services. It is great.
- Visits don’t always go to plan. They struggle with people coming and going. Every day needs consideration and planning. Slowly and softly.
- It doesn’t matter if you say yes a bit more than you usually would. They are hurting and it’s your job to help them feel safe and secure. An extra yoghurt never hurt anyone!
- I’m both sad and happy to see him leave us. Knowing he needs to go home and enjoying him living here are conflicting. But the excitement on his face when Mum calls says it all. It brings my whole role into alignment.
Thank you for teaching us both so much in your short time with us. It means we will be even more prepared for when our little guy shows up.