When I was in college, my best friend’s mom raised foster children. Walking into their house was like walking into the Twilight Zone. I’m not going to lie, for a twenty-something know-it-all, the parenting style was drastically different than anything I’ve ever been exposed to.
One thing that really startled me were the lists. Lists were everywhere. Lists on the fridge about how much food was allowed at a meal time and what an appropriate serving should be. Checklists in the bathroom for personal grooming tasks. I mean… come ON… there were procedures explained for everything!
The grown up me would like to apologize for the arrogance of my twenty-something know-it-all self.
If you read last week’s post, you know that we were rejected over and over again. We believed we would not be getting a kid from the inner city.
The night before the program started we received a surprise phone call – one family finally selected us! We were getting our kid from the city! Woo Hoo!!!
What I learned in the next week about “Mothering” a child of whom I am not the “Mother” would change my life.
We asked for a six or seven year old boy. We knew Andrew liked to think he was about ten years old, and thought he would enjoy having a boy to play with. We also wanted to avoid the conflict/drama from Addison if she felt another girl was getting her share of cuddles or attention. Finally, Andrew sometimes has girlfriend crushes… we wanted to avoid those.
We expected he would just fit nicely into our family. We expected he would understand things of value to us… like sitting at the dinner table during meal time. We expected he would respect our wishes and accept our affection.
I doubt we were the only ones with expectations. I imagine he expected our house would have similar rules to his own. I imagine he expected we would respect his wishes and conform nicely to his idea of parental figures.
We were both wrong.
Our expectations were just wrong. What I learned was – he had a lot to teach me. I had a lot to learn about patience, forgiveness, love, and acceptance of someone who wasn’t raised with the values I instilled in my children. I learned that teaching these things at age seven could be frustrating and possibly futile. And the truth is… while I wanted him to say please and thank you at my house, I really struggled with how much to “enforce” this because I didn’t want to change the value system his own parents held dear. It was a lesson in patience and acceptance.
I realized why those lists existed at my college roommate’s parents’ house. “How would those children know the expectations of them if not reminded?”
There were many times this child from the city and I were at odds over different things and I offered forgiveness in a new way – because this he just needed it. And finally, I found myself loving a child I did not give birth to, asking him to return next year, and grieving just a bit when he left for home.
I write this because I feel people find themselves “Mothering” a child with whom they are not the “Mother” of… and expectations is the one thing I would change about our entire journey. I would change my expectations of what he would be and how he would fit. I would focus more energy on loving the boy from the city.
I hope you decide to participate in some program that allows you to open your hearts and homes to other children.
I hope you can expect … nothing and receive … everything.
Thanks Shell, for letting me share the second part of my story.