Confession: I attribute a lot of my feelings of discontent to being a foster kid.
O.k., I know what you might be thinking “It’s about darn time you stop blaming and start doing.” I see your point and do attempt to live my life as a doer.
But sometimes…doing this life thing alone without your God given family is tough.
Here are some of the challenges that perpetuate the problem for this former foster kid:
- I didn’t learn to bond as a child and still this can be a bit of a problem.
- As a child and at times as an adult, I can have an insatiable need for attention and can feel let down easily. Can you imagine the impression this left on those who have tried to be there for me?
- Birthdays don’t have much meaning. This is because I never really celebrated them as a child and when it comes time for a birthday, it feels forced and weird. This puts people off.
- Because of the little bit of family I have due to being a foster kid, I have felt incredibly alone in raising my children and yes, my kids felt the loneliness as well. There have been many birthdays my kids have sat by a window for family that promised to come, but didn’t, or even worse, there wasn’t anyone to call.
- I am a follow through person and I really need those who interact with me to be as well. This can cause me to run. Lots of pressure for those who are in a relationship with me.
- Boundaries. Ugh! What are those? You are not suppose to be so open? Who knew? At a young age social workers, psychiatrists, school counselors, judges, lawyers all pushed me to open up to them, some forced the issue within minutes of meeting me. I did not have permission to keep anything private. When my mother willingly signed over guardianship of me she put me in a virtual prison without even a number to identify me. Foster children do not have an identity because of confidentiality reasons. Talk about mixed messages.
- And…when I do share a bit about my childhood, because well, childhoods come up in conversations, I hear “Oh, I’m so sorry.” Depressing, right?
- Flashbacks! Fear! Trembling! As a grown woman I can relive the severe abuse imposed on me and my brothers by the smallest of triggers.
- And the final challenge…social graces. You try growing up in a violent, chaotic home and then try to acclimate yourself to a civil society. Ha! You can’t draw from an empty well. I had a knack at being semi-successful at anything I tried. I moved up from being surrounded by unmotivated, law-breaking people to people who had goals in life. Well, the transition took place rapidly and I felt off balance around goal oriented people. What came naturally to them was an act of manual labor on my part. An example of this awkwardness happened when someone invited my husband and myself to their home for dinner. It completely escaped me that we were to bring something or at least offer. After hosting a few dinner parties myself, I learned this lesson when my attendees each bought wine or a dish to pass. This was very embarrassing. Sometimes I just cut out of someone’s life because there were so many normal social interactions that proved to be too difficult for someone who only witnessed adults behaving badly.
Recently, I have found solace in becoming a foster mom myself despite the questions and statements from my friends, such as, “Aren’t you afraid you will get too attached?” You wouldn’t do it if you knew what happened to a lady I knew who did it. Aren’t you worried you are taking on someone else’s problems? “I know you and you are going to get hurt.” O.K., yes to all their fears. How can I predict the future? What I can predict is my reaction to it. Not to mention, if we all gave in to logic nothing would happen to change the world.
Disclaimer – Please know that fostering is not a replacement for family and nor should you ever go into it expecting anything from it. With that said, I have found peace in being a foster parent because I can relate to foster youth and I feel at home with them. What might hurt, offend or disappoint another adult doesn’t bother me in the least bit. I get their anger and I’m slow to react. I go into it wanting a good outcome for the entire family because I realize their self-esteem is wrapped up in their parents, as was mine.
Why blog about this today? That’s easy. I’m feeling alone. I’m a bit shy about admitting it, but I am. Have you ever wanted to call a loved one with news and then you realize they had passed on as you reached for the phone? Foster care survivors can experience this with important moments in their lives. You want to pick up the phone and realize there is no one to call or you take pause before you dial those numbers and wonder to yourself “Am I bothering them?” This happens because you never feel like you completely belong to anyone.
This freaky foster kid is a survivor like the millions of others you are surrounded by. So no need to worry. This is just a little insight why someone in your life might need some extra patience or a just a smile. So get to it!
My wife and I have biological kids and adopted ones. My brother and his wife did foster to adopt with older and younger children. My wife aged out of the foster system, so we aren’t naïve when it comes to these things. But this is the best article I have ever read on the subject. There is no ranting and little blaming (though there was plenty of room to place blame). There are just facts that help us to see how these situations affect real kids and how it continues to affect them for their whole lives.
Thank you for sharing this.
John M. Simmons
What a great family you have! You are such an inspiration. The world needs to hear more stories such as yours.
I’m lucky that enough time has gone by to replace my unpleasant memories with lovely memories. I hope that my writing reflects the now, but yet is still informative.
What a wonderful post on life as a foster child! You are turning your scars into some very positive parenting for children that you understand so well. For five years I was a social worker in New Jersey’s child welfare system so I can relate to much of what you say from a different perspective.
Thank you for taking the time to read my post. And a special thank you for your service as a social worker. I doubt the rest of the world knows the sacrifice and patience that went into the very important job you held.
You are more than a survivor, you are a thriver. And a giver. The kids you foster are very lucky.
its amazing to me how broken we all are and yet we are pushed towards some version of perfection everywhere we turn. broken shit more interesting, lets face it.
enjoyed this – keep it rolling and keep swimming
Hi MrsPrickett, Thanks for following my blog, Odds&Ends from Ermigal. I try to point out the humor in everyday life–there’s more than enough sadness to go around. Love your writing, and am now following you. I am an adoptive parent and retired teacher, and I am in awe of your resilience and ability to verbalize your experiences and how they affected you. Brava! I look forward to reading more from you. 🙂
Thank you. I appreciate your warm words. I did check out your blog and I’m still smiling.
A rational and valuable introduction to the topic for those of use with no background in the topic. Thank you.
Getting chills. Bear hug bear hug. Our church has hosted some fun and meaningful events for the foster kids in our city and worked with a couple that adopted 11 foster kids (last time we counted). My husband and I attended a church event this family spearheaded to raise awareness…there was a slideshow with stats and beautiful faces…just so moving. The things you named are huge. Boundaries, relationships, pressure….navigating what is normal to the world and new to you. Our situation doesn’t compare to yours (meaning I dare not compare) but the grandparents are not local and we have just our one boy so we are very sensitive to the loneliness factor, esp on the holidays, and are deeply grateful for friends.
Your blog is lovely, as it would be coming from you. So much heartache, but so much to give in empathy. It’s beautiful you are a foster parent.
Thank you for the follow.
Loneliness, is loneliness, is loneliness. It’s all the same, but what makes this whole life experience better is the feeling we are all in this together.You made me feel that we are. 🙂 I think you are amazing. Thank you for taking the time to read my post.
My full pleasure.
Why don’t you tap OM to guest write on his board? The points on your list are each expandable into their own post. Through your unique experiences you have a lot to write on that people can relate to.
Thank you for sharing–your perspective is priceless to those of us trying to do our best to understand. I am a Nana to 10–two who were foster children, now adopted and another foster baby that my daughter is praying she will be able to adopt.
Thank you for taking the time to check out my blog. It’s awesome you are so supportive of your daughter. Sometimes being a foster/adoptive parent can feel isolating. 🙂
I love your honesty. I expect our daughter might write something exactly like this when she’s older. Reading your thoughts helps me understand her better. Thanks for sharing (personally, I think over-sharing is fabulous). Seriously, you’re amazing. She’s only 13 but we’ve already started encouraging her to use her difficult beginning to help others when she’s older—and maybe even now.
Thank you for taking the time to read my post. It has taken me many years to feel comfortable about talking about my beginnings. If I would have had a supporter in my life like yourself, I may not have hidden my childhood from people bypassing the shame and guilt I carried.
Thanks for writing it! I hope you have plenty of supporting people in your life now. I’d love for you to write a post for my blog sometime if you have time. Hearing from those who’ve been “through it” and survived is always helpful. If you have thoughts on what you wish people had done, what you think might have made a better or bigger impact, etc., I’m always looking for that kind of information. The more I learn, the better I can help. Thanks for joining the Hypervigilant community!