My family of origin is more like mac and cheese than a filet mignon. Even though we aren’t fancy and sometimes leave something to be desired in terms of taste, there is a warmth and comfort to my family that has made me who I am today. I’ve recently been taking stock of all the gifts I have received from my parents, and I have been blessed. Don’t get me wrong, my parents have plenty of flaws, but they were able to raise passionate, thinking children, who have strong identities and deep wells of love and compassion. I recognize that they did this by parenting to our hearts. It wasn’t that they didn’t care about our actions but rather that they believed that our actions sprang from our hearts; if our actions were off, our hearts were off. They weren’t just trying to get us kids to do the right thing, they wanted our insides to match our outsides.
Category: Voice of a Foster Parent
Recently, I attended an annual father daughter dance. My daughter and I have participated in this tradition for several years, and it’s an event we both look forward to each year. In fact, this is the sole event in my life where I have regularly and happily purchased a new tie or other required clothing prior to attending each year—it’s that important. The dance allows me to fully embrace my role as “Dad” for my daughter, and I love it.
Many a good parent has entered the world of foster care and adoption, only to be blindsided by the complete ineffectiveness of many of their go-to parenting tools. They find that the children in their care respond differently than their friend’s kids or even their biological children. This is “difference” is sparked by TRAUMA. Drug exposure, stress, separation, neglect, domestic violence and abuse all affect the brain, especially during the formative years of development. Trauma has taught the body that the world is a scary place. Not being the source of the hurt the children in your care have endured, we assume that they will trust us. But the reality is that on a physiological level, they fear us. Unfortunately, many parenting tools are based on the assumption that children trust adults. For a traumatized child, parents need to take a different approach.
If you looked at my calendar in the month of July, you would see the words, “Start Christmas Shopping”. It’s the same year after year, and you know what? I NEVER do it! I tell myself, “Christmas is five months away…I have plenty of time to get started!” Then, before I know it, October rolls around and the Christmas aisles start showing up in the stores. It’s like Thanksgiving barely exists in the retail world. You would think with all the holiday reminders I would get going maybe in October or early November? WRONG! I procrastinate until one month before the 25th of December every year.
No matter your spiritual beliefs, the Christmas Story provides a beautiful parallel for foster and adoptive parents, or really any of us who seek to love someone challenging.
My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. It’s a time when all across America, people stop to reflect on the things that they are grateful for. I am grateful for many of the same things as most people, however, as a foster parent, my gratitude also often comes in varied, unconventional ways. Some of the things I have been grateful for over the years might be, to some people, kind of strange. Like the time one of our boys fell asleep on the living room couch.