Dear Daughter, I’m Doing the Best I Can

Dear Daughter,

I’ve always been honest with you and I will be honest again in saying that this is hard. Raising a child born to someone else comes with one thousand emotions, guilt being at the top of the list. You were taken from your biological mother because she was deemed unfit to parent you, and so I feel as though I don’t deserve you unless I can do better than she did. And it doesn’t stop at better. No, there were dozens, maybe hundreds of waiting parents but they picked me, so I have to not just be better but the best, and the honest to goodness fact is that I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, either. I’ve read all the books, taken all the training, talked to all the professionals and still, I don’t really know if I’m doing this right. I try to view all sides before I make decisions. I try to stay calm at all times so you know I can take on all the problems that are too big for you. I try to put vegetables in your lunch and make sure you’re getting enough physical and social activity. I get up in the middle of the night to kiss away your nightmares. And yet, your teacher sends home a note because I sent you to school without snowpants and I feel like a failure. I lose my temper after dealing with your meltdowns for hours on end and I feel like a failure. You had three teeth fall out this summer and I haven’t gotten you into the dentist for a check-up and so I feel like a failure. I don’t have anyone to remind me that I asked you twice that morning to put on your snow pants, or that we have enough appointments already between the peadeatrician and the therapists and the social worker, or that it’s okay to lose my temper sometimes because after all, I’m only human. I am expected, at least in my own mind, to be perfect. To not make mistakes. I am supposed to be the best mother.

I have to slap myself to remind me that there is no such thing as a best mother. Anyone with half a brain knows that we are all just doing the best we can. I am. And so was she. Your biological mom. She did the best she could and I’m doing the best I can and I guess at the end of the day that’s all you can ask for from a parent. So do me a favour please, and go easy on us both. I promise you, we are being plenty hard enough on ourselves.

Love,

Mom

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Dear Daughter, I will Love You Always

Dear Daughter,

Saying “I love you” for the first time was scary. We didn’t know each other very well back then, but I knew right away that my love for you would grow profoundly. I wasn’t sure how to express it that first time, and I was worried about your reaction, but I thought it was important for you to hear that you were special to me. When I finally worked up the courage to tell you that I loved you, I was met with a simple, “Yep, goodnight.” and I couldn’t have been more grateful as I had half expected a scowl or worse. I know it must have been scary for you when you made the decision to say it back, because for a while you dipped your toes in the water, giggling and asking if I loved you and then replying with a simple “yeah” when I asked if you loved me back. That slowly grew to silly “I looooveeee yooouuuuuu”‘s and then eventually to responding to me with a serious “I love you, too”.

Expressing our love is something we do now on a regular basis. I make sure to tell you in the morning and when I tuck you in at night. I tell you every time we say hello or goodbye, and I tell you at random times throughout the day, but yet I can still see the insecurity in your eyes as you question if I really mean it. Some days you prance around the house giggling and reciting “you loooove me” over and over as though it’s a song stuck in your head. Other days, in that same giggling voice, you turn it into a question, “do you looooove me?”. My answer is always “yes”, but yet you keep asking and I wonder how long it will take for you to really believe it. I suppose it’s probably something you’ve heard many times before, often from foster parents who never intended to keep you. You must not have understood that they weren’t rejecting you when you moved to the next home, but rather trying to providing you with temporary love until someone came along who could do it permanently. You must have felt like no one wanted you, and now that I think about it, you often ask me why no one likes you, and I suppose that is why you feel this way. Well my darling daughter, no matter how long it takes you to believe in it, I will love you always.

Love,

Mom

Dear Daughter, Comfort is What I Wish for You

Dear Daughter,

A few weeks ago while you were in your equine therapy session, I watched a DVD that said this, “Aggression is not a behaviour problem, it’s an emotion problem.”. While I already knew this in theory, there was something about the way Dr. Neufeld described it that really sunk in for me. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, and so it was ironic when you crawled into my bed at 1am this morning and started to talk about that very thing. You explained that when you hit, bite or spit at me, it’s not really because you’re angry, but because you’re sad or scared. You told me that when you feel this way, hitting is how your body protects you from getting hurt. You talked about how you learned when you were little how to protect yourself, which was a remarkable statement because you were too young and don’t remember the actual events that caused you to need these skills. I explained to you that when you were a baby, your body got stuck in “fight mode” and now it doesn’t know how to calm down. The grown-up’s call this “hypervigilance” but at home, we call it being scared or worried. I hope that I’m helping you to understand what’s going on with your body and that I’m not confusing you further. It’s such a complex thing for a 9 year old to understand, but you have proven time and again that I am telling you things you already know.

It fills my heart that you have become confident enough in me to share these vulnerable thoughts, and while you’re laying in my arms sobbing I am oddly happy, because your tears are a sign that you are finally breaking through the mad. That, my darling girl, is progress… and all I can hope for is that someday you feel safe enough to live in calm and comfort.

Love,

Mom

Dear Daughter, Tomorrow it’s Back to School

(Reposted from September 2016… originally posted on a new blog I started and then later abandoned, because hey… I like blogging here.)

Dear Daughter,

Tomorrow you go to school for the first time as a fourth grader, and as my daughter. You’re terrified, and I feel for you. You have a new last name that you don’t really want, written on all of your things, so you can learn to spell it. And you’re shy… and while I tried so hard to connect you with as many peers as I could; you made a few (5) friends over the summer, but none of them are in your class. Your new friends have promised to look for you at recesses and lunch time, but I know you’re still scared.

You struggle with your self esteem. You don’t like anyone to know that you’re behind in school, and according to “your file”, you’ve lashed out at your past aid’s in frustration. I can’t imagine how you must feel. I don’t know how much to share with your new teacher and aid. I want to give them as much information as possible so they can help you be successful, but part of me worries that they will write you off without a chance.

You should know that you are SO smart. You have this crazy knack for remembering anything and everything you hear about animals and all of the world’s amazing wonders. You ask so many inquisitive questions and that’s one of my favourite things about you… your curiosity. And I don’t know why you’re so nervous about making friends; you seem to make friends everywhere we go. You’re more outgoing than I think you realize, and I hope that this quality begins to shine through as you become more secure in your new family.

I hope that I can help build your confidence in your capabilities and in yourself. You are amazing.

Love,

Mom

My Experiences in Foster Parenting

I’m not sure why, but I guess I haven’t ever actually written about my journey to “foster parenting” this past year. A few months after I lost my job due to layoff, I put an ad out for a room mate to help with the mortgage. I was approached by the Boys & Girls Club to provide room and board for homeless youth. Some of these kids had behavioural issues and were kicked our or ran away from home, and some of them left abusive homes. I knew it wasn’t really what I was looking for – a financial boost during my unemployment – but I figured that since I’d had to put my adoption file on hold, maybe this would be a way for me to find fulfillment in the meantime. I wasn’t going to make any money having to house and feed these youth, but the program paid me enough to take care of them so it wasn’t costing me anything, either. I decided to go for it, and so far I’ve had 4 placements through that program. I was later approached by someone in the community about taking in a youth who was in foster care, but had to leave her current home. She became my 5th placement. Until then I’d just had one placement at a time, but right now I have two.

Some of the kids were just here for respite, when they needed a place to stay for a weekend while their “foster parents” went away, but some of them were here longer. One girl, whom I became very close to, was here for two months over the summer. We developed a close bond and we maintain that connection. She still comes for occasional respite and sometimes just to visit, we text all the time and she’s invited me to her high school graduation this year. Not all of the experiences I’ve had have been positive, but that one – knowing I made such a significant difference in her life – has made it all worth while.

Some of the other ones weren’t as easy, they struggled with addiction, behavioural, mental health and attachment issues. There’s been a lot of yelling, I’ve been trash talked behind my back and told off more times than I can count, I’ve had minor damage to my home, I’ve been emotionally abused and accused of the most ridiculous things. Despite that, the hardest part for me is when I recognize that there’s nothing I can do for them; that the needs they have are beyond the scope of what I can provide, and it’s time for them to move on.

It’s devastating knowing that you can’t help someone, despite your good intentions and best efforts. It makes me sick watching them pack their things and move on, knowing what they’ll be faced with, but also that some of them have to learn it for themselves, the hard way. It’s difficult feeling like just another person who’s deserted them when all they’ve ever wanted out of life was to be loved unconditionally. But then, there’s the ones that you did help, even in the smallest way. If one made it through a bought of depression and feelings of suicide and started going to school again, then it’s worth it. If one learned to trust again, then it’s worth it. I’ve learned that even though I couldn’t help them all, it’s worth it for the ones that I have.