You know that person who has wronged you beyond forgiveness? This monster has hurt you directly, intentionally, and aggressively. Worse than the malice behind the crime this person committed acts that not only hurt you and send your life into a tailspin, your loved ones are also writhing emotionally. The pointed attacks that have been launched against you leave you sleepless at night questioning your relationships and who you are altogether. How should we cope with these painful relational encounters? Should we seek revenge? Should we cut the unforgivable person out of our lives entirely? Should we forgive and move forward? Though I realize it seems very clear that I’m setting the path to preach on the topic of forgiveness, that is not what this is. Let’s talk about foster care.
All families have struggles. All families have secrets. In my family, both struggles and secrets run deep and scar even deeper. Our struggles not only leave scars on our relationships, they leave me feeling deeply mediocre as both a mother and a human. My husband and I are fostering to adopt our three radiant, courageous, and endearing daughters. I am offering a glimpse into our personal pain and struggles by calling each girl by the primary feeling that dictates her life though we are faithful and sure that their days as foster children are nearing an end. These are the tales of Worried, Torn, and Confused.
Worried is a wise and enlightened child. She is undeniably strong and reliable. Though she is only a young child, she could be trusted to care for other children. In fact, she did a decent job with childrearing before she ever started Kindergarten. Worried understands some heavily important adult concepts, namely selflessness and encouragement. Day after day, she aims to help, serve, and please those around her. Worried sees the good in people, and she is not afraid to hand out compliments and encouraging words as she feels them. The pain that makes Worried a worrier lies in the reality that she did not meet her mommy and daddy until she was in the second grade. Though she has known many important people and families over her short life, many whom she misses and remembers fondly, she never experienced the ease of having someone in her corner. She never had someone make sacrifices for her wellbeing. She never had someone kiss and bandage her scrapes when she fell out trees or from roofs she probably should not have climbed in the first place. Worried does not believe she is ever going to live a day without fear and worry of losing all the safety and beauty of her life. Worried believes she will have reason to worry forever.
Torn is a brilliant, imaginative child. Torn is careful and calculated in every task she attempts. When Torn is corrected by an adult, she twists and bends the correction around in her mind until she molds it into a successful outcome. I am convinced that there is nothing in this world that Torn cannot master. She is thoughtful about every activity she encounters, from learning to read to choosing when to show affection. Torn is perceptive and sees people as they are beneath the surface, and when she shares her love, it is impossible for anyone to withhold their own heart from her. Torn is a survivor. The pain that makes Torn feel so torn lies in the reality that in the past, every time she gave her love away, the holders of her love were ripped away from her life. Though she loves her family and friends and sincerely thanks God for her beautiful life, Torn does not believe she can keep the happiness. Torn cannot make sense of all the pain in her life when she experiences happiness. Torn fights the ones who love her day after day because she does not believe she will ever stop feeling torn long enough to embrace the love.
Confused is a deeply joyful child. She is possibly the happiest child one could ever meet. She does not whine, complain, or hold grudges as most children do. Confused gains favor and makes friends through every door she enters, from the grocery store to her daycare. She loves all her people fiercely, freely, and wildly. She holds no fear of pain or consequence, and she always knows where she stands with people because she unapologetically calls the shots in her relationships. The pain that makes Confused feel so confused lies in the reactions of others. Confused doesn’t understand why Worried worries about her all the time. Confused doesn’t understand why Torn both physically and emotionally stiff arms her without warning. Confused doesn’t understand why people say her mommy and daddy aren’t her real parents. Confused understands so simply and clearly that though her mommy and daddy did not make her biologically, they are really her mommy and daddy. Her parents and sisters work hard to ensure that she knows the truth about her past and other facets of family. Confused experiences confusion because she believes the rest of the world needs to get it together and just be happy instead of getting hung up on details like last names and biology.
My greatest gift is being the mommy of Worried, Torn, and Confused. I hate the pain they experience due to careless adults in their past. I hate the insecurities they feel due to the broken foster system. I hate how they attack me when their pain is too intense because it is a mother’s job to take all the hard punches. I know that the cure to the pain is not revenge. Taking out my pain on my children or the people and systems who have hurt them cannot be the answer. If I am honest, giving into anger is the act that leaves me feeling the most mediocre of all. Pretending children battling loneliness and hopelessness in foster care do not exist is also not the answer. Apathy is nearly as weak and powerless as anger. Friends, love is the answer and solution to pain.
As a therapist, I have always believed and reiterated with child after child that our hearts do not stop growing or fill up. The more people we encounter and lend empathy in our lives, the larger and roomier our hearts grow. Friends, don’t be afraid to love. I have found reasons to love the people from my children’s past because I believe love is the answer to coping with my pain. When my children’s pain overwhelms them, and I get caught in the line of fire, I just try to love them harder. No matter how mediocre we feel, our love is not mediocre. Our hearts are stronger and more powerful than we realize, and even the most shattered heart can heal with time. Love ceaselessly. Love large. Just paint the room black. There is a loud beauty within the mediocrity. Find it. Bust the speakers. Never turn it off.