It was tucking-in-bed time. He’d been quiet, withdrawn, and I could tell why.
My son is an older foster child, whom we are in the process of adopting.
At 5 years of age, my foster son entered the system. He came to us at age 7. He is now 8. Not to say his life became chaotic after he became a foster child. He lived in chaos much before then. Neglect and other forms of abuse were normal to him. Expected. Taught. Absorbed.
His removal from birth mom was a necessary call. The dangers outweighed the benefits of living in such environment. What am I talking about? There was no sure environment, for starters. Her rage and drug abuse took her away for long periods of time, as she farmed her kids around. Due to her inability to parent, my son was under such stress that he developed stress induced epilepsy… Which she was unable manage properly. Lack of medication or the will to administer the doses, not sending the medications to the caretakers (often, questionable ones, some were abusers themselves), all could have caused her son permanent brain damage. And aside from all of that, violence from her were both witnessed and experienced first hand, by him.
With such a long history of trauma involving her, you would think my son would want to forget all about her, wish she would never harm him again… But it isn’t so. He loves her. He always will.
If we were preparing him for reunification, it would make sense to promote their immediate relationship. We did, when they were trying to make that happen. However, her rights were rightfully terminated.They will form a better relationship some day, but not for now. His emotional wounds are too fresh… In fact, he doesn’t demonstrate the desire to move in with her again… Still, he loves her. He misses her eyes, her hair… I imagine he misses those short periods of time when he nestled in her arms, sensing her smell, listening to her voice.
We are preparing to adopt him, so it stung when I was reminded of this extension of his heart, his birth mom. Though he was next to me physically, he was close to her emotionally. What to do? How to cope with that?
So I hugged him. I told him I was so sorry for all the hardships of his life. He held my hand and asked me to stay with him for a while longer. I did. Then, I kissed him good night.
Mothering an older foster/adoptive child is hard. The “mother” seat may be taken already… Though, there is a place for me. For the honor of being called “mom” may not be mine, not yet anyway… But I have the honor of having him hold my hand as he travels across the state to find her in his thoughts. It was my arm he clung to as his heart tightened. It was in my embrace he buried his sweet little head, searching for comfort. My honor is to be counted trustworthy enough to accompany him in his journey.
Oh, why am I tearing up at this? Perhaps, because when I call him “son“, the echo does not reply, “mom“. Rather, it evokes the silent beauty of a new found trust, from a heart previously shattered, an echo expressed by his hand holding mine.
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Gloria R. is a mother of two birth children, and fostering to adopt an older child. She is a licensed therapeutic foster parent with her husband. She continues to engage in research on traumatized children, foster care and adoption and hope to be a voice for kids, who often fall in between the cracks of society. She also loves writing and welcoming new readers to her blog, www.onemorewithus.com.