Foster care has a major learning curve.
I got the mom thing. Fourth kid? I can diaper, feed, rescue a pacifier seconds before it hits the ground in my sleep. She has lifted into our family pretty seamlessly. I hardly blinked tonight as she dropped a lovely gift into the bathtub before bedtime (is that too much info? Keeping it real up in here).
But dealing with a birth mom? You can take your licensing classes. But just like a parenting class isn’t really going to teach you how to parent until you have that kid in your arms, they didn’t prepare me for the emotions I feel towards her.
I started out so well. We got our baby right before Christmas and her second visit I made a beautiful canvas with the baby’s footprints on it with her name. I wrapped it lovingly and addressed it to mom from her baby. I wanted her to know we were in this together. I might have smugly even patted myself on the back at how awesome I was being (again, keeping it real? Humility isn’t always a strong suit).
Those feelings didn’t take long to change.
They say you can catch more flies with honey and I knew the constant anger I was feeling wasn’t really helping anyone. My pastor always says bitterness is the poison you drink hoping it will kill the other person. I was the only one suffering from my bitterness here.
So I tried to change my attitude towards her. Which isn’t near as hard when you don’t have to deal with someone in person. But God has a lovely sense of humor. I met up with birth mom at a doctor’s appointment and had a 40 minute wait. Not in the giant waiting room. But in the teeny tiny exam room. Good times.
I posted about how awkward it was on Facebook and someone said something to the affect of “Why should it be awkward? Don’t you have a lot to talk about?”
In a perfect world, yes. But foster care is as far from a perfect world as it gets. It is difficult to show grace to a person whose broken history you know and has resulted in a sweet child being taken away. And it is difficult for a woman to have a strong sense of appreciation for the person who is getting to see every milestone her daughter achieves while she reads about them in a notebook.
I used to get so defensive when I would get the notebook back after a visit and birth mom would criticize something I had done in parenting. Irrational things too like her carseat being too tight. I would write back defensively proving I was the better mom in paragraphs. I would stew about her words for days thinking dark thoughts in my head.
Then one day I realized that I have nothing to prove. I am not a bad mom. I am, in fact, a pretty darn good mom. But this mom? She has everything to prove. And everything to lose. And she needs to somewhere somehow have some control. The notebook is all the control she has.
So (slightly begrudgingly) I started responding in grace. I started telling lighthearted stories. More smiley faces. More “have a great visit”. Less this is what our schedule is and how you should follow it.
And amazing thing happened. Her tone changed too. More smiley faces back. More “have a great weekend.” And today? Today we had a break through. Today she asked me my advice on something. I sat and stared and smiled.
We aren’t done with this journey. And I still have a lot to learn. But I do know this. Grace feels a lot better to give and to get. Yet again. Love wins.