Since my feature on voyagemia, many have expressed interest of my experience as a foster parent. At the age of 21, I along with my ex-partner, gained custody of his pre-teen cousin. Due to circumstances which are not mine to tell, I was faced with a decision; do I let her stay in a group home or do I shelter her from more pain. In my heart, I knew that this child could not grow up in the system. I contacted the attorney on the case and asked if the court would consider a 21-year-old to foster a child. The next morning, we were before a judge professing our desire and commitment to care for her. We pleaded our case and to our surprise were granted temporary custody. I’ll never forget the look on her face as she ran into my arms and cried. We all did.
In an instant we were parents. We did not have nine months to prepare or process how our lives were going to change. Not only did I have to meet the expectations of what it meant to be a parent but I also had to learn to deal with the demands of constant court appearances, weekly home visits, parent teacher meetings, and an overwhelming feeling of not wanting to “fuck up this child!” So, as a family we adapted and she thrived. One year later, we gained custody of her two younger siblings. It was not the ideal situation as I know their placement with us meant that they were stripped away from the life they knew. No matter how much needed, they had to once again adjust to a new situation that was out of their control. We all did.
The next few years were met with struggle but mostly laughter filled with movie nights, doughnuts and home cooked meals. I always tell people that those children came into my life at the right time. As any 21-year-old, I was self-centered and focused on having a good time. During my time with them, I learned about myself and the world. I recognized the baggage I was carrying that needed to be released. But, most importantly, I learned of the love that one can instantly feel for their child whether biological or not. In many ways, we grew up together and all learned some invaluable lessons.
Not everyone is granted the same opportunities in life.
From a young age, I developed a very privileged view of the world. I believed that anyone could change their life in an instant if they chose to. The truth is many of us are not given a fair chance in life. We are born into situations that do not foster creativity, independence, self-esteem, security or opportunity for a better life. If from childhood one is exposed to an impoverished upbringing filled with abuse, drugs, and violence, how can that be considered a fair chance? If a child is never exposed to love, communication, or security, how can they be expected to develop it as children or as teenagers or as adults? With acceptance, patience, time, understanding, and lots of love someone can change. I gave my all in creating an opportunity in which they could see themselves as the perfect creations that they were and that they are.
We are all doing the best we can in the moment.
I use to judge, judge, judge. Even if I would act above the judgement with my friends, my mind was constantly judging. Judging my surroundings, the people around me, the experience, and myself. During this period in my life, I became the receiver of judgement. Mostly from people that could not understand my decision and situation or didn’t care to understand it. I learned that asking someone of their experience instead of judging their experience was much more powerful. I, learned to listen. This lesson came with much pain because of my conditioning. However, today, I can honestly say that we are all doing the best we can with the capacity, information, and tools we have in the moment. Tomorrow, we can and will do better. Now, that’s an opportunity. That’s a choice.
You always believe or wish you could have done more.
I use to reflect on that time in my life and would feel like I let them down. I wished I could have done more for them. I wished I could have exposed them to more experiences, taken them on more trips, hugged them more often or simply have stopped to enjoy my time with them. Again, judging myself and the experience. Today, I am at peace knowing that I did the best I could. I provided them with unconditional love and 14-years-later our bond remains unbreakable. I have seen them cry over failed relationships. I have seen them graduate and start their own families. And, I have seen them break free from their limitations and grow into strong, loving, independent men and women that are creating their futures. And, let me tell you, it’s bright.
I did my best, they did their best. And, for that, I couldn’t be any more proud.