My sister and I often talk about our Mom and even have a special voice that we use when we paraphrase the lessons and conversations we’ve learned/shared with her. We wanted to do something extra special for her on Mother’s Day this year, so we sat down and we started brainstorming on what we could do, and we decided that sharing the gifts she’s given us over the years would be the best gift we could ever give.
My sister and I didn’t always see eye to eye, but the one thing we’ve always agreed on is how amazing our Mom is because she not only loved and raised us, but she loved and raised hundreds of children.
When I about eight-ish, our Mom decided that we would watch a foster child for one of her friends. One weekend turned into occasional weekends, turned into getting licensed as a respite provider, turned into becoming a licensed therapeutic foster parent. Our Mom comes from a very large family, and always wanted us to have the same. Growing up, it was a revolving door of friends, cousins, foster children– quite simply, our Mom has a ton of love to give.
Our Mom was like the wise willow tree from Pocahontas, instilling us with selflessness that most children can’t even comprehend. She taught us to be thankful for what we have and that when we’re feeling low, the best thing to do is to give back to those who aren’t as fortunate as us– she believed that the best way to brighten your day was by bringing light to someone else’s. Our Mom is amazing, but here are the 4 greatest lessons she gave us in her almost-20-years as a foster parent:
You Are Stronger Than You Think You Are
I will never be able to shake from memory how resilient little humans are– we would have kids who are spending their first night away from their families and they would just go to bed without a fuss. Meanwhile, my sister and I needed the light in the bathroom on, with the door cracked just right to let just enough light in, oh, and a few minutes with Mom before we could even think of falling asleep.
As we got older, we would sit in awe over how amazing children and people are. The horrible things that they would overcome were incredible, and at young age we understood that if they could do it, then so could we.
Loss Is What Makes Us Who We Are
Through experiencing loss, theirs and our own, we discovered that you can learn a lot about yourself during the downs. Foster care served as a constant through our parents’ divorce, deaths of our grandparents and aunt, yet the friendships offered by the children in our home served as a way to process and overcome what we felt. It also served as a reality check, because divorce is really not a big deal when you compare it to loss of parents to overdoses, incarceration, abuse and other things.
Loss is such an integral part of life. Whether it’s a person, relationship, or job– it’s an opportunity to rebuild, refocus and start over.
A Little Bit of Love Goes A Long Way
One of my favorite stories came from a kid that lived with us for quite some time. We saw him after he had been out of our home for nearly five years, and he ran right over and hugged us. He thanked us for loving him and for always proudly introducing him as our little brother. He asked about our family and we talked for a while, but he kept saying how alone he felt, until he lived with us. He told us that he never knew what it meant to be loved and a part of a real family, until he lived with us.
Our family is very close, and our Mom believed that for as long as those children lived with us they were just as much a part of the family as anyone else in our house. That means that they played sports, had birthday sleepovers, went on vacations with us, and anything else we had so did they– they were our family from their first day with us until their last day. We loved them as our own, and love is a powerful gift that costs nothing to give.
Failure Can Be A Good Thing
Our Mom specialized in crisis for a while, and that meant that sometimes we would be watching TV and the phone would ring and suddenly, we’d be prepping for a new sibling who would arrive within the hour. Sometimes, it meant that one day a kid would snap and would need to be removed quickly from our home and placed into crisis mode. These were tough and emotional experiences.
I still remember the first kid that left suddenly. I remember his name, his face, his voice. He was a good kid, but unfortunately we weren’t able to provide what he needed. I still remember the girl who was so much like a sister to us that we dreamed of being in each other’s weddings, but one day it all changed and she was gone. My sister and I still get emotional when we remember the kids who came in and out of our lives multiple times over the course of a few short years.
We learned that you can give it all, but it doesn’t always mean that you’re going to finish first. But not finishing first doesn’t mean you didn’t win.
People kind of freak out a little when we talk about our upbringing. They look at us like we must have missed out on family bonding, or like we must have had it rough, but my sister and I feel exactly the opposite. Yeah, we definitely heard about things that may not have always been age appropriate, and yeah, sharing everything can be really tough, but we always had friends to hang out with. We learned that family isn’t limited to the one you’re born into and that love matters. We learned to enjoy the simple things and to take nothing for granted. We also realized that we were blessed with an incredible gift from our parents– a gift of understanding that there are horrible things out there, but that one person can make a difference and overcome just about anything.
Our Mom always says to people that ‘her kids are the heroes’ because we sacrificed and shared our home, time, and parents with other kids, but we disagree. You are absolutely a hero, who deserves recognition. So today, we recognize you– our Mom, our hero.
xoxo Erika and Julia ❤