I’ve had this post kicking around in my drafts for a while and given our conversations of late and erathora’s question, it seemed like the perfect time to dust it off.
One of the most complicated dynamics I’ve ever had to navigate is my relationship with my children’s mother. Not only are there swirling emotions on both sides, but in more than a year I’ve never so much as spoken to this woman. How bizarre for one of the most important people in my life to be someone I’ve never met. She has no idea what I look like, she doesn’t know who I am or what I’m about, and yet I’m the other mother to the babies she made and carried and loved. Right there is where I knew I needed to start.
Visits were inconsistent from the beginning. Sprout’s relationship with his mom was suffering from the lack of contact so I sent word through the SW that he’d really like a picture of mom. There was some resistance to that request – I think it felt too much like being memorialized when she was (is) still striving to get him back asap. I followed it up with a brief note to explain my intentions. To reaffirm that he loved her and that it was our hope to always support their bond. I also made a very important promise. I promised that she would never be spoken of badly in our home and that she would be respected. Quickly thereafter, a picture of her made its way onto our fridge and its been there ever since. If she’s part of my children’s family, then she’s part of mine.
Once we got that big piece of the puzzle squared away, it was all about the little things. Regularly sending pictures and notes. Recognizing her birthday. Always addressing her as mom. Treasuring the things she gives them no matter their value or appropriateness. Understanding that complaints are an expression of love. Accepting suggestions no matter how strange they seemed. Allowing Sprout to talk about her whenever, wherever, and however much he wanted. Understanding that no matter what, and probably forever, she will be more important to him than I am.
Okay, so some of those things aren’t little at all. And they aren’t easy. I’m sure you can imagine some of the thoughts that run through my head when I get the calls about Sprout’s clothes being dirty (after a full day of daycare) or RB’s hair not being done (mornings are pretty hectic around here) or when visit is cancelled minutes before pick up time and I have to rearrange my entire schedule then deal with a heartbroken tantruming 4 year old. But I decided early on that I was going to focus on the good and let someone else deal with the bad – even when that means faking it until I make it.
I’d like to say that I do this all for her. Because I’m some kind of super compassionate saint who just loves everyone no matter their misgivings in life. But, yeah, that’s not me. Sometimes it breaks my heart to have to share them. I cry every time I pack their visit bag. I battle thoughts such as: I should stop telling her and showing her how wonderful they are or else she’s really going to try to get them back. But I do this for Sprout (and Rosebud and Daisy, though they don’t know it yet). I do it because his comfort in being a foster child is dependent upon my comfort in being a foster parent.
And all of this has worked to form a working relationship even in the most strained of circumstances. As I mentioned in the last post, putting the respect out has meant getting it back in return. She does not speak badly of us in front of Sprout. She trusts us to make their medical decisions and travel with them. Certainly there is dislike on both sides, but it’s not for each other, it’s for the situation. And that’s okay.
It’s not expected for me to be on her team nor her on mine, but we are both doing our best to be on the children’s team.