“The words go on your butt”
8 months ago these words were used every night in my house. Did you know that pull up diapers sometimes have words on the back? I didn’t. Until I was graced with the presence of toddlers. They were not mine and I was tasked with keeping them safe.
So in trying to teach a three year old, who was far from home, some independence in an uncertain home – the words going on your butt became our nightly routine. A mantra.
She learned it and shook that little butt with pride because the words were there. We giggled and helped her with their pajamas. Every night.
Most of you know that the little girls moved to a different foster home after a bit because my schedule in trying desperately to save the world is deplorable for small children. I love my job and I had to make a choice. There are times that I question that choice. And there are times that I absolutely know I made the right one. For my family and for me and the parents I work with and via. Especially Via. And for my kids. Who have hearts as big as mine.
Some of you may know that after they had left my house, I was still in possession of some of their things.
We contacted mom. With a lot of trepidation. Turns out- after weeks of speaking with her and lots of pictures- there were hugs and promises to keep in touch. The words on the butt story was one of the first I shared with her.
That was June. Today it is August and I still speak with her a lot. Today was a rough day. Today I held a young mother in my arms and cried with her. We immediately went to lunch to eat our feelings and learn more about each other. Mozzarella sticks might actually be a cure for all that hurts. Today they almost were.
Wednesday in Kentucky is typically family court day. Today the powers that be met to see if the girls could go home. My appearance to the social workers and the judge and even her lawyer was a bit surprising. The girls are no longer with me. Haven’t been since march.
But I was still there. And I was there supporting a mom who had her children removed for very very valid reasons.
Things like someone like me showing up rarely happen. At least that was my impression today.
I have no ties to the girls. Or their mother. Legally. I am not even a foster parent anymore. Yet I was there holding her hand and giving her advice and looking at her lawyer and saying “she has me for support and some ass kicking if she strays off the path”. He insisted that I come into the courtroom for her. To back him up if needed in what he did.
Working in the field gives me a clear view of both sides and the horrors of both sides. I wanted to dislike her. I wanted to never meet her. Why? Because there were parts of this young mom that reminded me very much of myself as a young mom and all the mistakes that were made.
I had my oldest son at 17 and I was definitely not the perfect parent. I was a party girl who was pretending to keep it together. This young mother represents all the mistakes I made raising my kids until I learned not to make those mistakes again.
Let’s be real here – I took care of her kids. I train and license foster parents. I run an event with the help of thousands of people to help foster kids. So I wanted to not like her. That didn’t work so well for me. I have learned that caring a great deal for her was not wrong on any level.
She has learned things too. She is learning to be a good mom. Her background is her horror story to share but let me say that her behavior is statistically accurate for what she went through. That is not an excuse. There is always a reason.
Needless to say – she got herself together over the last eight months when everyone, and I mean everyone, thought she would fail.
I stood with her today, without judgement, and a very opened mind and a very opened heart and prayed for the girls to come home to her.
There were a lot of tears, in front of that judge and that lawyer and those social workers – there were tears and I held her. Unprecedented.
Them not coming home is ok to an extent. Because they will be going home as long as she maintains. Two more months. And I will be there for the next hearing and the next round of tears because something is telling me it is the right thing to do.
I am lucky to have a wonderful mom. I am lucky to have an amazing father who took the place of one of the most horrid sperm donors on the planet. My birth father was evil. Pure, unadulterated alcohol fueled evil. The man I call my dad is not. I am lucky to have siblings who love me and children who don’t hate me too often. I am so very lucky to have friends and family and a job that I adore. I am lucky to have a husband who tolerates my crazy ass ideas and holds my hands when I hurt or fail.
I am also lucky to have a young mom and her two kids in my life. I hate how we met. I don’t hate what we have become. I hurt today. I hurt for her and the girls. Because I can’t make her tears stop. I can’t make it easier. Shit – I can’t even make my own tears stop.
I know it takes time. i just didn’t expect this side of foster care to hurt so much.
She is not the best parent. I wasn’t either at her age and I still am not at my age now. I like to think that I am a good mom but frankly we are all human. We can only do the best we can until we can’t. She is absolutely doing the best she can. For that, I am so proud of her.
I am not writing this for accolades or “you’re so awesomes” – I am writing this because I need to. I am usually exceptionally private about my feelings. At least my vulnerable feelings. Everyone and their brother knows when I am angry or happy. But those moments that my heart is heavy and filled with hurt – those I keep private. Sometimes even to my husband. Because those are vulnerable moments and I am not a fan of being vulnerable.
But my vulnerability and my hurt and those tears might speak to someone today. Being a foster parent is the most beautiful and tragic thing. Ever. I learned today that it can’t be selfish. It has to be selfless. Those kids deserve their parents – and if and only if those parents can’t do it – they deserve to have someone weather the storms to come when the realizations hit. Those storms are never little rainfalls. They are hurricanes with tornadoes and debris and hail and lots of tears. These kids need umbrellas. They need safe harbors.
And sometimes these biological parents need someone to say “you screwed up – you are working to make it better – you will never be perfect – and that is ok because I am proud of you and I am here”
It takes a village to raise a kid. It will take a community to help make it better.
So this is my personal story of why today I am vulnerable. Why in a month I will be equally as vulnerable. And why there will be more tears.
This is another why behind Via Colori. This is another reason for why I am always fighting. Because I can. Simple as that.
My husband and I are debating returning to the world of foster care next year. It is still an uncertainty. Depends on so many things. Some would ask us why. It is very simple.
Because the words go on your butt. And those words are so very important.
2019 update – sadly I don’t know what happened to the toddlers and I lost contact with mom not long after I wrote this in 2017. Sometimes not having answers about those you love really sucks but that is the way it is sometimes.
Foster care is the most heart breaking and beautiful thing you could ever do.
And my husband and kids and I did return to foster care in 2018 – and that kiddo – my daughter- heads to college next week. I should probably tell her that the words go on your butt.