March 18, 2012

Warrior Mama

"I do solemnly swear to support and defend [you] against all enemies; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to [you]; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; so help me God."

This is the oath of enlisted military officers, but the same words could be equally true when a foster child enters my care.  From the moment I meet my next temporary son or short-term daughter, I feel like my new mission has just begun.

I take this role seriously.  I vow to love you to the best of my ability with all of the tenderness and gentleness within me.  That’s the part of me that you will see and feel and experience. But the side that you may not ever know about, the part of me that is making a simultaneous commitment is this:  I promise to become your “Warrior Mama.”  I will fight for you.  

March 10, 2012

"The Good Girl" and "The Other Mother"

There is a powerful scene in the movie Blindside, where a young man, who has been away from home for a few years, is searching for his birthmother.  The contrast between his wealthy white foster parents’ neighborhood and his former neighborhood with its loitering minorities, broken-down cars, and crowded apartment buildings is striking.  As my own family sat watching the movie in the comfort of our living room, I could sense that the scene was going to get ugly; it involved gang members, weapons, violence, and drugs.   I paused the movie and asked my children to leave the room until the scene was over.  When the story resumed, there was indeed an altercation.   During the chaos that ensued, a crib tipped over and the baby inside started crying.  I was stunned by the disparity:  here I was protecting my children from seeing that situation on a television screen, while there are children in the world who are actually living it!

March 1, 2012

What is a Papa?

(Author's Warning: some content may not be suitable for young children.)

Father.  Daddy.  Dad.  Papa.   What’s in a name?   The term alone may flash a movie in a person’s mind, but the images vary depending on a person’s background and experiences.  Some people may have fond memories of their dad wrapping them in big ol’ bear hugs, offering words of wisdom, teaching them how to ride a bike.   To them, a father is someone to be respected and trusted.   Hopefully, those who have grown up with such fathers know how blessed they are!  Unfortunately, for many foster children, the role of the men in their lives has either been non-existent, minimal or negative, and the experience has left them scarred, skeptical, and confused.
Maybe Dad is the guy whom I’ve never met and whom Mommy never talks about.  It could be that guy who went to prison when I was just a baby or the man who disappeared before I was even born.  I know enough of the facts of life to know that I must have had a father at some point, but I don’t know anything about him. 
Perhaps Father is the one who sits on the couch watching tv, and only pays attention to me by yelling furiously at me if I’m too noisy.  Or who does awful things to me at night that I can’t talk about.  
I know that none of my brothers and sisters share the same father, so “Daddy” must mean whichever man comes around, stays for a little while, and then makes Mommy cry when he leaves.