Foster Files: The Conundrum of Normalcy

Life with children has been…interesting. Actually, I think the word I’m maybe looking for here is, “educational”. I know I touched on it in a previous post, but it still amazes me how much I’m able to learn about myself from living with these kids.

Which doesn’t make a lot of sense. Because on the surface it would seem I don’t have anything in common with them. My family is almost sickeningly normal. My dad is still with my mom after something like thirty years, they both love and respect each other, and they give me and my sister all the love and support anyone could ever hope for.

Contrast that with two kids whose mother has been taken away from them, and have probably never had a consistent example of what a father should be. And yet somehow in spite of the things they’ve been through they still seem strikingly…normal.

Of course occasionally this normalcy, manifests itself in abnormal ways. Take Thing 1 for instance, who, when asked about his parents, is not in the least bit hesitant to proclaim, “Our mom’s in PRISON!” with a big smile on his face.

That threw me for a loop for a while. I told him he didn’t have to tell people where his mom was if he didn’t want to, but he went right on volunteering information about his mother’s incarceration to complete strangers.

And then it hit me: he wasn’t ashamed of the fact that his mom was in prison. He was proud of it. Or rather I should say, he was proud of her. Just like I’m more than happy to tell people that my father is a pressman and about all the big machines he works with, Thing 1 is bursting to share his mom with the world, no matter where she might be, or what she might have done.

There’s this idea that people who have been through traumatic childhood experiences are somehow different from those of us whose lives have been comparatively normal. I’m sure there are examples of people who have suffered deeply from the pain their childhood brought. But what I’m realizing more and more, is that Thing 1 and Thing 2 are people. They’re kids, just like any other kids you might happen to meet.

They don’t need “special” treatment. They need the same things any other kids need. Consistency, discipline, instruction.

I’ve done my best to provide those things. My only fear is that I won’t be able to do enough. I don’t know how long I’ll have them for. I don’t know what their lives will hold after they leave me. I don’t know if I’ll be able to give them the tools they need to navigate the rough waters ahead. How much impact can I really make on a seven-year-old’s life in a span of time that’s likely going to be less than a year?

I don’t know. But I’m doing as much as I can.

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6 responses to “Foster Files: The Conundrum of Normalcy

  1. Any kindness to a child, no matter how small or short in duration, matters. It makes a difference.

  2. Albert…
    I am officially honoring you with the “Versatile Blogger Award”! Congrats and keep up the great writing!!
    http://pauseandsmile.wordpress.com/2011/09/29/and-the-winner-is/

  3. Wow! Amazing observation on your part. Sounds as though there are a lot of “what ifs” going through your mind. I’m certainly no expert on perfect parenting (no one is), but I do know that when you provide unconditional love, consistently, a positive impact is made. You make the difference while you can, and have faith that “Thing 1” and “Thing 2” will carry it with them, long into their future.

    Sounds like you are close to being the “perfect parent” to those little ones!

  4. So true!!!! Normal is what they need. (My four year old loves to volunteer this type of information to strangers, to the horror and mortification of her older siblings!)

  5. Seriously? A lot. Some of the people that impacted my life the most are people I’ve only been in that span of time. They need love and care just like any other human beings. You don’t know the impact you’ll have in their lives until it’s about ten years down the road.

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