Let me tell you what.
We hit the jackpot in our extended families.
I’m not just talking about the fact that both our families are fully functional, loving and helpful families. I’m talking about the fact that both of our families have chosen to love our foster kiddos like our own.
It seems like a small matter, but it’s not.
You see, Theo and I made a big mistake when we went into fostering. We announced to our family that we were doing it and we went on our merry way. Instead, I wish that we had brought up the subject, asked them to consider if they would be willing to come alongside us. We didn’t do this, and I think it threw our families for a loop. Both of our parents and siblings had some fears and concerns about us as we were going into fostering. All the what ifs loomed in their minds. Plus, in all honesty…it can be hard for grandparents and aunts and uncles to feel attached to children that they don’t know and sometimes don’t even get to meet. Children that are in their lives for brief visits and then are gone forever.
A lot of foster parents rant about how their families don’t treat their foster kiddos like their own. Grandparents don’t give the same gifts, aunts and uncles refuse to babysit, the family doesn’t support the foster parents, etc. And honestly…that’s sad. But it’s also natural. If I really stop to think about it, it kind of makes sense. In our case, my parents never even met Abby. This baby that we had for 9 months was never even in their lives.
And yet both of our entire extended families have taken our foster children and treated them exactly as they treat their own flesh and blood grandchildren. The unconditional love that they give blows me away so much deeper than my own love for these children that are not my own flesh and blood.
You see…Theo and I, we signed up for this. We knew what we were getting into.
Our families? They didn’t. And yet they still choose love and acceptance. And that love and acceptance goes so far.
This really hit home for me during Christmas. We spent the holiday with my parents, and my Mom bought special groceries, presents and decorations just for Heavenly. It was hard to have our first family Christmas together in 7 years and share it with someone who had a lot of expectations, attitudes and awkward pre-teen bad habits. But everyone took it in stride and loved on our Heavenly so well.
One of my favorite parts of seeing Heavenly develop a relationship with people in our extended families is the fact that as she develops them, she finds more and more stability. Eight months into our relationship, she is starting to figure out that Theo and I are stable adults who are not letting her go. But her whole world outside of us is still a little tipsy, adults are still hard to trust. As she develops relationships with these family members, her stability grows firmer and deeper.
It happened again when we drove up to visit my Grandma. She had gifts for all of the children- no gift was uneven and no one was forgotten. We headed over to my Aunt and Uncles house and it was the same story, second verse. My cousins and Aunt and Uncle took the time to engage with Heavenly, to ask her questions, to serve her food and to give her gifts. Just like they did with our biological children. The texts I received after we left mentioned how much fun everyone had meeting all three of our children.
This is just a few days in the grand scheme of things, and yet it truly impacted me.
I saw this quote one time on Instagram, and I honestly don’t know who said it or where the research is from, but it has affected me profoundly:
“Adult adoptees often say the greatest sense of belonging in a family was conveyed by the actions, attitudes and acceptance of grandparents.”
You see…the foster parents? We signed up for this. Our love for these children can be taken for granted. But those grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins? They choose the love, and what a love it is!
So thank you…to all who take our family unit as a family of five. To all who treat her like one of us, even if she technically isn’t and may never be. The small actions of love can go a million miles in the life of a foster child.