|Celebrating Catholic Motherhood|
Catholic Kids *
Catholic Adoptive Parenting Columnist Heidi Hess Saxton
“Oh, I could never be a foster parent. It would kill me if they didn’t stay, if they went away again.”
It always surprises me when someone offers this explanation for why they don’t consider taking in a child who needs a home (especially an older or special needs child, whose prospects are so dim). Last I checked, no relationship is heartache-proof, including parenthood.
When you think about it, motherhood is all about working yourself out of a job. From the moment a child is conceived, the whole process is a series of incremental separations: The physical separation of labor and delivery is all too soon followed by other milestones: from breast milk to Cheerios, from carrying to crawling to running around (for you and the toddler). Then there’s the whole first-day-of-school separation business, fraught with anxiety until your kid scampers off the school bus and calms you down. And when those little darlings graduate from high school and start packing up their rooms to move out on their own… Well, that’s when the real waterworks start, right?
Some non-traditional mothers instinctively hold the reins loosely right from the start. Step-moms, foster moms, custodial grandparents – we all know who is in charge, and it isn’t us. The social worker, custodial parent, and/or estranged daughter looks to us to feed them and keep their faces reasonably clean and make sure they are warm enough – but we have no real power. We ask permission to get them haircuts or take them to Disneyland; we are powerless to get them baptized or even protect them from undesirable elements hanging on the fringes of the family.
We have one ace up the sleeve, to option not to let ourselves get too attached (or in extreme cases, simply to return the child and say, “I can’t do this anymore”). But for most of us these choices are unthinkable, so we simply watch and wait. In our more charitable moments, we feel sorry for the broken souls who are making our own lives unbearable. In the darker ones, we simply wish they would disappear.
Still, we persevere. Those grubby little hands hold tight to ours, their enormous eyes and ears don’t miss a thing. Somehow, when we weren’t looking, they stole a large piece of our hearts we will never get back. So we will breathe a prayer and hope for the best, and love them for as long as we can. It may not be forever, for now must be enough.
So why do we do it? Why expose ourselves to so much uncertainty, so much turmoil? Why do we take them in, knowing they might leave us soon? It’s the same reason anyone becomes a parent: Love, the most powerful force in the universe, is never wasted. It digs in and holds on, expanding the soul a little more each time and benefiting giver and recipient alike. Having loved (and been loved), we become more perfectly ourselves. And through us, they encounter tangibly the One who loves them most.
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