The Important Experience

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From the front door of the house, you hear a knock. As your mother unlocks it, and the door swings open, you catch your first glimpse of them, the newest foster placement. Sometimes they arrive with only the clothes on their back; other times with numerous black garbage bags of hastily packed belongings. Either way, these children are all in need of love and stability, a shelter from the rough world. They stay only briefly, but always touch your heart. That's what our family has been for eight years, a foster home. During the times we have cared for foster children, my outlook on life has been shaped and reshaped again and again, always for the better, and through it I have experienced tremendous growth.

I have learned what range of roles I am capable of filling, from caregiver and family chef to older sister and role model. Prior to our entry into fostering, I was an only child. This has its advantages, but my mother, who came from a family of four, wanted me to truly understand what it felt like as a member of a larger family unit. As I watch her talking with her brothers and sister, I envied the family vacations they can laugh about together and the people whose acquaintance they have in common. I had been spoiled in a sense, always having my mother's attention, and in control of decisions in my life. The house was consistently the same, and I knew if I left my lipstick out, it wouldn't be smeared up and down the white curtains, and when I prepared a meal, I didn't need to wonder if the vegetables will appeal to the appetites of little people. Yet, I had also missed out on the bonding that comes from having siblings and going through crisis together. With the arrival of more children, every aspect of my life changed.

It strengthened my compassion to hold a three-year-old who was crying for his momma, when she was making no effort to regain his custody. It strengthened my tolerance for the mothers we saw in public places when I was suddenly put in the place of maintaining order in a restaurant with three rambunctious boys. It strengthened my protective instincts to carry a sleepy child and made me realize how vulnerable children are. I had never before had a person look to me and admire what I did. When I ran a cross-country race now, I had a cheering section, and at pep band games, the children wanted to come up in the stands with me.

I can more effectively illustrate what I have said by quoting a verse from one of my poems, "Revelation":

"Without these munchkins the house is neat
Though filling the emptiness is quite a feat
In the musty air listlessness lingers
Walls untouched by chubby fingers
Revelation now malingers"

This passage conveys a summation of the way in which fostering has impacted my life because it was not until I had the chance to see how full my life could be, of memories and affection, that I was able to comprehend the value of what fostering fosters in me.

Credits: Kathleen E. Larrabee

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