My daughter came home from school this past week and said, “Mom, we played foster care at school today.” She then said, “I was the foster child and I had two moms.” I told her that sounded fun and interesting. We went on with the rest of the day and she didn’t mention it again.
I thought about this conversation the remainder of the week. My daughter is very smart, willful and can be extremely challenging. She walks to the beat of her own drum and is fierce in so many ways. However, it seems that the older she gets, the more she thinks, questions, and talks about being adopted (even in non-direct ways), and the more concerned I am about her sense of self-worth and identity.
During our foster parent training, one of the videos we watched showed a foster mom and her foster daughter planting flowers together. Although a bit cheesy and scripted, the point was made that using things like gardening or other activities is a great way to connect with children.
Yesterday, as my daughter and I were planting flowers, I took a look at her little hands digging in the dirt, remembered the scene in the foster parent training video and thought, “If I get an opportunity, take it.” As I lifted the flowers out of their containers to transplant them, I grabbed the root bed and held on firmly. I said to my daughter, “You know, the roots are really the most important part of flowers. Even if you transplant them from one place to the other, as long as the roots are taken care of, the flowers should grow just fine. If you don’t take care of the roots or feed, water and help them to be stable, the flowers won’t do very well.”
My daughter said, “Kinda like if a baby tiger is taken away from its mother and no one takes care of it, it will die.” I said, “Kinda unless another tiger family takes it in and takes care of it and gives it ‘roots’ to grow, then it should be just fine.” As my daughter plunged her hands into the dirt, she said, “I didn’t know my birth mom, right?” I said, “Well, you were a newborn, so no, I don’t think you would remember her.” She then said, “Yeah, but you got me and take care of me now.” I said, “Yes, it’s kinda like taking care of flowers. Even though we are transplanting these flowers, as long as we give them what they need, they will be just fine. The same goes for you. You came to us and we are your family. Families give us roots to grow.”
We spent the next few hours digging in the soil, planting flowers and just talking. I watched as she carefully watered and tended to them. I’m not quite sure if this conversation will actually make a difference in her life, but I do believe that intentional parenting, backed up with nurturing and honesty, will give her and my other children the best chance they have to navigate this world and their place in it. Most importantly, I deeply hope that it will help them understand that being adopted is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.
If you have a child from another mother’s womb, it is important to not be scared of answering questions as they come. Think outside of the box. Take moments such as the one I described to connect with your children. You don’t need to come up with elaborate plans or ideas. Just be authentic, in the moment, honest and insightful.
Just as we tended to the roots of our flowers, my hope that is that the roots of all children will be met with nourishment, stability, and love.