Taking care of roots is an important part of gardening, but also a key component of raising emotionally healthy children (especially in foster care and adoption). This story involving my daughter is an example of this.
My daughter came home from school and said, “Mom, we played foster care at school today. I was the foster child and I had two moms.”
“Oh, that sounds fun and interesting!” After that, 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 smart, willful and challenging. She walks to the beat of her own drum. She is fierce in so many ways. However, it seems that the older she gets, the more she questions and talks about being adopted (even in non-direct ways). Thus, 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, using activities like gardening 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, “Taking care of roots…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 move 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. Taking care of roots matter.”
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, 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 talking. She carefully watered and tended to them. I’m not quite sure if this conversation will actually make a difference in her life. Intentional parenting, backed up with nurturing and honesty, will give her and my other children the best chance at navigating this world; to help them understand that being adopted is nothing to be ashamed of.
Don’t be scared of answering questions when raising a child from another mother’s womb. 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. These moments are sacred. They matter. Taking care of roots shouldn’t be a burden.
Just as we tend to the roots of our flowers, so shall we feed the roots of children with nourishment, stability, and love.