too attached?

I do not think anyone reads this blog who is not my Facebook friend [actually, I don’t expect anyone to read this anymore, since I’m not exactly Ms. Consistent with posts]. However, in the off-chance you do not know me in real life, here is a quick update on fostering. We had a beautiful newborn baby girl with us for three weeks, but then she went onto another home (for good reasons!). Currently, we are blessed to have had an 11-month-old boy “Baby J” as part of our family for a couple months now.

J Edited Easter 2

It’s too bad I have to censor his face, because it’s a cute one!

Baby J is chubby and jolly. He has freakish strength. He is ridiculously active and into everything like nothing I’ve ever seen. He is an absolutely voracious eater. He is already beginning to climb places he shouldn’t. Basically, the polar-opposite of his big foster sister. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Like all children in the foster system, his future is pretty precarious. Obviously, I can’t go into details [not even vague ones! Sorry.], but it looks like he will be with us for at least a couple more months, and beyond that is a big question mark.

One comment Ryan and I hear over and over and over again is: “Oh, I could never foster. I would become too attached to the child, and it would be too hard to see him go.”

I never know how to react to this statement. From my perspective, it seems like people are giving us not enough or too much credit.

On one hand, are you saying that we won’t become attached? Are we heartless robots who can separate our emotions from the beautiful child we treat as our own?

Or on the other hand, are we just so saintly and super-human that somehow we can love and be vulnerable with a child, but then just easily let him go without difficulty?

Trust me, neither is true. With both of our foster babies, we became strongly attached immediately. And I can guarantee you that if Baby J leaves our home, it will be a tragic, devastating, life-altering event for both of us.

So, how do I answer such a statement?

Recently, a friend related what a friend of hers who fosters always replies: of course it hurts when they leave; if it didn’t hurt, then we wouldn’t be doing our job correctly. That response really resonated with us. Every child deserves to be loved until it hurts. Every child deserves parents who are willing to give of themselves, to put him before their own needs and wants. And yeah, this hurts.

Yet, we are not doing this for ourselves. If someone goes into any kind of parenthood—be it natural, foster, adoptive—for oneself, to be personally fulfilled or to satisfy some internal void, he or she is bound to be disappointed. As any new mother or father can attest, parenthood is radically about the other. The same goes for fostering. It looks different than natural parenthood, but the inherent “other-ness” about it is still there.

Don’t get me wrong, there are moments when fostering does, indeed, feel great: that moment when Baby J recognized me in a room full of people and gave me a smile, when he nuzzled his head into my shoulders in a (very!) fleeting moment of affection, when he got hurt and immediately crawled onto my lap for comfort. Nevertheless, there are just as many moments of pain: trying to comfort him during a screaming spell but not knowing how, dropping him off at his weekly visits with his birth family, waking at night in panic and not being able to fall back asleep for hours, because I am so worried about his future.

Yes, I suppose all those people are right: we have become too attached. And yet, I think that’s how it should be.

“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” Bl. Mother Teresa