I have accidentally -on purpose, become a 35 year old single mother to my niece and nephew.
How is it on accident you may ask? A million other questions popping into your mind?
Well, of course, as an over thinking, question probing human being, I also have the same questions – even about myself!
Let me now set a foundation of my prior years – which I’ll do as briefly as possible for you; Once upon a time, I was born to beautiful, loving (and young!) mother and father in an impoverished, but endearing farming community in southeastern Colorado. I lived in this charming, straight from a western, farming/ranching community until the ripe age of 17 (end of junior year of High School) . I moved to the hustling and bustling sixth largest city of the United States of America: Phoenix, AZ. Well, let me fast forward about a million years to the present past.
I’ll also be direct and to the point on this –
- I have never been married.
- I have 3 sisters
- Family of 4 girls; spread over 16 years. – that’s probably a great story for another post.
- My parents have been together since the beginning of time.
I had a great time in my twenties building my career, traveling (mainly for work as a consultant) across our amazingly enormous country, meeting people, networking, but never committing. In fact, I’m what my mother calls a commitment phobe – she’s convinced it’s written across my forehead. I have been known to break out in a sweat when signing short term phone contracts (before there were prepaid options).
I truly committed to one thing only: Myself.
Somehow in my late twenties, during the great housing crash, my father convinced me to invest in my future and purchase a foreclosed home. (THANK YOU DAD!)
True to my commitment of self, I accepted a job offer and moved – to another time zone, far away (three time zones away actually), as far away from the commitment of the house (*sigh of relief*) I could get without a needing a visa. Just the thought of committing to staying in one place, one city, one house for the rest of my life, gave me the shivers, the waves of nausea, the constricted chest, hard to breathe quivers, the flight instinct, panic setting in terror and full range of emotions known only to commitment phobes.
So, off I went to a faraway land or the DMV as locals call it: District of Colombia, Maryland, and Virginia.
At this point I’m 30 (ish – I think).
I lived in Fairfax County, in northern Virginia (NoVA). I had a great experience there, met some amazing people and I am still friends with today. I have great memories of NoVA.
However, there were things, important things that I missed about the West. I am a western girl after all. No matter how great Virginia/DC, the DMV is to many, it was not my home.
That’s when I realized – *gasp* – I may be ready to commit. Were these the signs? Was my age hitting me? All I knew – I was homesick.
I realized so many things I had taken for granted in my quest of non-commitment at that moment: blue skies, sunshine, mountains, my parents, my sisters, my family, my culture, my house, – my home.
So, in early 2013 I made my way back to the beautiful Valley of the Sun to put down some roots and make my house into my short term (hey – at least I committed!) home.
But while the sun was shining outside (OK it wasn’t. Just so happens, it was the first weekend back home and the first weekend Phoenix had gotten snow in probably over a decade!), I came home to realize my family was going through hardships and didn’t want me to be bothered with it. It was a hard reality – a slap in the face really to wake up to.
My sister (the only one with kids) was battling an addiction problem. And unfortunately her children (and our family) were suffering due to this.
I saw my parents, who were forever young, had aged. I saw my little sisters growing up into beautiful teenagers (with attitude). I saw my little niece and nephew begging for love, attention, and safety from their mom. Their father was no longer in the picture and had consequences to ensure he wouldn’t be, at least for a very long time.
One thing to be sure of – I love my family. All my family. Includes my extended family as well.
Where had I been? The last 10 years of my life flashed in front of me at that moment. Work, traveling, work, fun, work, me, me, me, me, me. I know my parents had mentioned things to me in passing, but I didn’t really understand it fully until I was there in the flesh, and saw it with my own eyes and ears.
My heart broke.
I will spare you the details of the most painful moments in my life for another post; however, when the need came – and it came like a wildfire, to care for my niece and nephew, I knew I had to be there.
I had to commit to my family: to the kids, to my parents and to my sisters.
There was a lot I had to learn and fast, like yesterday speed. I was terrified. I wasn’t equipped to handle anything, much less the emotions of children and their loss, their hurt, their anger. The nightmares they had, their fears of new people, new places, being alone.
There were no classes you take, like those of non-kinship fostering. I had to learn about legalities of fostering. About being a parent. About where to shop. Where do I find resources for furniture, for clothes, for school supplies? What about my emotions – this was my little sister, these were her children. What about how this affects my parents? My teenage sisters? Our family dynamic?
How do you deal with all of this? True to my overthinking nature, I am also easily overwhelmed.
Did I try to ask? Yes.
Did I research? Yes.
Did I try to talk to people about this? Yes.
What I found out about fostering kin – it’s a mad house full of potholes, overwhelming, and ripe with the darkness of secrecy – it was not spoken about in the community/friends/family. I believe it may always be kept this way – a shameful secret perhaps? Sure, you have an assigned case manager (severely overworked and underpaid and over blamed.) They have 40+ cases, including monthly required in person visits. How can they talk to you about all of this? It would take years! Sure the state does a safety check for the house, a background check and a quick psychological/emotional testing that takes a couple days max.
Good luck finding someone to talk to about all this. Anyone. No one in my world could relate to me. No one wanted to help. No one offered to help. I lost many ‘friends’ because of this decision.
I felt alone. I felt I needed to be alone – I was never alone anymore. I didn’t have anyone to talk to, yet I had everyone in my space.
I didn’t even know the difference of fostering vs foster licensing (I found out by accident: Read my post: Things you didn’t know: Foster Care & FMLA). I was completely in the dark.
I knew I could never run.
This is my family, these are children and I was in charge of them now.
WOW. Just writing this post I can’t believe I’ve gone through all of that! Fast forward to present day – just thinking how much we have gone through (a lot!).
August 2016, I adopted my niece and nephew.
While this adventure is continuing, and everyday is a new day with new challenges; I am now a single parent of middle schoolers. I am a few other things as well, just to name a few: a chauffeur, a parent, a maid, a chef, a full time worker, a student, a therapist, a sounding board, a sister, an aunt, a daughter, a woman, a human.
Was my intent to be a parent on purpose? NO … well Yes.
Was it planned – by God, Yes.
Has it been easy? NO. No. No, not by any means.
Has it been an adventure? Absolutely!
Have I learned to commit? Well, it has not been easy, but YES. I am continually learning and I can now add family to the list of commitments.
I know you can relate to this so very well.
You are also living this life – this life that happened accidentally on purpose.
This life full of rabbit trails. One minute on one road, the next another road going off another direction completely.
You need to know someone else is going through what you are at this moment.
Someone else has been there! Someone else is going through this right now!
I want to give you encouragement, motivation, inspiration, ideas, laughter, and friendship.
My goal is to tell you life will throw at you everything – some times little by little and sometimes all at once.
You will get through it!
I’ll be posting once a week for a while and share ways to overcome some hurdles, some heartbreak, those little things of life that somehow become a heavy burden. Resources for fostering (kinship in particular), our adoption story, our life stories, our adventures we have.
I have been blessed with a family, with children, a life time commitment filled with the adventures of life.
Remember – You have been blessed too!
PS – If there is ANYTHING you need help with – email me: firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below. I am here for you. Literally. Do not be shy or embarrassed.
These resources are to be for you. If you can benefit, so can others.