Recently, I showed up to my friend’s house with two pints of good gelato and a tiny little house plant. It was adorable, with sweet, little, yellow flowers. She had texted me earlier that day in a special kind of panic that is reserved for women who are actively parenting kids with trauma issues. When the door opened, I said, “I brought you something to eat. And also something to kill.” Now, technically this was right before October, so it doesn’t really count as one of my #AdamsActs but I can’t think of a more RANDOM act of kindness than bringing somebody something to kill.
If you are closely acquainted with any foster parents, then this gesture needs no further explanation. If, however, you do not have the good fortune of knowing anyone who is resolutely withstanding the US foster care system in order to love, care for, protect and advocate for children who are separated from their birthfamily… then I shall explain.
Parenting kids with trauma is not for the faint of heart. Whether that trauma happened in utero via drug or alcohol exposure, or was the result of abuse, negligence or neglect, a traumatized child requires a level of care that is simply beyond typical human capacity. The traumatized child will fight against any semblance of love. The traumatized child will use whatever they can to push you away, out of a misguided but understandable attempt at self-protection, they will fight, sabotage and control whatever they can, however they can. They will force themselves to throw up, they will rage, they will destroy your belongings - and sadly, they will destroy their own belongings. They may physically attack, they may put all the bodily fluids in all the places, and then also on your one nice dress. And also probably on your toothbrush. The traumatized child is not a bad child, he is a terrified child.
Kids like this will likely be placed in one foster family after another. People will give up on these kids. The message that these kids are unlovable will be sent and resent over and over until the child turns 18 and ages out of the system. Then these kids are, statistically speaking, very likely to become incarcerated, homeless and/or pregnant before being equipped to parent. They are more likely to abuse drugs and have children who also end up in the system.
These kids deserve better. They deserve parents that will stuff their feelings with gelato and kill a houseplant instead of harming the child. These kids need parents who will not give up, communities who invest in them and offer opportunities and compassion. And these foster parents deserve our support.
It sounds like a no-brainer, right? Who would give up on a child just because they are having a hard time? Well, the answer is a lot of people. When my son was at his lowest point in his battle with attachment disorder and our family in complete crisis, countless people told me that we should put him in a group home or consider “undoing” his adoption. This is when I realized how few people really understand adoption. No matter how long he was in my family, there were still people that failed to understand that he is my SON. Forever. He’s just mine, always. And I was going to fight to the death for him.
For Day 22, I checked in with multiple friends who are fighting for their kids. Sadly, most of these mamas feel like they are fighting WITH their kids, FOR their kids. I spent a couple hours on the phone throughout the day talking with different friends about parenting and attachment strategies, therapeutic approaches that actually work, and practical tips to repair their relationships for when they lose their ever loving minds - like that one time that I threw all the bananas or publicly wrote through this mental breakdown. More than anything, we talked about hope, and faith and about having self-compassion. In a moment when some really vulnerable moms are doing jobs that no one person is capable of doing, it is a kindness to listen, to encourage, to commiserate, and to remind them that there is a God standing beside them that shares burdens and carries our load… a God that happens to be quite fond of the lost, the least and the littlest among us.