Welcome to 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days, hosted by Portrait of an Adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying adoption experiences and perspectives.
By Amy Passalugo
“For this child, I have prayed, and the Lord has granted the desires of my heart.” – 1 Samuel 1:27
Dear Foster Mother,
You don’t really know me, and I don’t really know you.
Three hours in a room together does not a friend make (especially when all 180 of those minutes were spent in a volley of questions-and-answers). And yet, we are connected in a way most people will never be, all because of red hair and a pair of glasses.
An excerpt from his profile: L enjoys playing with toy cars, puzzles, riding bikes, and other fun activities. He enjoys cartoons like Paw Patrol. He likes to be on time.
I chose him, but they chose you. I entered into this eager and willing, but you were called upon to take him in. A difficult little boy with a traumatic past, he was a stranger and a burden to you and your daughters.
And yet… you fostered him, in the truest and purest definition of the word. You advocated for him. You nurtured him. And under your care, he has thrived. Yes, he has a long way to go, but he has come so far from where he was two years ago.
I have not met him yet. I’ve read hundreds of pages of paperwork, but I don’t know him. He doesn’t know me. I have never heard his voice, and he doesn’t know I’m his mom.
“Don’t you just wish he was here with you, away from his foster family?”
If there was an FAQ document to this adoption, this would make the top 5. The question is simple – always coming from well-meaning people who don’t have a clue what this is really about – but the answer is complex.
Yes, I do wish he was here with me. I spend what feels like every second of every day thinking about him, wondering what he’s doing and how he’s feeling and when he’ll come home to me. I want him here more than I ever knew it was possible to want something.
But do I wish he was away from his foster family? Away from you, the woman who defined the word mother for him, and your daughters, the girls he’s come to love as his sisters?
It might sound strange, but if I could choose what’s best for him, it would be to stay with you. That’s not to say I won’t be a great mom to him, that I won’t give him every ounce of love and energy and strength I possess. I will. But no mother wants to see her child hurt or traumatized, and leaving you, dear Foster Mother, is exactly what that will do – hurt my son, and traumatize him for the umpteenth time in his short little life.
“She is what I wish would be the face of foster care,” I tell people of you. “If I can be half the mom she is, I will consider myself successful.”
You have been there for the good. You have been there for the bad. You have been there for the in-between.
You’ve made him laugh; he’s made you cry. You’ve kissed his boo-boos; he’s bruised your arms. You’ve prayed over him; he’s been the curse on your lips. You’ve offered him solace; he’s taught you grace.
You’ve been to his day care. You’ve been to his school. You’ve gone to therapy with him. You’ve taken him to the doctor and the optometrist. You’ve fought for him when no one else would.
You make him dinner, read him stories, tuck him in at night. You know how he likes his sandwiches cut. You know if he eats the crust on his pizza. You know what temperature he likes his bath water, and you know how many books he asks for before bed. You sacrifice for him.
You are his mother.
I recognize all you have done, and all you will continue to do, for him and for me. Words cannot express the gratitude and joy I feel that you would like to continue a relationship with him. With us. As an adopted child myself, I will never take for granted my son’s other family members, and you are the most important one.
I look at the pictures you so graciously shared with me, the ones I have framed in my living room. I wonder if you have the same pictures in a frame at your house; if you’ll keep it on display long after he’s gone. I wonder how long your daughters – his sisters – will ask about him and miss him. I wonder how you’ll feel his absence: as a sorrow or a relief? Maybe a little of both.
I know you love my son, and I want you to know I do, too.
Right now, I love the idea of him and what little I know about him. But I promise I will grow to love him for the sweet, difficult, kind, compassionate, wild little person he is.
I promise to foster his spirit; teach him right from wrong; play with him and tell him how amazing he is; and raise him to be a gentleman, the type of man you’d want your daughters to marry.
I promise I’ll do my best, and when I fall short of my own high expectations, I’ll dust myself off and try again.
The connection may not be instant; the attachment could take weeks, months, even years to form. I know this, and I know better than to expect too much from my son or myself. After all, there are experts who write books about these exact issues. It’s a process – a long one, in some cases – full of growth, doubt, mistakes, victories, and triumph.
But I’m also not worried there will never be a connection or attachment. Maybe it’s instinct, or maybe it’s the dozen nieces and nephews I love so much, or maybe it’s a subconscious awareness as an adopted child … but I know it takes more than genetics to feel connected to a child. Identical noses or similar left earlobes do not equal attachment.
None of this is to say I’m not scared; I am, very much. Isn’t every first-time parent? But I’m not scared I can’t do it. I’m not scared I “picked the wrong kid.” I’m scared I’ll never be able to erase the feelings of abandonment, loneliness, and sadness that are so deep-rooted inside my son.
I’m scared because I knew these feelings all too well growing up, and I know there was nothing anyone could have done to ease them. I do not have the solution to these feelings, or the antidote to these fears, but I have a good idea of where to start.
It’s commitment, strength, perseverance, and every other word you’ll find on an inspirational poster. It’s never giving up on your child or yourself, and it’s waking up to do it all over again, day after day. When my son sees how much I love him – how I’m never going to give him up, no matter what – it will (eventually) come to mean so much more to him than why we came to be a family.
Thanks to my own adoptive parents, I know this to be true, and thanks to you, my son knows this, as well.
I know why you can’t keep him forever, and I respect your decision. I admire your self-awareness and courage to give up someone you love so much. And I’m grateful for it, because I get to be his next momma.
But if you don’t believe anything else I say, please believe you will always be his mother (as long as you want to be). Distance and time will never change that because neither he nor I could be a family without you.
I was raised by a woman like you: strong-willed, tough, and proud with an open heart and a generous nature. When I unexpectedly lost her eighteen months ago, I thought I’d never be whole again. But through time and healing, I have come to realize there are other things – other people – who can fill the void her death has left. No one will ever replace her, but I am hoping through careful study and purposeful intentions, I can learn how to be the best mother I can be to my son.
And so, I thank you, Foster Mother, for being there when I could not. I thank you for wiping his tears and kissing his face and lifting him up to his potential. I thank you for loving him, and I thank you for giving me a chance.
I thank you for him.
We are two strangers from different parts of the world, brought together by a face too cute to turn away and a spirit too sweet to deny.
We will forever be linked, you and me.
We will always be his mothers.
Amy Passalugo is a single adoptive mother and adult adoptee from Rochester, NY. She works full-time as an instructional designer and has written and published a novel called Stay Under the Stars, available on Amazon and Amazon Kindle. She enjoys spending time with her family, reading, and snuggling with her cat, Posy. This is her second feature in the Portrait of an Adoption series, and she is honored to be a part of it once again.
* * * *
Carrie Goldman is the host of Portrait of an Adoption. She is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie's blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter
To continue receiving posts from Portrait of an Adoption, simply type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button.