Before I get into the main body of this post, please let me apologize. I had planned on sharing this earlier, but our family has faced some drastic changes over the last few weeks. Our sweet little six-year old was ripped away from us due to “the system” and my heart has been grieving. It’s kind of hard to post about the happy moments in the midst of that. Thanks for understanding.
What are some of your happiest parenting moments? Are they the moment a child finally “gets” it, the moment they accomplish something great, the moment they learn something new, the moment they finally use a habit you’ve been trying to establish, the moment you see a new maturity about them? I think every parent has happy moments, and foster parents are no different. However, foster parents may experience these moments in very different ways.
To illustrate, let me share some of my happiest parenting moments with you.
I think there is a thrill in every parent’s heart when they hear their child call them Mom or Dad for the first time. For bio parents, it is often in the form of their little baby saying “ma-ma” or “da-da.” When children come into our care, we tell them that they may call us what they choose. Most initially call us by our first names, or just don’t use any name to address us. But as the placement goes on and they begin to feel that they belong, most of them reach a point where they decide to call us Mom and Dad. What joy that brings to our hearts! Sometimes it just means that they want to please us. (Many foster children live as people pleasers because they fear being themselves because of of inner turmoil.) Sometimes it is so that they don’t feel different around other kids. Other times, we can tell that it is because they feel like they belong. Those times are victories! They mean that we’ve done something right.
There are other words that bring happiness to our lives as well. The first time a foster child calls our house “home” or claims us as their parents or uses other words that shows they belong make our hearts beat a little faster.
What accomplishments in your child’s life make you happy? I think there are some that are the same for every parent such as good grades, performances, etc. When our most recent placement came to our home, she had MAJOR issues. She was classified as intensive. In foster parenting lingo, that meant she would take extra time, extra effort, and extra love. We were up for the challenge. She had been in a special needs preschool. She had daily temper tantrums. (Not just little meltdowns. These were kicking, screaming, hitting, punching, throwing things kind of tantrums.) Parenting her was hard. We knew consistency was imperative and we did our best. It seemed that the time-outs were getting us nowhere, but we plugged on. Every church service, I’d have to take her out for time-outs. But I still remember very clearly the first night she sat through a service! Let me tell you, I wanted to shout for joy! She was growing and maturing! What a milestone!
Another happy moment on our journey is sharing the gospel with children for the first time. Most of the Christian bio parents we know share the stories of Jesus with their children from such a young age, that they don’t remember when they began. With our little ones, it’s different. No matter how long they are in our home, we make a point to tell them about Jesus and His sacrifice and love for them. Their reactions are interesting. One child asked, “Did Jesus live when there were dinosaurs?” Another wanted to know why she hadn’t been told before. Others have heard, but have questions. What joy it brings to our hearts as we share the message with them. I was brought to tears after we took our little girl to a Christmas musical at the school where I teach. It progressed from Christ’s birth to His death, and as He was being mocked, whipped, and scorned, she was in tears, asking Jason, “Daddy, why are they hurting them? Why did He have to die?” What a solemn moment in our parenting as we explained to her Christ’s extreme love for her. Many foster children don’t know how to fathom that kind of love.
Just as with bio parents, our hearts are thrilled when our little ones give their lives to Jesus. Of our longer-term placements, all of them but one have made a commitment to Christ. What joy it brings to our hearts to know that whether we can be with them in the future or not, they now have a Friend who is a father to the fatherless. I think that is the happiest moment of all.
I feel as though this post is unfinished, and may come back to it later, but for now, it says what I feel like saying. I’d love to hear your thoughts. What are your parenting happy moments?