This is Real Family

"Which ones are real siblings?"
"What happened to her real parents?"

Sometimes I forget that many people don't consider all my children to be "real siblings". Many people (including many in"the system") don't consider foster parents to be "real" parents either or our family to be a legitimate family.

 I understand why there are a lot of descriptive qualifiers included in our family but inside my house, in the monotony and simplicity of daily life none of them exist.  We are Mom and Dad, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.  Every once in a while a prefix must be used in a conversation with a child regarding their family of origin, or to clarify for someone who wants to better understand how our family is constructed.

Biological, adopted, foster, adoptive, temporary, long term, permanent ward all have meaning but none of them make what we do less "real" they are not a part of our everyday language.  We don't categorize the children in our family.  We don't segregate or make those distinctions.  Whether I care for a child for 2 weeks or 20 years they are family.  While they are under this roof I strive to love that child as fiercely as any child born from my womb. Sometimes when people hear those qualifying prefixes they stop seeing a real family and imagine relationships that are forced or pretend.

The depth of the very real relationships within my home also do not negate the role that biological family/parent will always have. Even if that role has never actively been a part of the child's life. It is still something to be respected and honoured.

From my vantage point I see a pack of brothers and sisters doing what brothers and sisters do. I see a Mom and Dad doing what Moms and Dad's do.

I watch two sisters playing "ring around the rosie" over and over in my kitchen giggling hysterically as they fall to the ground together.

I see a big brother get down onto the floor on his belly to cheer on and coach a baby brother as he learns to crawl.

I break up yet another fight between a sister and a brother who are each convinced that the other has "ruined my world".  I take away the ipad and remind them that Minecraft is pretend and relationships are real.

I witness those same two siblings later in the day with their arm around each other as they play.

A two year old begs her teenage sister to make her "pretty", which means she wants big sister to put her makeup on her and do her hair.  She sits so patiently as she gets a makeover and then runs upstairs to announce "Princess!" She often asks for that same big sister to come tuck her into bed at night, or read her a book.

I get to see a little girl jump up on the lap of a Daddy she bears no physical resemblance to, wrap her arms around his neck and then ask for him to bounce her on his knee for a horsey ride.

As a Mom, I feed, nurture, soothe, change, wash, teach, train, comfort, scold, and remind. I do these things literally 24 hours a day. Never do I stop what I'm doing and remind myself that I'm not really parenting but only pretending.

These kids dote on each other, they tattle and bicker, they play, and they protect. Because they're family.  It's really not as complicated as the rest of the world wants to make it.

They may not all share DNA but they're siblings in every way that matters on a day to day basis.

I sometimes forget that much of the world doesn't always see foster families, or even adoptive families, as "real".  Then I read or hear something and it jars me back to the reality that others aren't looking through the same lenses I am. They haven't witnessed the truth that plays itself out inside my home every single day.

We may not all be related by blood but we are bound by our commitment to love each other, even when someone takes the last bowl full of popcorn, or wrecks our really awesome Lego creation. Even in the heart wrenching and painful things that come with being a foster family.

Being a "real family" is simple, even though being a foster family is complicated.  Every situation is different.  Some children have a long history and strong bond to biological parents.  Some children have never met their biological parents and came into foster care or their forever family at birth. Some children have regular visits with birth parents and will soon return to live with them. Some have never had a birth parent even request a visit and will remain with a foster family, maybe the only family they have known. Some will be adopted into a permanent family and some will sadly move from home to home.  As a foster parent I have been called "Auntie" and I have been called "Mommy".  That nuance of role didn't change how I loved them or mothered them.

We don't live in a world of ideals as foster parents.  We exist in murky greys, hard truths, and crawling through broken shards praying that God will take all these jagged pieces and make something beautiful.

There's something about uncertainty that forges deep bonds.  A gnawing awareness that time is short or that an unexpected phone call could turn all our lives upside down and leave us struggling to merely breathe gives love an urgency and an intentionality.  We know all too well that "later" and "maybe someday"  is a luxury we can't afford.  We linger, we savour, we pour in and pour out and give it all knowing that tomorrow is not guaranteed and that when a child leaves they will carry those moments with them. We force ourselves to let go and pray it will be enough.

Could it be that people think strange (or impossible) something they just don't understand and haven't witnessed?

That's why it's a good thing for foster families and adoptive families to be seen and heard.
 When your church, your social circle, your community and your child's classroom has families like this and you see how very normal this family is...despite a mix of physical traits and complex histories... your mind and heart might just be stretched and challenged to regard this family as very "real".

 God brought each one of us together including my husband and myself.  Commitment and choosing love over selfishness keeps us here.  Love makes us a family.

{Roman rescuing Cece who climbed a short ways up a climbing wall and started to cry, too afraid to move or let go of the wall}  

{Brothers enjoying a summer swim}

{some sibling playground fun}

{Silas keeping little sister occupied on a rainy camping morning}

{Just a larger than average real family}

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