Those of you who have read about my family PND Curse (which I thankfully escaped) will probably not be surprised that I spent a fair chunk of my childhood in the care of various foster families and people who weren’t my parents (in the strictest sense of the word).
Unfortunately, my own Mum’s crippling PND led to her being unable to care adequately for me and the eldest of my 3 brothers. Luckily she recognised that her illness was a problem and sought help, which led to my brother and I being placed into foster care. The ball was about to get rolling on us being adopted (and split up) before my paternal grandparents found out and stepped in to care for us long term. They were not my brother’s biological grandparents, although I very quickly learned that biology is not always all it’s cracked up to be.
1.Stability: From Pillar to Post
One of the things that has stayed with me the most from being in foster care is that we moved about a lot. As a child, I don’t really remember feeling all that bothered by it. As an adult, however, I am all too aware of the lasting effects of that nomadic start. The truth is, I never truly feel settled anywhere, and I’m not very good at putting down roots. When you’ve moved house more than 25 times in 29 years you get pretty good at not personalising anything.
This has made me overly conscious of the need for stability for my own children. I want for my children to have a place they feel at home for as long as they need it, and that means that I am having to learn how to really settle.
2. Possession: Nine Tenths of the Child
I remember losing things a lot. Not in a forgetful kind of way, but that things would inevitably get left behind every time we moved. As a result, I have no lasting physical relics of my childhood; no teddies, blankets, or keepsakes to pass down, and nothing that I really treasure. I suppose this has it’s positives as well as its negatives, because it’s resulted in me not being very materialistic.
What it does mean, however, is that not only do I not have any treasures from my past, I don’t really treasure anything. I have very little attachment to items that I own, and can be quite careless with things. This includes gifts from other people, and things that I really should care more about (engagement ring, expensive bracelet from my mum with very meaningful charms on it).
I also find it extremely difficult to understand the possession obsession that my children (like most) have for their things. To me it’s as simple as
“It’s just a thing, what’s the problem?”
But I know to children these things can be so overwhelmingly important. Amelia has never shown a desire for a comforter, but Wills has attached himself to a Peter Rabbit taggy/blanket type thing that Amelia chose for him the day he was born. The look in his eyes when he sees it is one of pure awe, want and need. I find this very hard to wrap my head around, and I can sometimes be careless about remembering to have it with us.
I don’t want to raise materialistic children, but I am also very keen to instil in them a desire to look after their things, and treasure the few, very special items that will always bring them back to their childhood. I think it’s totally healthy to cry when a treasured possession breaks (even if that treasured possession is a My Little Pony figure from a Kinder egg!) and I try to encourage Amelia to embrace that feeling, cry it out, allow herself to have those emotions, and learn from them.
3. Attachment: People Are Important
Another lasting relic of being raised by many is that I have very few real attachments to people. This, I feel, is much bigger an issue than attachment to objects. There are only 2 people in the world who I feel absolutely, unwaveringly attached to, and they are my children. Before they came along, I couldn’t ever really imagine how a person could become so attached to another human being that it would rock their world if they lost them. Of course I love Mr C unconditionally, but I have a very black and white opinion of our relationship and partnership.
“You’re here because you want to be. I’m here because I want to be. If I didn’t want to be here I would leave. If you didn’t want to be here then you could leave. Neither of us would die.”
I find it very hard to make and maintain friendships, and the very best friends that I have get that. Sometimes we go months without speaking (including my closest friend who I actually work with, only a wall separating us!) and I am fully aware that I am an awful friend. For some unknown reason, they accept that, and also know (I hope) that while I may be absent I am always there, should they need me.
It’s not a secret that children need positive attachments, and thrive upon them. I have a fantastic bond with my kids, and it has taken no effort to create or maintain that. But what I am very conscious of is other people in their lives. I’m more than willing to remove people from their lives who I don’t believe can or will develop and maintain those relationships. Quite frankly, I don’t want my kids to end up like me!
4. Family: It Isn’t Always Blood, But A Bond Which Lasts Forever
Needless to say, as a child I didn’t really know the true value of family. My brother was my only family for a very long time, until we found family with my grandparents. They opened our world to a life filled with aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, great-grandparents, step-children, cousins eighty-five-times removed! There are so many of us that even we can’t keep track! Like most families, we’re scattered across the country and even the world, and sometimes we’re better at keeping in touch than other times.
I knew when I had kids that I wanted them to have that from day one, and to never be short of family. Be it biological, inherited, married into, whatever! That is why my closest friends are known as my kids Aunties and Uncles. As far as I am concerned, these people will always be in their lives, and that is what family is. My kids are so lucky to be blessed with a ton of Aunts and Uncles, Grandmas Grandads and GG’s coming out of their earholes, a thousand-and-one cousins, and everyone else in between!
Blood will never be thicker than water in my house, and I want my kids to know that.
5. As Long As We Are Together…
You hear this cliché thrown about quite a lot, I think. It’s something I have been thinking a lot about recently, especially when things like money worries and the general grind of day to day life gets on top of me. Until my grandparents stepped in to care for us, my brother and I had never really known what it was to have a true and secure family unit.
Like most people, I want nice things for my kids; nice clothes, toys, yearly holidays, trips to great places, a lovely home. But ultimately, none of these things really matter. None of these things are worth focussing all of my time on. What is worth focussing all of my time on is them and us. Especially while they are so young, all they really need is us and our love (and probably some food).
They don’t need the latest gadget, or high end toys and clothes. They need me and their Dad to be a solid unit for them, to love them, to teach them, to pick them up when they fall down, to care about what is important to them (even if it’s only important for 3 1/2 minutes), to be there.
Being In Foster Care Didn’t Define Me, Being A Family Does
Having kids has taught me so much about myself, and has made me reflect not only on the so-called-bad, but all of the good in my own childhood. I have never been one to say I had a ‘bad’ start, or had a ‘hard’ time. Now more than ever as a parent I am so grateful to all of the people who selflessly took time out of their lives to care for and love us. Out of choice. That is what a family is all about.