I have incredibly fond memories of elementary school. I remember my friends and a lot of the fun we had. I remember the birthday parties, the sleep overs, bike riding, and playground activities. I fondly remember a couple of my teachers, who touched my life in ways that have helped to make me the person I am today. I remember my mom, it seems like she was ALWAYS there for me. She came to games, and cheered me on. She was smiling in the audience of every choir or drama performance. She held me when I was sad, or sick, or needed to be snuggled. My dad was always the firm hand in our family. He was very consistent in my discipline. He was also the first to praise me when I had behaved well. He wrestled with me and my friends. He took me to Dairy Queen for a banana split when he needed to spend one on one time with me. He took me camping often, and let me bring friends along. My brother zipped me into an old army sleeping bag and drug me all over the house. He picked on me relentlessly, always taking my little sisters side of any argument, often promising that he would take my side when she turned 7 ( our little inside joke) I remember riding a low tree branch and taking turns trying to "buck" each other off. I remember sharing a room and playing with my sister, a lot. I remember the three of us making mud pies and hunting snakes and frogs. I remember our family dog, cocoa, and a multitude of orange cats named Fred. I remember my Aunts and Uncles being very involved in our lives. I remember cousins so close they were like siblings. I remember my grandparents. It seems that we went to their house nearly every weekend. I have many wonderful memories from time spent at heir house. My young years we great, fantastic even. (so was the rest of my childhood, but that is for another post :o)
Am I bragging? No. I don't think my elementary years were all that different from most children in my peer group. Parents were parents and proud to fulfill their responsibility to raise respectful, responsible, self-confident, loving children into adulthood. Our needs as children came first, ahead of the needs and desires of our parents. Our discipline was more important than our parents being our friends. Our praise for hard work came naturally to them, or so it felt. Our redirection for correcting our mistakes were of equal importance. We knew our parents loved us unconditionally. We could count on our parents to be. there for us, no matter the need. We knew the consequence of our actions before we even broke the rules. We could count on being taken to the doctor when we were sick, whether or not we had insurance was irrelevant and kept between the ones who needed to know, our parents and the doctor. We knew very little about money and its abundance or scarcity. We were a family. We enjoyed our dinners together around the table, and knew who would be responsible for clearing the table and cleaning the dishes. We thanked our moms for the meal she prepared and knew that if she cooked something we didn't care for, we either ate it anyway or went hungry. My dad always said my mom wasn't a short order cook and we could eat the food she made for us or go without. Life was good, not perfect, but pretty darn good.
When I look at my kids I know that they are being raised very similarly to my own childhood. A few exceptions are obvious to those who know us. We homeschool. I am the disciplinarian and refer to my husband as the kids big brother at times and use him as "the hammer" when things get too much for me in the sass and disrespect department. He is phenomenal at inspiring the kids to change their attitude :0). We have foster kids who come and go fairly regularly. Other than that it's pretty close to how I remember my childhood, or at least the key elements of it.
That brings me to the reason for my post title. Life is NOT easy, or fair for that matter. I am so heart broken when I look into the eyes of our foster children and think about all of the rotten messages they are being given, or drawing to conclusion based on their situations... It makes me sad that their living situations are as they are. Living with strangers. Visiting briefly with their parents. Wondering why their lives are they way they are. Going to school after school, feeling like an outsider in all aspects of their lives. Coming home from school feeling alienated. Kids saying "ew, I don't want to stand by her" or telling other kids that you are nasty or gross. Fearing for your safety, and/or the safety of your family members. Nightmares about past abuses. Reliving traumatic situations inside your head that you can't talk about, after all it's a "family secret not to be told." Living in fear of being left alone, or moved again, or separated from your siblings. Wondering if your dad is hitting your mom or the other way around. If they aren't, wondering if it was your fault they did when you all lived together. Feeling guilty for loving the foster family you have, feeling like you are betraying your own family. Feeling the pressure to learn how to behave in a household so vastly different from the one you are used too. Being judged and medicated for your behaviors that you learned out of necessity to survive the environments of your past. Not feeling loved. Not feeling liked. Not feeling a sense of family. Wondering what each day, each moment will bring. Will you be hit today? Will you be fed? Will you see your family? Will you be hugged? What about tomorrow? And the day after?
It is hard to be a foster parent. It is hard to be a foster sibling. It is hard to share your home with strangers who act so differently from your version of normal family life. It is harder to be a displaced child. Nightmares that can't be consoled. Anxieties that can't be relieved. Fear of the unknown and known alike. Feeling inadequate. Or Nasty. Remembering all the good and BAD from your past and wondering if you will ever have good times living with your family. Feeling guilty for wanting to go home to your birth family and frightened of the very same thing. LIFE IS NOT EASY....
Please take a moment to pray for all of the displaced children. Pray for them to find comfort in their foster or adoptive family. Pray for the recovery of their birth families and restoration of their homes. Pray for their caseworkers and lawyers. Pray for their foster families to find patience and grace and mercy for their maladaptive behaviors. I for one know that I would be grateful for the prayer.