My life was forever changed on the day I opened up my home—and my heart—to a young girl who needed me. The year that followed was filled with the ups and downs of foster parenting, all while still adjusting to my life as a widow.
Taking on the challenge of an 11-year-old foster child, at a time when I could barely function myself, was insane. But there was something about her story that spoke to me; there was something about this precious child that made me want to help. What I didn’t know at the time was that she would help me, too. Yes, she helped me in more ways than I could have imagined.
The Kid was going to be moving across the country to live with family, and I was going to be moving across the world to return to my adoptive home of Scotland. So together, we had a year to sort ourselves out for the great adventures our futures held for us. It was an emotional process for us both, but I’d like to think it was mostly positive. Although, sometimes I look back at our year together and I feel guilty. I feel like she would have been better off without someone who was on an emotional rollercoaster of their own. As The Kid was going through her own stresses (life in foster care is hell!), she challenged me; she was grieving her own losses (not death, but still losses) and she acted out in the way 11-year-old girls do. (I was 11 once; I get it!)
But my own tenuous emotional state, brought on by my grief, meant that we sometimes shouted at each other. That shouting would get louder and louder until one or both of us were in tears. And then I found myself so afraid that my grief was only making her life harder. The Kid had been through enough; she certainly didn’t need her “responsible foster mum” having a shouting match with her.
(Of course, I then have to ask: How many perfectly “normal” and “happy” mummy-daughter sets have had similar episodes? Probably all of them!!)
Despite the challenges of an emotionally charged pre-teen and an emotionally charged young widow being thrown together, our year was filled with so many positive things! We fumbled our way through a comically ill-fated Thanksgiving and a fun Christmas celebration. The Kid even enjoyed her first haggis supper! Together, we enjoyed a variety of craft projects and outdoor adventures. We did some cooking and we introduced each other to our favourite things—from music and food to books and jokes. And we helped each other through the practicalities and emotional fears that came along with our moves, too.
At the end of our year together, there were tears. So many tears! At the time, I wondered if that was it. The Kid was moving on to live with some of her family on the other side of America and I would soon be returning to Scotland. I wondered if I would ever hear from her again. I wondered how I would be able to find peace if I didn’t know that she was OK; that she was happy. But thanks to the glories of the Internet and the postal service, I know that The Kid is OK; I know she’s happy! We have kept in touch these past six years through Skype calls and letters and even Facebook!
My life was forever changed all those years ago, when I opened up my home—and my heart—to a young girl who needed me. The life that has followed has been filled with an amazing sense of joy, knowing that I was able to help The Kid when she needed me. But the biggest change in my life was the help that The Kid gave me. She helped me in ways that I can’t even explain. She made me stronger. She made me more confident. She made me happier. She made me more hopeful. And she made me love her.
Foster parenting is not easy, but it is by far one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. And I hope that, one day, I’m able to open my home to another child. And if you’ve ever thought of doing it yourself, I highly recommend you take the steps! Your heart (and the heart of a child) will thank you for it!
And Kid, you make me so proud and I love you! Now and forever.