Fostering has made this strange patchwork of what was once our tidy family quilt: some patches are whipstitched and later removed; others are embroidered to become part of the existing pattern. But those patches were never part of the initial fabric, and they never will be, because they were torn from another quilt.
It’s easy to look at the ragged edges and think, “What an awful ______ you came from, you poor thing.” The biological parents are often cast as the villains: “Oh, how horrible that they did ______. They shouldn’t be allowed to have kids. It’s just unfair/wrong/unjust/whathaveyou.”
I’ve heard it a thousand times.
(I’ve said it a thousand times.)
But the child still looks at those ragged edges and misses and longs for that other family quilt, and those feelings are real.
Undoubtedly, the child has some good memories, no matter how dysfunctional the family situation was. But even knowing that it wasn't all bad is sometimes hard for me. I’ll admit, it’s pretty painful to hear my foster daughter say, “I miss my mom/dad/grandma,” especially when she calls me mom. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking, “I’m just playing at this mom thing; she'll never see me as her real mom.” Because even after her adoption is finalized, there will always be years of the child’s life that we were never part of. She was initially sewn into another family quilt.
I can only accept this fact. I can’t pretend the past doesn’t exist, so I’ve come to the conclusion that I just have to learn to honor that other quilt.
Seeing her parents as villains might have been my initial gut reaction. But I have to remember that she doesn’t share that view, regardless of what happened.
So this Christmas, I am taking another look. I am trying to see them not as villains, but as human beings who just...couldn’t keep their shit together.
That makes it easier to see why our foster daughter is so attached to the frayed edges of her family quilt square and sometimes so resistant to being sewn into ours.
I’m taking small steps to honor her old quilt. I’m trying to be compassionate, to remember her biological parents’ humanity, to remember that they did love her in their own way, and that they did make some wonderful memories with her.
I never dreamed my family quilt would be a patchwork one. I envisioned something a bit more...perfect. Not so messy. I never dreamed the fabrics would come from so many different sources, and I never imagined that there would be tears in it, or that it would have so many different types of stitching. I never dreamed that some patches would be tacked on only for a moment before being torn off and returned to their old quilts, or that others would become a permanent part of us, slowly being embroidered into the tapestry of our lives.
But no matter how it looks, our quilt still keeps us warm, and there's beauty in that.