A while ago I shared a post that someone else wrote regarding birth family and their feelings towards them. At that time I said I would post more about the topic and I have never gotten around to it. It has been really hard to put my thoughts and feelings about this into words.
First off let me say that my thoughts and feelings about my children’s birth family matter FAR les than my children’s thoughts and feelings about their birth family.
Ok so to begin I’ll tell two different stories then delve into my feeling and thoughts.
There was a lady that owned and ran a grocery store in a small town. She had noticed over the past few weeks that some basic food staples had gone missing, assumed stolen. She reviewed security films and found out t was a teen girl. The next time she saw that girl she stopped her. The lady explained to the teen girl that she knew the girl had taken the food. The lady explained that if it happened again she would inform the authoritites. However, the lady was concerned about why the girl was stealing and asked if the girl had enough food at home. The girl explained that she did not, that the food she had stolen was the only food she had for awhile. The lady made some calls and connected the teen with local social services and food banks to help meet her needs.
A couple of years later the lady and her grocery store we’re not doing well. A big box store had opened in the town and her former customers flocked to the new store for lower prices and more variety. The lady and her 2 kids were struggling to make ends meet. They didn’t yet qualify for social service help as her income was too high, but there wasn’t enough left to go around and meet the needs of both kids. The lady again noticed that food was going missing. Basic staples such as bread and milk. One day while working she caught who it was trying to steal some vegetables and immediately called the authorities. The same lady had such different reactions to the same situation. In the first part the lady had plenty, she could meet her children’s needs with some left over. She had the luxury of figuring out the reason behind the stealing and help the girl. The second time the lady was barely making ends meet. She knew that stolen merchandise was taking food from the mouth of her children. They weren’t starving but her kids were growing and she couldn’t keep up with the demand for good healthy food in her own home. Sure the lady could have once again met the stealing behavior with care and concern. However when basic needs of people you love are going unfulfilled or under fulfilled mothers tend to go into protection mode and villianize those that negatively impact their ability to meet needs.
So what do you think of this lady? Is she a better person when she asks for what the teen needs? Does her patience get less over time? Does she make the right choices?
Well for better or worse those are her choices. I feel very much like the store owner in my life. Pre-kids I was a therapist. I was trained to use empathy and compassion in meeting my clients where they were with whatever damaging choices they were making in. To attempt to put myself in their shoes to help them move past the hurt in their lives. This very much correlates to the first part of the story. I had at times help clients through some very hard stuff, sometimes even stuff that was impacting their children.
Now that I am a mom things have changed a bit. With strangers I can still feel and use that empathy and compassion I got so good at. With my kids I use it more than once a day. I try to put myself in their shoes to see the stressors and events how they must see them. It helps, although I confess I wish I was able to do it more than I am. Stress impacts this A LOT.
What I know about the lives of my childrens’ birth parents is that they have had a tough life and been through some had and painful circumstances. However, that empathy and compassion that I can use for strangers and my kids, and, well, pretty much everyone else in the world, somehow does not apply to their birth family. I logically understand that the deck was stacked against them from the start, that they didn’t have the healthy people to help them make good choices. That they had no idea how to be a good healthy and safe parent. I logically get that and with other people in that same circumstance I feel simpathy and compassion and pray that people come into their lives to show them how to be safe. With their birth family I can’t seem to bring myself to those feelings. Much like the lady in the story, when things impact my kids’ basic needs my kindness seems to vanish. Whether or not the birth family and birth parents had tough lives does not impact my emotions. I feel anger and sadness. My kids had some very basic needs: food, shelter, love, and safety, that were not met. More than not met, actively pushed aside for the needs and wants of others. I try to not be angry and remind myself of the things they DID do, the healthy contact we have with one birth family member, the fact that birth mom made the tough choice to carry all the kids to term, ect.
Mostly my thoughts and feelings consist of this anger that my kids were not taken care of. I feel inadequate that I was not there to keep them safe, that I can’t erase all of this hurt. I want more than anything for my kids to feel safe and loved and the fact is that there will always be a point in their lives where they did not feel that and there is nothing I can do about it. I can just focus on the time I do have them with to pour love and security and safety into them and model good choices.
I feel self conscious when we go to the doctor and I have no (well a tiny bit I guess) medical history information. I don’t know any of it and for my kids benefit I wish I did. I guess I feel like this makes me less of a mother, this and having to really work hard to remember their birth dates.
The last major thing that currently impacts my life regarding birth family is scared. I really have no concern that they will find us and hurt the kids. However, I know without a doubt that when my children are 18 at least a couple of them will want to track down certain members of their birth family and see them. I hope by then I have cultivated enough of a positive, you can talk to me about anything, we will deal with it all together attitude that I can help them with this. I am scared that family members will die by then through old age or poor choices. I am scared that the life and choices of birth family will continue to be unsafe. That my kids will be devestated. They ask every so often if I think birth family (mainly birth mom) is making good choices yet. I tell them I hope so but I don’t know.
And through all my anger and sadness I really do hope that. It may be for the selfish reason of my kids being able to have a healthy relationship with them some day but I still do hope it. At times I pray that God would touch their hearts and put people in their life to teach them safety and good choices.
Sometimes I wonder what my kids feel and think about this important piece of their lives. Maybe when they get older they will share.