I Use The F Word
By Janet Christie
Yup, I use the F word.
The word holds different meanings to people based on experience, and if you have parented (and then grand parented) then your definition of family has likely evolved. I know mine certainly has.
My case in point…
When I was eighteen, I got married one month after graduating from high school (admittedly, not one of my finer moments, proving my mother right–I told you so). Shortly after, I had a baby. To make a long story short, that family didn’t last long. My marriage ended when my son was nine months old. We left with a suitcase and playpen and thus began our journey as a single parent family.
Mine is an example of a story come full circle.
Mine is an example of a story come full circle. As a young, single mom, I was heavily addicted to alcohol. By todays standards and scrutiny, my son may have been removed from my care. I don’t say that proudly, obviously, but I do speak up because I believe these stories need to be told. My mentor reminds me that my story is my greatest asset. I’m grateful that didn’t happen, and since that time, I became a foster parent, hence the ‘full circle’.
My son was 12 years old when I got sober in a twelve-step program (the one listed really, really, close to the front of the telephone book). As history has a habit of repeating itself, my son blessed me with a granddaughter when he was twenty years old. Surprise!! He was also heavily addicted, and believe me, it did not feel like a blessing at the time.
When my granddaughter was five years old, she was apprehended by Children’s Services in Alberta. I got “the call” and that’s how I became a GRG (Grandparent Raising Grandchildren), and my entry point into the foster care system as a caregiver. That was thirteen years ago.
Since then, I have fostered teen girls. Seems like that “bad behaviour” came in useful after all, relating to them. My last foster daughter made me a foster grandmother. We all continue to make more history and stories together, each in our own families, in our own way, each significant event marking a new chapter in our lives.
Everyone is growing up.
That is the one constant with children.
Over the years, I’ve also noticed similarities amongst parents, regardless of “type.”
These are some things I see bringing our lives together, connecting us.
3 things ALL parents have in common
- Being a parent is a continual process of letting go. No matter whether you are a foster, adoptive or biological parent, we are continually, forever and always, learning to let go of our children, at each age, stage and transition in their lives. That takes grit.
- Kids are our teachers. Without my son I wouldn’t have learnt about unconditional love. Without my granddaughter, I would have never felt the tug new moms not tormented by addiction feel when they hold their baby for the first time. Had I not been a foster parent, I would have never experienced being able to give back and then receiving so much more in return. The love is the same but different, if you know what I mean.
- We ALL need support and connection. Nothing has been more impactful in my life than being told by a peer, “I know exactly how you feel,” and, “It’s going to be ok.” Honestly, I would be dead without it. This is powerful stuff.
The last point (not the dead part) is especially true. As it pertains to foster parenting, the longer I fostered, the more evident this became. Today, the point is driven home every day in the work I do with foster parents. Makes sense. Foster parenting is more serious, has more implications, and is more complicated than biological or familial parenting. Foster parents are contractually obligated to provide the highest level of service possible to the most vulnerable children and youth in our society, all this while working within an extremely complex and changing system. I would NEVER have been able to advance as a caregiver and navigate this on my own without other foster parent mentors.
Yup, I use the F word.
From one Foster Parent to another, we all walk this path. Why do it alone?
If you are a foster parent on Vancouver Island and would like to learn more about having a foster parent mentor, please visit our Peer Mentor Page.
If you are a foster parent on Vancouver Island, and wish to give back to the fostering community as a volunteer mentor, you can learn more about the FPSS Society Foster Parent Mentoring program on our mentor page.
Quick Facts about Peer Mentoring:
- Peer support mentoring programs are growing around the world for any type of employment, cause, illness, etc. that you can think of. Peer support has been identified by the Mental Health Commission of Canada as “Best Practice” in the provision of comprehensive mental health care. The Canadian Mental Health Association defines peer support as “the pillar of self-help.”
- Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935, was recognized as one of the top most influential people of the 20th century by Time Magazine in 1999. At that time, AA had already helped, and continues to help, millions of people. AA is completely self-supporting and built entirely on peer support.
- FPSS Society Foster Parent Mentoring program is the ONLY foster parent mentoring program in British Columbia, and one of three in Canada.
Please feel free to add to my list of things all parents have in common in the comments section below.