In my last post, I talked about the challenges of fostering two littles for a month. But there were many beautiful moments –with Ryan and Linda, but also with our bio kids. In this post I’ll share the beautiful moments I saw for Katherine, Clara, and Alexandra.
When we made the decision as a family to welcome R and L into our family, all three kids were excited. They immediately began making plans to make sure R and L would feel included and comfortable in our home – what books they would put on the shelf in their room, what stuffed animals they would give to them, where their seats would be at the table, who would read them bedtime stories, how they would share the family sleds... Dave and I were a little skeptical that the novelty would wear off and our kids would quickly become irritated with two more little kids.
We were especially concerned about our oldest, Katherine, who we were pretty sure lacked maternal instinct, compassion, and patience. We suspected that after a few days she would disappear into her room to read and generally ignore the whole family, disgusted with the proliferation of younger siblings. We couldn’t have been more wrong. Turns out she has strong maternal instincts and a great deal of compassion and patience – just not towards her bio siblings.
Katherine spent hours carrying L around and snuggling with her, and even let L climb all over her while she was engrossed in a book. This was a big deal because if a bio sister so much as looks at Katherine the wrong way while she is reading, she’ll likely kick the sister and shriek for all to hear that her space is being invaded. Katherine made R dozens of paper airplanes – whatever size, shape or color he wanted. She’d even work on them while he was at school and have a new one waiting when he arrived home. Then she'd spend hours testing them out with him. Both R and L light up in Katherine’s presence.
We’d seen glimpses of Katherine’ generosity towards others - when she was in the mood - but for R and L, she was always willing, even when it was clear she wasn’t in the mood. One of my favorite moments was when I was struggling to get R and L bundled to go out and we were running late, as usual. Katherine appeared in the mudroom and said, “Hey mom, I’ll do this for you.” As I frantically got my own stuff together, Katherine got two squirmy kiddos into their boots, coats, hat, and mittens.
It was a gift to see my child in this light. So often I am frustrated with her stubborn refusal to help with chores and the constant bickering with her sisters… to see her capacity for generosity and love was a healthy reminder of who Katherine is as a person.
Our middle daughter, Clara, is a natural caregiver, so we were not surprised to see her suggest numerous ways to integrate R and L into our family life. She was especially sensitive to the subtle details of ensuring we shared equally among the five children. She was the first to offer her turn to them and took great delight in sharing our family traditions. Again, this contrast to the usual fighting over who gets to go first and what belongs to whom was reassuring. It was also fun to see how much our children value simple routines like snuffing the candles after dinner and receiving the gift of scotch tape for Hanukkah.
Alexandra had the hardest time. When our family discussed fostering children, the kids did not want to disrupt their age order – Katherine wanted to remain the oldest and Clara the second oldest; Alexandra did not want another older sibling, she desperately wanted to be a big sister too. So we agreed we would be open to fostering kiddos age three and under. But I don’t think Alexandra realized that meant she would no longer be the “baby.” When R and L gravitated towards Katherine and Clara for comfort and attention, Alexandra felt slighted… she was not being treated as a big sister and she was no longer the baby. Nevertheless, she was a great playmate to R. They played hard and happily together, and without even realizing it, Alexandra was his big sister. Despite Katherine saying once that Alexandra did not have the skills to be a big sister, she does indeed have the skills. She was a great big sister.
Now that R and L aren’t living in our home, all three kids ask eagerly when our next respite care day with R and L will be. They look forward to having them in our home for a day and plan out all the fun things they want to do with them. And I look forward to those glimpses of generosity and love that come out so clearly for R and L.