Sunday, June 15, 2014

Foster Dads....

J. O. and I have a joke that every day is Father's Day.  I really don't say that to be rude or not give men enough credit, but their role is just different.  For instance, J. O. can leave the house and go to work and simply think about work all day.  He isn't sitting at his desk working while thinking about what to cook for dinner, or if the uniform was washed before tonight's game, when the kids dentist appointment will be and so forth.  I am not saying his job isn't hard nor unimportant.  His work is honestly a vital part of why we are able to do what we do.  He works very hard and is good at his job and is an absolutely amazing dad.  However, for the most part he is able to go to work and then come home with little thought of what has happened inside of the home if that makes any sense.

However, I have come to realize that in the role of foster parent he is seriously an unsung hero.  I believe with all my heart that most, if not all, women have a desire for every child to have a family.  You can't be a mom and not feel that emotional pull when you see pictures on Facebook of children without a forever home.  You can't be female and not desire to hold and comfort all of these children. Women are hardwired to feel for these children and then want to act.  Men just aren't.  Typically, women feel the call to begin fostering and slowly begin the process of bringing their husband alongside of them.  J.O. and I have handled most of this process differently.  I react on my emotions and he is practical (like the fact that we can't adopt sibling groups of 15) or that we can't take every child we get a phone call or text to take, or that when kids leave it's hard, but it's just a part of it.  He is the practical side to my emotion.

There are not a whole lot of men out there in these kids lives.  In fact, in our very small situation, there is not one single male present.  The extended family member doesn't have have a husband or dad present, and 2 of the siblings spent minimal time around a dad when they were very little, but it wasn't a positive experience.  When we first got Anna, she called everyone "ma".  Seriously, everyone.  All she knew is that women took care of you and they were called some version of ma.  There was no emotional attachment to the word and it wasn't person specific.  I was ma, her aunt was ma, women on the street were ma, etc.  It was huge for us the day she started calling my mom, Nana and me, Mommy. She got it.  She understood the difference.

Our girls are learning what it means to have a dad for this time period as well.  J. O. is always telling Addison how pretty she looks and Addison loves to get his approval.  When she gets dressed and she is feeling particularly cute, the first thing she does is walk up to J. O. and stand there.  She knows what's coming.  He takes her hand and twirls her around to see the full outfit and then gives her a hug and tells her how cute she looks.  Anna has now learned to do this exact same thing.  I get her dressed every morning for school and the very first thing she does is walk straight to where J. O. is sitting.  The first time she did it, we were confused.  She was just standing there and smiling and we couldn't figure out why.  He told her she looked so pretty for school and she started beaming and did a twirl.  Now, it's an every day thing.  She doesn't ever do this for me.  Just him.

Abby is not a cuddler.  She's extremely emotionless 99% of the time.  However, when J.O. walks in the door from work she starts screaming "J" at the top of her lungs and waits on him to come give her a hug.  She has come to rely on him being there and his affection.

In a lot of ways, J. O. has a much harder job than I do.  The women and kids we come in contact with expect him to let them down.  They expect men to walk away from them and abandon them.  They expect men to be a continual disappointment even though they are constantly seeking their attention.  They can't fathom the concept of a Heavenly Father loving them unconditionally, because they have never received anything positive from an earthly father or man.

Moms are typically the force that makes the family work, but men, are some of the major heroes of foster care.  They simply smile and sigh when they found out you've taken a baby "until DHS can find him a home" (yeah right), they understand the need to talk hours on end after a court hearing (even when there is nothing left to talk about), they laugh quietly and nod when another foster dad says "no, we are never going to adopt", they listen to you agonize over ever single detail in the case and so forth and so forth.  They lead by example and they show these kids what a true dad looks like, if only for a little while.  Maybe one day these children will understand the concept of unconditional love and mercy just a little more because of what they received by a foster dad.

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