By Mary Gemmer, Foster Mother
I sat in a school gym tonight feeling so out of place. I felt like I didn’t belong there. After a really rough night last night, where I lost my cool with the kiddos, I felt like I should probably crawl into a hole where they keep all the other horrible parents, the walls covered in spiderwebs and cockroaches screaming in my ears.
I wasn’t supposed to be in a school gym, celebrating the end of the year with a choir concert, cheering on my foster daughter who I let down in a …big way yesterday. I felt like a fraud, and was sure anyone who looked at me tonight would know it.
I didn’t want to go tonight. School choir concerts aren’t high on my list of things I love to attend. To be honest, I probably went more out of guilt because of our argument the previous night. So I sat there, feeling like a lie and dreading the aftermath of the concert when she would be sure to tear me down as usually happens because it is what she does in the awkward moment of introducing me as her mom.
Then the kids began to enter the gym in single file. She wasn’t hard to see since she is the tallest in her class. She found her spot in the choir stands with the rest of the altos, and that is when I saw it.
She was scanning the crowd, looking for the person who failed her the night before. The person who she has to make uncomfortable introductions of, the person who gets it wrong more often than not. She was looking for her mom. She was looking for me. I saw the worry in her face when she didn’t see me. She wasn’t expecting me to sit dead center front row I guess.
When her face lit up, I knew she finally found me. I saw the relief. I saw the bright smile that turns her into a beautiful African queen. I saw my daughter.
I was that typical mom that holds the phone up so that I could record her singing. I probably was embarrassing her, but I didn’t care. I had thoughts of sharing the video with her biological mother since she wasn’t there. In that moment, I belonged.
After the concert, I handed her a bouquet of flowers. She was shocked. No one else got flowers. I hoped that wasn’t embarrassing for her, but she smiled brightly. I could tell she felt special.
She introduced me to a few friends as her mom, and left out the normal criticisms. Then we drove home.
During the ride, she told me no one had ever given her flowers before. She had never been able to go to any of her choir concerts before because her parents never wanted to take her. No one ever bought her a brand new dress for concerts, because what would be the point?
I guess I haven’t completely screwed up with her, or her brother. I just stumble sometimes, and other times I fall flat on my face…like last night. Today was a better day…a good day. I didn’t fail her today.
Reflection by Jill Rippy at TheFosterLife.com
I’m privileged to call so many foster parents my friends, acquaintances or simply, my people. We are bound by this one common thing that makes us a united front in helping children heal. Truth be told, we understand each other like none other. I absolutely love this real, raw account by Mary Gemmer, foster mom extraordinaire, because it shows the side of foster care the outside world rarely sees. Foster parents are often called saints, angels or special people, to which we chuckle because we know the true story. We exist in the trenches more days than we can count. We often feel like failures more than we would like to admit. We are devastatingly flawed as parents who are trying to do this thing that 99% of other humans are unwilling to do. Honestly, we are trudging along most days praying we are doing it right while scouring resources to make sense of a very traumatized world that we navigate every day. I look at Mary’s journey and see an amazing local foster mother who is making a huge impact. I’m not certain she can really even see that huge impact as clearly as I can. She’s kind, loving and not only touching the lives of her children, but she’s a force right here in our local community impacting change in foster care. Mary, thank you for this true account of what we as foster parents see and feel often. Yesterday was a bad day. Today is a great day. Tomorrow may be bad again, but in the long run, you are making a HUGE impact for these lives and many others. Carry on.
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