I wait

A foster carer reflects on persevering through challenges.

Sometimes I feel like Viktor Navorski, the character Tom Hanks plays in The Terminal. In the film he is wanting to enter America, but due to circumstances way out of his control and no fault of his own, he cannot go in legally.

The security guards say they will open the door for him to ‘sneak’ in, but he refuses to do so. Instead he chooses to stay and wait it out, despite how hard it is, screaming ‘I wait!’ at the CCTV camera they are watching.

Every fibre of his being must have wanted to run – run into freedom and away from all the stress – yet he chooses to wait.

‘I wait’.‘I stay’.‘I remain’.

They could be my words!

Every fibre of my being may want to run, but I choose to stay. To remain. To wait.

Sometimes one of the hardest things about being a foster carer is just staying. Gritting your teeth, digging in your heels, and waiting. Staying put for children who need you to not give up on them.

I love my children, but sometimes they are hard. Hard in a way that is ridiculously difficult to explain. Lots of my children struggle to have good attachments (bonds with others).

In simplest terms, from an early age they learned that adults were not reliable, and that has stuck with them. They deal with this in two ways. On one hand they seek attention from any adult who will give it to them, desperately wanting reassurance, affection and contact. But on the other hand they push away from their key care givers because they subconsciously believe they are going to be rejected anyway, so why not reject first?

(If you want to understand more read this Home for Good article and google ‘attachment theory’ – there is much better info out there than my limited explanation!)

Sadly, they also believe they do not deserve to be loved.

My precious children learn, when as babies their basic needs are not met, that on a fundamental level, they do not deserve to be looked after. They believe they do not deserve to be loved. And that heartbreaking inner monologue now rules their life.

My children face daily battles with their own self-hatred and believe they have no worth. Even sadder than that, they can believe everyone else feels that way about them too.

My precious children assume I hate them, as how could anyone, especially someone so close to them, really love them? All of that internal emotion spills out of them through anger – an anger that is often directed at me – or in a silence, as they isolate themselves and sabotage, destroying something physically, like a favourite toy or treasured possession, or trying to spoil an event they believe they don’t deserve.

In this world, simple things become very hard.

Just needing a shower becomes a minefield, because through this skewed lens, it feels like rejection. It must mean I do not want to be with them, or I think they are not good enough as they are. Homework can take hours, as it is easier to not try, than to fail. A gentle no is received with rage.

In the heat of anger a no is never just that. It is rejection. Punishment. Denial. Ultimately, it is hatred.

When your child hates themselves so deeply and feels so undeserving of love, every word you say, every action, is tinged with that same motivation. I hate me – so you must too hate me too.

My daily fight is proving to a child who believes they are unlovable that they are loved.

Deeply, unconditionally, unequivocally LOVED.

That is a hard fight. That is a long, long road. A road that we sadly may never reach the end of.

And in reality, this is HARD!

I understand the theory. I understand why I am screamed at daily, why things are destroyed, why household objects get smashed. I understand why I get bitten and hit. Oh, I understand… but some days it takes everything in me not to run for freedom.

Loving in the face of anger and rejection is a skill I feel I fall short of daily. Loving when it costs and hurts and every fibre tells me to run is tough.

But I wait.

Wait as the anger passes.Wait as I reassure again.Wait as the rage dies.Wait as they seek attention.Wait as they push boundaries.Wait as they scream again.Wait as they reject me.

I wait.

Some days it is with joy, on many others it is with a scream. But I wait.

I wait with hope that every day we chip away, a hope that every day we make progress, a hope that every day is not lost. That even on those days we go backwards, a hope that tomorrow may be the one where we move forward.

I wait.

And some days there is a glimpse. A moment shines like the breaking of dawn after a long night. A smile. A hug. Light. You see pride on their face. You see them relax and drop the guard. You see them at peace. You see the real them.

It is those moments. In those moments you remember the battle is worth it.

People often ask what the toughest thing about being a foster carer is and I touched on it here. Obviously, goodbyes are tough. They are heartbreaking and painful beyond words.

In reality though, the goodbyes are not every day – the pain lingers and the threat of them hangs in the air, but they do not dominate the life of a foster carer. The tough bit, the really tough bit, is the every day.

The tough bit is quite often just… staying.

Choosing to love. Choosing to remain, especially when faced with challenging behaviour, rejection and anger.

The tough bit is choosing not to run when those doors slide open! Not to run away from the pain, the rejection, the anger, the behaviour.

Staying is tough.

Staying takes a fury of love. A love that says that my pain is not bigger than this child's. A love that says I can take it – I CAN take it!

A love that says ‘you before me’. A love that says ‘your self-hatred, self-sabotage and self-deprecation will not win’.

That love is strong and fierce. That love consumes. But it can also isolate, as others will not always understand. It will cost, as you will have to make sacrifices, and it will test as it fights against natural instincts.

I choose that love. I choose to wait.

As I write this, I think of people I know who have had to have children move on due to an unplanned move – people who loved their children enough to know that your family, your love, and your home was not the right place for your child. I am so sorry for the pain that must have caused. Your bravery to seek the best for your child is amazing. You did not fail.

We are all doing what we can.

And today, I wait. I am the one screaming at the CCTV camera. Screaming in the face of rejection, self-hatred and self-sabotage:


Written by a foster carer.



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