Background: I wrote a children's book about adoption. My eight year old daughter illustrated it for me. It was a gift for my birth and adopted mothers. I started passing the book around before my public launch and got some great feedback. One of the ladies in my professional network asked if I would like to come speak at her foster class graduation with Kids First in Clay County (She was taking classes to become a certified foster parent. The graduation was the adults that were in the class with her.).
My response: Sure, if you are okay with stuttering, possibly slurred speech and deer in the headlight looks. She laughed and said she thought I would do great.
Current Situation: I decided to do the speaking engagement. This is WAY outside of my comfort zone. However, I am passionate about the cause so what the hey! I start to think about what I am going to say. I call to confirm my appointment and the lady on the phone says, "Oh, it's really no big deal, very informal. You will be sitting with a panel and you can introduce yourself and say a few words if you like." Oh, that's great! I don't have to practice a speech after all....so I didn't.....not at all.
I pull up to the place that I've never been before, to the people that I've never met before, because oh yeah by the way the lady that invited me was out of town on business, so she couldn't make it. I walk into the building and I am greeted by the foster care instructor. He then proceeds to introduce me to others as the guest speaker. Say WHAT?!?
I'm not being humble when I say that I need practice to sound good. I literally took Speech class online to get through college. I am not a fly by the seat of my pants kind of girl. I need a plan and really like when the plan works out. So, here I am with no plan. I check all the exits thinking maybe I could make a run for it and nobody would notice, but it's too late now, I've already taken my seat. It's time for the panel to introduce themselves. I actually get my name out without stuttering. I give myself a mental pat on the back. I can do this!
There were two guest speakers and of course I am set up as second. The first lady is a current foster parent to five children. You read that right, not one or two, but five. She took in one child and then had a sibling group of four that her and her husband didn't want to separate. I am listening to her whole speech and she did great. She was animated and confident. She even had business cards that literally had her name, number and title as a foster parent on it. I can't do this!
I was way out of my league here. My stomach starts to hurt. All of a sudden the chicken sandwich I had for lunch is making it known that it might want to come back up. My body starts to shake. I literally cannot control my legs as they start to bounce. My eyes start to water, because they have a mind of their own and never listen to me when I say, now is NOT the time to cry. The lady has finished her well polished and uplifting speech and now everyone is looking at me. Oh crud!
I don't remember everything that came out of my mouth. I saw people's heads nodding so I am hoping that some of it resonated somewhere with at least one person. I just told part of my story. I am learning that this is what I know and what I can share. I was adopted as an infant, which most people think is no big deal. Adopting a baby is easy...yeah right!
I was angry. Trying to process why your birth mother didn't want you or couldn't keep you at a young age is hard. I am not blaming anyone. Life can be hard even with no one to blame. As a foster child, you are getting taken away from your family and relocated. Of course, it is for your own protection, but little children and sometimes even teenagers don't understand that.
Getting past the lump in my throat and the shake in my voice, I thanked those foster parents for signing up for the hardest job that they would ever have to do. I asked them to do their job with compassion and boundaries. Two truths I know: 1. You don't know what every child has been through or is going through. It's not all in their chart nice and neat. Fostering and adoption is a beautiful but messy business. 2. Children need and want boundaries. They want to know that you will keep them safe and accept them, no matter how many times they cross the line or push the limits.
I spent the first nine weeks of my life in foster care. If you are now or ever have been a foster parent, I thank you for your service. I spent a year and a half as a house parent in a group home early on in my marriage. I pulled from that experience as I was talking to these future fosterers (yes, I made that word up).
Unfortunately or fortunately, I have no pictures or videos of my awkwardness. I would love to do it again. And if any of you reading this were in that class, I promise I will come better prepared next time!