Just because someone doesn’t love you the way you need them to, doesn’t mean they don’t love you the best they know how. -Unknown When last we counted, we have welcomed 20+ kids into our home and family over the years. Some stayed briefly, some stayed for a season, and some became permanent members of our family. We have more baby-mommas and baby-daddies than I can keep track of. We’ve cared for children who experienced the spectrum of abuse, neglect and trauma throughout the years. Some of our kids have come to us in the depths of brokenness, plagued by terrible, depraved memories and haunting nightmares. Others had no clue the terrible conditions they came from weren’t normal or acceptable, deeply grieved and bewildered by the unfamiliar faces and routines of our home. Regardless of the circumstances that resulted in foster care, each child had one thing in common. Their parents loved them. It may have been a messy, broken, not-quite-enough kind of love, but it was love. In the midst of cancelled appointments, no-showed visits, relapse into addiction, or their refusal to follow court-ordered treatment plans, it’s easy to lose sight of that. With my eyes on all the disappointments my children have experienced, I often forget that their birth parents love them. We can quickly get bogged down in the failures and draw the conclusion that some parents must not love their children. That’s just not true.
Just because their love wasn’t greater than the power of addiction, doesn’t mean they don’t love their kids. Just because they couldn’t maintain stability, doesn’t mean they don’t love their kids. Just because they lost hope of ever getting their children back, doesn’t mean they don’t love them. Patty Smyth sang, “There’s a reason why people don’t stay where they are. Baby, sometimes, love just ain’t enough.” The uncomfortable truth is that love simply isn’t enough to keep our kids safe. Love alone isn’t enough to break the cycle of generational dysfunction or heal debilitating mental illness or break the chains of domestic abuse. It takes so much more than love to raise and care for a child. So whether they consent to an adoption or the courts terminate their parental rights against their will, some parents have to say goodbye. We have been there when the gavel fell, court was dismissed, and the room was filled with the sound of heaving sobs. We’ve hugged the neck of a mother who agreed to relinquish her rights to allow us to adopt her babies. We’ve choked back tears watching her walk away after the final “goodbye visit” with mascara streaming down her face. We’ve seen the love evidenced through the pain.
Today I will choose to remember that, despite their failures and shortcomings, there’s love. Just because the way they love isn’t the way I had hoped, or our children needed, it doesn’t change the fact they have loved. And I will choose to remind my children that their birth parents have loved them...the best they knew how.