What makes a Mother? An Introspective

I spent over ten years of my life caring for and loving a boy that wasn’t mine. He was fostered and very challenging.

Aidan’s mum had been a severe alcoholic who failed in her care of him when his primary carer, his Grandma, died. As a five and six year old he would ride around the street on his bike, knocking on doors asking for food as he couldn’t wake his mother. The Department stepped in and Aidan was placed in foster care.

Profoundly deaf with a cochlear implant, Aidan had other disabilities that were difficult to define and made it hard to find the right placement for him. Two years of moving in and out of the foster care system left him with little function. Some children explode, some implode. I was asked if I would make a long term commitment to him. We had a trial week.

I had been told by his worker that he was saving all his hugs for his mum. In two years that child had received and given few. On his first night with us I told him that the rule was that everyone received good night hugs. He could not get into my arms fast enough. He came to live with us.

When he realised he was safe, he released. I had no idea that so many things could get broken. I had no idea I was attached to so many of the things that got broken. He was mystified by my distress and it became apparent that there was a lot more going on with him that was previously expected. He was eventually diagnosed with a lower than average IQ, memory disorder, language disorder and Autism.

It was so challenging to get him to understand appropriate reactions and to take him step by step to comprehend other’s responses. We made it though. There were times where I thought we would not but I persevered with support from the foster agency. We even made it through the period where he would shove his fist in my face to get what he wanted. Finally he got through school. It felt like a real achievement.

This was my boy and I was so proud of him. He had been calling me “Mum” for years, long before his birth mum died of her alcoholism. Then he met a girl online, a whirlwind romance later he was gone. I have not heard from him for months and the last time I did, he told me that I wasn’t his mum, just his ex foster carer.

You know what, that’s true, and yet it isn’t. I have loved that boy, looked after him, been there for him morning and night and all the hours in between. He cried on my shoulder, I mopped up his tears,taken care of him when he was ill. I explained things to him and helped him work out his rages. I coached him through his confusion and talked with him about girls. Toughest of all, I let him go. To live his life and explore.

I sent ┬áhim a Christmas card that hoped he was happy and dared to ask him to let me know he was safe. Today I received a message that read: “Thanks for the card. BTW DON’T ever say that you are my mother. You are my FOSTER MOTHER.”

I ask you, what’s the difference?

Wellbeing: A Musing

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Today I travelled with my colleagues on Puffing Billy then coffee and lunch and more coffee. Along the way we hung out the train, waived at every passer by and laughed at ourselves. The youngest of us is 30.

It was a wellbeing day for our office. Working in welfare and community development can be taxing. I am always intensely grateful that I get to work in an area that I find interesting and get paid for it. I have been struggling of late, as Christmas looms, to think of good things, so this wellbeing day has been timely.

How often do we get to go out with our colleagues to be social and human, without alcohol or workshops, or both? I got to see a different side to everyone. Some much more silly than I have ever seen. Others far more taciturn than I knew they could be. A good bit of fun teasing and for a moment just being people, not co-workers. Much appreciated.

It did make me think though of all those people who never develop such camaraderie or work in places that foster its development. It made me think about the many people who don’t like the work they do or can see no value in it. It made me think about the people who work so hard and see so little for their efforts. How lucky are we that we get to work, see results, be able to write and fight for them? Everything that we work so diligently for is what our current government is working diligently to erode.

Then again we have the education and the articulation to express and fight back. We are not standing in front of tanks or laying down across roads to make our points. Still it is wonderful to live in a country where I can find work that is meaningful and co-workers who share my dreams for our communities. I will count my blessings and for this I am grateful.

That is all.