Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Dedication to My Brother and the Father He Has Become

Normally, I use this blog space to write about my experiences and lessons learned in the classroom. However, I'm allowing myself to use this as a forum to say some really important things about someone in my life who means the world to me. These are words I can't bring to my lips for they hold so much weight and emotion, so I will put them to screen in the hopes that not only my brother sees them, but all those who are in his same position.

 Anyone who knows me, knows that my family -- especially my siblings -- are everything to me. They are both the roots that keep me grounded and the limbs that lift me up and push me to achieve. My brother, Gabriel, is no exception. He is one of the most important people in my life.  There isn't a day that goes by that Gabe and I don't communicate. No moment in my life that he didn't know about first, or has helped me through. Besides my husband, Gabe is the only other person who I tell everything to.  I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.

One of the most satisfying things about being the oldest has been watching Gabe and my other siblings grow, mature, and accomplish their goals. It's truly beautiful to see how each of my siblings have their own personalities, talents,  and dreams. I am proud to say I have been able to watch Gabe celebrate some of life's greatest moments: graduations, awards, marriage, and most recently parenting.

Yes, my stinky little brother grew up to be a man and a Dad. Gabe and his husband became foster parents and for the past year have been Dads to two beautiful children. This has been the biggest transformation I have ever seen Gabe go through. I know everyone who has children go through a lot of changes- but my brother and his husband literally became parents of an infant and toddler overnight! Now, the tables have turned and the kid who used to call me for advice will be able to hand out his own once my baby is finally born! Life is crazy beautiful in that way.

So, you ask me, why write this? Why dedicate these words to my brother for becoming a Dad when people do it everyday? It's simple. Foster parents don't get the recognition they deserve, and I want the world to know how PROUD and INSPIRED I am by brother and his husband!

Also, there is more to the story.  Unlike myself, my brother's house will not be the permanent residence of his children. He will not be able to watch these little ones grow up and become adults, because they will soon be reunited with their birth parents. As one can imagine, this has been incredibly hard for Gabe and his husband. I am not here to argue the decision the courts have made or to bad mouth the birth parents of these children. I just want to shed light on the selflessness that is fostering.

Now, as I said before, my brother has been a Dad for about a year now. And, although I was always proud of him it wasn't until recently that I was truly able to understand, even just for a moment, the true joy and pain my brother must be experiencing as a foster parent. It opened my eyes to something I thought I already knew -- but in reality was totally ignorant to.

It happened right after my baby shower. I was elbow deep in a laundry basket of newly washed baby clothes, happily folding. The smell of the baby laundry detergent was all around me and I was talking to my husband about how surreal this all still was to me. It was so hard for me to imagine the small human that was soon going to be wearing these clothes and wrapped in the blankets. I  was trying to imagine my daughter's locks of curly hair and how it would feel to touch them with my finger tips, and what her skin would feel like under my kiss -- the final weeks of my pregnancy at that moment felt like an eternity!  Just then, she moved in my stomach, almost in response to my thoughts as if to say, "I'm here mama, don't worry I will see you soon!" Needless to say I was overcome with emotion. I felt this immense sense of gratitude and happiness like I've never known. Not only was I having a baby, but I just had a party where my family and friends showered my unborn child with gifts -- nothing could make the moment better.

I started to think about Gabe and his husband and what they were currently going though. I felt guilty. What did I do to deserve all of this? NOTHING. The process to being a parent was relatively simple for me. I was born a girl. I married a boy. I got pregnant. I didn't have to go through a long process of paper work involving social workers, interviews, and home inspections for this baby, and in the end she will be ours -- no questions asked.

I tried to feel better by telling myself that Gabe and his husband will be able to get another pair of kids, and maybe this time they will be able to adopt them. I was sick with myself. His children are not a leased car that they can turn in for a better model! It all began to hit me. Up until this point, I had felt sad for my brother and his husband. Gabe talked a lot about how hard this process was and what it was doing to his kids. And I sympathized with him, because it was a sad situation, and I love my brother- so his pain was my pain. But it wasn't until this moment as all these thoughts were rushing through my head, holding my daughter's outfit, feeling her move inside of me, was I truly able to empathize with my brother.

This is what I realized, and I couldn't believe I hadn't before this moment. Gabe isn't a foster parent. He is more than that. He is a Father, Dad, Daddy first and foremost and a foster parent second. The children are his son and daughter, not his "foster kids", they call him and his husband Daddy because that's who they are to them. Gabe is an awesome Dad, and so is his husband- but they wouldn't be if they saw themselves as "Foster Parents" and their children as their "Foster Kids." Yes, I know, this is what they signed up for when becoming foster parents. They knew that this day could come -- but that doesn't change the fact that for the past year they have loved and cared for these two adorable beings no differently then they would have if they were their own flesh and blood.

So, I ask you reader, put yourself for a moment in his shoes. Think of your children, or niece or nephew- a child who you love and care for. Now for a moment imagine someone taking away that child... Is it hard to breathe? Do you ache? Or did you not even try to imagine it because it was too hard?

I am sorry to say, it wasn't until I myself started to feel like a mother, did I really see Gabe as a father. It's as if the experiences of my pregnancy lifted a veil from my eyes I didn't even know was there. I haven't met my daughter, and the thought of her not being mine is something I can't even begin to handle. I'm not proud of the fact that it took me this long to see something that was directly in front of me -- but now that I have, it has permanently changed how I see my brother's experiences. My only hope is that people who read this also change their perspective and realize the magnitude of what foster parents may be going through. I know it's hard to always know what to say when faced with a topic such as this, but if there is a level of empathy and understanding- no words are needed.

I know Gabe and his husband are going to have kids who will be theirs forever. They will not give up on their journey, but I understand now, even if it's just by a fraction, how hard this journey may be. So, in this moment of realization I dedicate these words and emotions to my brother and the amazing father he is and will continue to be -- even once his kids leave his home. He will always be a father even once those bedrooms are empty because they will hold the memory of diapers and play dates, runny noses and tear-stained cheeks, baby laughter and first steps. Being a parent is not conditional based on how many children are in the home. These experiences have created parents out of Gabe and his husband, and no amount of syntax and rhetoric can ever take that honor away.