Saturday, September 27, 2008

Loving Them

I am very skeptical of my own feelings of love for my kids -- especially when they are new.

Partly this is because of the sort of person I am. I analyze stuff. I analyze myself. Sometimes this is an asset. It helped me in my therapy because once someone helped me understand that some of my emotional responses were "re-feeling" of childhood feelings, I was able to reflect and identify those feelings and go through the process. Sometimes it is a disadvantage. It can mean that I am never fully engaged in something. Some part of me is always watching. I have trouble feeling relaxed and just having a good time. The point, though, is that I think about why I feel what I do.

The reason I am skeptical of my loving feelings is that I know how quickly most of us, especially perhaps those of us who do this work, have them for kids. We fall in love with profiles. Heck, we fall in love with photographs. It is primal. It is normal, and the feelings themselves are real. The thing is, we, or at least I, don't really love the child as much as our idea of the child. It isn't until that real person replaces the profile that we really love that child.

So I get all these warm and fuzzy feelings about kids and I separate myself from them. I pull away.

It is a way of protecting my heart, but I also feel that it is a way of respecting them. In college I didn't go out with this one boy a second time because he thought he was in love with me after one date. I knew he didn't KNOW me. I didn't know who he was in love with, but it wasn't me. It was all just too freaky. So I guess I expect the kids to have the same sort of reaction to foster parents declaring love for them immediately. How can we love them when we don't know them?

So I wait, not letting myself admit that I feel what I feel until I also believe that I know them.

'Cept you know what? There is not sharp line you pass from not knowing them to knowing them. There is no day when they stop being on guard, anxiously on their best behavior, and start being their real, flawed lovable selves. There is no day when the love I feel for them feels different from the day before. Love deepens, changes, grows, but it does so slowly.

I think that is why I enjoy it when they start breaking a few rules. There is this sub-text that happens. They do something they know they shouldn't. I get mad. At some level they are thinking, "Okay, so now you know I'm not you still want me?"

And I get to answer, "Yes. I do. I still want you. I love you."

And I really do.

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