Foster Parenting and Playing Pretend

 Photo by Kara DiCarlo

Photo by Kara DiCarlo

Yesterday at my gym we had a partner workout. As my partner and I, strangers before today, traded off at the barbell, we made joke excuses for our poor performance by complaining about our kids keeping us up all night. Whether that was the real reason for my bad lifting or not, it was fun to joke around with another father for a little while.

But in the back of my mind was a fear that I would be discovered as a fraud. You see, I didn't tell him my kids were foster kids.

That's partially because it isn't always appropriate to bring it up. But a lot of the reason is I want to feel like a normal dad, and that's easier with strangers than with friends who know our situation.

In February of this year, a 2-year-old and her 5 1/2 month old sister came to live with us. In that time, my wife and I have absolutely become their parents. Last week, I took our now almost 3-year-old (we call her Dubs online) to gymnastics class. As I carried her into class, she wrapped her arms around my neck and said "My Dada." Unprompted. I melted.

So while I feel like dad to these girls a lot of the time, there are frequent moments that remind me I'm not. A court hearing. A visit with a biological parent. Not being able to share my most recent adorable family picture on Instagram (I know that's lame, but it's sad not to join in with peers doing the same thing). Even a kind friend asking if we're going to be able to keep them (we still have no idea at this point) can be hard at times1.

So I find myself creating moments to help me forget. Whether it's a conversation at the gym, or speaking to the girls a little too loudly in Kroger to seem like their real dad (which I doubt is ever in question to begin with), these times are life giving for me. They temporarily free me of the anxiety brought by knowing what tomorrow will bring for our little family.

So forgive me if we ever meet and I don't disclose that my kids aren't technically mine, or if I'm a little obnoxious playing with them in public. I'm trying to make this strange and at times difficult situation feel a little more normal.

  1. Don’t read that as you shouldn’t ask! We always appreciate people asking. ↩︎