Hello everyone! I hope the new month has started out on a good note and all is well. I wanted to change things up a bit for this post. Sure, I’ll fill everyone in briefly with what’s new with me, but I wanted this post to be about something bigger than that. It’s now May. Most of you may not know this, but May happens to be “Foster Care Awareness Month.” What many of you do know, is that this topic is personal and something that hits home for me. My family has been a foster family for quite some time and many of you have met my little brother Michael. I don’t want this to sound sappy or too cliche, but I simply wanted to use this blog as a medium to raise awareness about foster care and it’s life-changing effect it’s not only had on me, but my family as well. With that being said, I wanted to actually share a paper I had written for my Freshman year English class at Marquette (seems like yesterday). The basis for the paper was to comment on a social issue that needs reform and I wrote about Ella, one of the beautiful foster kids my family took care of. Hope you enjoy it and like I had mentioned earlier, I’ll briefly discuss how this past week went for me at the very end!
My Little Sister Ella
I come from a healthy, happy family of six. We value each other, our health, success, and our time together. Perhaps what brings us closest together however, is our mutual understanding and experience with loss. The last seven years of my life, my family has been a foster family. Besides teaching me how to change diapers, play with little girl dolls, and create huge blanket fortresses in the basement, being a foster brother has taught me lessons, not found in any textbook.
Before I was born, my mother was hoping to name me Annie. She wanted a little girl that she could dress up and do “girly” things with. Well, that plan fell apart when I was born. My mom is the only girl in the house, alongside my dad, my three brothers, a male dog, an adopted little brother, and I. We keep her on her toes. However, in an attempt to alleviate her suffering through Sunday afternoons of football game marathons or crude boy humor at the dinner table, we took in foster girls with the intention to adopt one into our boy-crazy family.
The first foster girl’s name was Ella. She was an adorable African American baby with a mop of bouncing curls and the widest smile I had ever seen. Immediately, she became the princess of our family. She was spoiled, never lacking any attention from her older brothers. I would rush home from school to spend time with her and loved making her laugh and smile. She took her first steps in our family room, blurted out her first words in our kitchen, and took her first tumble down the last few stairs of our basement. Ella was the perfect fit for our family and was the happiest girl in the world. But then things changed.
After taking care of Ella for two amazing years and falling in love with her, her biological father came back into the picture. Although not the most suitable parent (barely having a place to live or finances to support her), he was granted full custody. So, on one Sunday afternoon, we packed up all her toys, clothes, and belongings into the back of the mini-van and drove to our meeting spot, the local Starbucks parking lot. “Pappa Chocolate,” the name he insisted we called him, waited for us outside his old, dingy Cadillac and greeted us with a friendly smile. Anytime Ella would see her dad, she would start crying and grasp my mom’s clothes with a death grip. We gave our last goodbye kisses, exchanged contact information, and said farewell as we watched them swiftly drive away. Pappa Chocolate had promised to stay in touch as he struggled to fasten the squirming toddler into her carseat. The water works turned on in my eyes. I couldn’t control my emotions and broke down as if my world had been crushed. That was the last time I ever saw Ella.
In today’s economic struggle, it is far too common for children to be born into unfavorable conditions. Too many innocent children are left uncared for without proper attention, resources, or opportunities. Although that is the nature of the world in which we live, fostering and adoption provide positive alternatives. Being able to help out temporarily until the biological parents are prepared to take on the task of caring for a child will reduce the amount of orphanage bound kids and abortions. I was able to witness selfless love first-hand through my parents and saw the true power of sacrifice and love. My parents did not see this as a burden, but rather a privilege and a duty to provide a safe and comfortable haven for Ella in which to grow up.
Furthermore, this life-changing event also helped me realize the flaws or shortcomings in the adoption process. The time period it takes for the adoption to become official is too long. Having Ella over two years and then having to let her go wasnot fair for my family or her. She became attached to my mom and our family and would struggle and wail whenever we would meet with her biological father weekly. Ella called me her “brudder” and we considered her the youngest member of the Pothast clan. Disregarding all of these emotional connections, she was whisked away with her biological parent. This leads me to my next concern: just because you are of biological relation, does that mean you deserve custody by default? Not to be stereotypical, but many blameless babies are returned to circumstances plagued by drugs, poverty, and less than desirable living conditions. What would Ella choose if she had the final say? There are a multitude of rights protecting unborn babies in terms of abortions, but once the baby is born those rights diminish. With all facts considered, it’s easy to question: Is the adoption process really out for the good of the child?
Taking care of Ella also made me realize the impact we all can have on the lives of others. There is significance in loving others regardless of how long they are in your life. The truth is, foster care is meant to be temporary. However, that shouldn’t limit the love and compassion given to the children. Beyond foster care, this has applied to the broader spectrum of my life. As I meet new people, I try to love them as much as I would a family member. Making someone smile or laugh can go a long way in the world. Although I will never see Ella again, it is rewarding to know that my family was able to provide a loving environment while she was with us. Those two years were filled with joy, and it is unfair to focus on the heartbreak of the ending. Because, as much as we impacted her little life, she returned the favor ten fold. She made me realize joy in the simple things: I loved to read Dr. Suess books to her and to push her in the swing at the park. It was so easy to retreat back to my childish ways and treat her as my little sister. I would get defensive and protect her from the swarming wasps around her juice box, and I would make sure her neighborhood play buddies would share the toys. It was fun to take her to see Disney World, teach her how to swim and make her giggle uncontrollably. I was proud of her, and Ella made our family unique. I pray for Ella and the other two foster children who are no longer in our house on a daily basis. I hope that they can remember the great times we have shared and that they are living comfortable lives. While these times together were unlike any other, I urge law makers and activists alike to understand and fight for the critical changes needed to create a more child focused system. I will always love Ella and, until the day that I die, I will consider her my little sister.
(Above: Me and my sister, Ella.)
Now that I’ve tugged on your heartstrings a little, let my divulge into some updates. First off, this past week has been nothing short of perfect weather. We have had sunshine and t-shirt/shorts weather for what seems like 10+ days now. I have spent plenty of time outside, cruising the town on my bike, eating lunch/ice cream in town, and just chilling. Matt and I even had the chance to introduce the glorious card game, “Cards Against Humanity” to the Swedes. If you don’t know the game, it’s a hilariously crude game, one that you would never want to play with your parents (to put it nicely). However, it was interesting to play with some of my Swedish friends and have some laughs.
This past Tuesday’s game against Assyriska was a tough one. It ended 1-1 and it was a hard fought battle for both sides. We didn’t play our best, but we will take the point and keep the unbeaten streak alive at 3 games now. It’s a quick turnaround this week as we play again this Saturday against Degerfors at home. That is the team I was lucky enough to score my first 2 professional goals on earlier this campaign, so hopefully history can repeat itself! In the end, I would be completely satisfied with another win. Below are a few pics from the game this week. Junes scored directly off a corner that curled and snuck in at the near post. As you can see, I was pretty pumped about it!
Today is actually a holiday in Sweden. It is Valborg, a holiday to welcome Spring to the country. Last night, many people make huge bonfires, sing songs, dance, and drink a lot of alcohol. This is very similar to the Fyr Ball festivities I have taken part in many times up in Ephraim, Wisconsin. My Valborg was really chill as I was over at Ebba’s parents place again for some burgers on the grill and good conversation. Good times!
That is about it for this post! Sorry for the skimpy updates, but I wanted this post to be one less focussed on me, and one that spoke to more important topics. Time to spend the rest of my off day catching up on Game of Thrones. Thanks for reading and if you can, share this post to spread the word for Foster Care Awareness Month! Be blessed!
(Above: A throwback pic of my adopted brother, lil Mike. Flex those muscles and finish this week strong!)