Back during my dating years, I remember yearning for a good DTR (define the relationship) talk anytime things felt loosey goosey with a fella.

I always preferred to go ahead and show my cards and see his. Am I your friend, your date, your girlfriend? Let’s honor our relationship (whatever it might be or not be) and name it.

Now in the foster care years, relationships get complicated in new ways.

So much is in limbo that necessarily we can’t define much. But we can name names.

And to our dear foster boys, mine is simply “Liz.” My husband’s, “Jonathan.”

Which can be messy when strangers or acquaintances happen upon us with our foster kids. Being the adult female with two young children, understandably, the word “mom” is often used casually to refer to me.

But it isn’t casual for any of us.

I quickly jump in to replace the word with my name or a generic “friend” reference. Desperate to show the boys I don’t want to replace their mom or force a relationship boundary that hasn’t been crossed.

Some days though, afterwards, as I tuck them in to bed, I remember.  I pause.

Thinking over all the mom moments I had. Kissing and bandaiding their booboos. Fighting the good homework fights. Chasing and tickling these precious boys.

It’s ok to not be called “mom.” I don’t expect it or even suggest it. But I ache knowing that they don’t have that right now. Their “mom.” That they share these memories only with me. With Liz.


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  1. G

    I used to tell one foster placement — a little boy aged 3 or 4 — that I was “his MyName” whenever he struggled to place me in his constellation of family members. (Usually happened when he slipped and called me “mom” and his older sister (aged 7 or 8) would rush to correct that I wasn’t his mom.) I thought it helped him to put the possessive in front of it; “I may not be your mom, but I am yours.”

    • Liz

      Very generous. Some days I’m definitely not. But together we are all better. I’m thankful for you and your encouragement!

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