Humbling Mom Moments

Humbling mom moments happen to us all. As a foster parent it’s important to extend grace when we don’t know the whole story.

My Usual Personality

I’m usually pretty good about avoiding that “open mouth, insert foot” feeling. I’m an internal processor and by nature someone that extends a lot of grace. If someone is frustrated or upset, I’m at least internally playing devil’s advocate. I have a really hard time anticipating the worst of people. It drives my husband nuts. But I can’t help it, I’m an enneagram 9 and always offering up what others may be feeling or their perspective. So a moment where I put my foot in my mouth doesn’t happen often because I’m USUALLY pretty patient in getting all the information and background before making a judgment or comment. Unfortunately, I’m still not 100% immune to it. 

Quiet Christmas decorating with our sweet Maddie.
Planning Magical Moments

During the 2022 Christmas season our family was blessed with a package of tickets to attend a Polar Express experience at the Dennison Depot. Our local Fostering Love group had tipped us off that the Depot was offering tickets to children in foster care so they could participate in this magical experience. We reached out and they were incredibly accommodating and welcoming to our kiddos as we set up the experience for them. 

As a family of 6, this was not something we would have been able to budget on our own, so we were incredibly thankful at the opportunity to take all the kids together so they could have this shared experience in a season that was wrecking our home with grief and longing for normalcy. We waited until the morning of our tickets and surprised the kids. They were so thrilled and we working hard to make it a special memory for them. We got them dressed up in their Christmas PJs, listened to Christmas music on the way, and hyped up some of the things they would see while adding wondrous mystery to other parts. 

Snuggles while waiting to board our train!
The Train Ride

We got to the Dennison Depot and saw the joy on their faces. We waited in line with anticipation, building excitement. When we got to our train cars, it was almost impossible to contain them any longer. The kids were wild with joy and having a blast. As we settled in, we did our best to have our “chat” about respecting others, being good listeners, and having fun. When the ride started, I started to find myself getting agitated. I couldn’t place it at first, but I realized I was having a hard time hearing things due to a kiddo in the seats behind me. Typically this wouldn’t bother me at all. I’m typically the one that gives the encouraging smile to the mom with the kiddo crying during church or responds playfully when a kiddo is acting out and bumps into me in public while reassuring the parent that I’m fine and that kids are kids. 

I think in this scenario it was a peek of that protective mama bear coming out. Our kids had lost so much, I wanted to give them this special experience. I wanted it to be perfect for them and this kiddo was obviously not old enough or capable of this kind of outing. They were tired and whiny and shouldn’t have been expected to sit though this event. I’m sure being cooped up in a train car did not help my frustration. We were all tied to our specific seats with no way out other than just letting the train get to its destination. Thankfully, my introversion and strong aversion to any conflict kept me from saying anything. Our evening ended. The kids had a great time. I forgot about screaming kiddo in the row behind me. All was well. 

A Familiar Face

The next day we had a Friendsgiving event scheduled with our local Fostering Love group. We had recently started attending their events and were starting to get to know other families. We connected with some friends and the kids had a great time. As the event was winding down I saw a familiar face across the room. It was the mom of that kiddo behind us on the Polar Express. 

I felt about 3 inches tall. Of course they were another foster family. Of course that sweet mama was trying to give that same gift of a special and memorable experience to her kiddos. That precious little kiddo was overstimulated and overtired and many of the things I assumed, but I missed the perspective that with that child was a mom just like me. She was trying to provide this special experience to a kid that has already lost more than any child should. I was so humbled. I’ve felt the personal sting of these kinds of judgements from parents that just don’t understand the weight of parenting kiddos like the ones we have, so I should have been more compassionate and patient.

Scenes from our Polar Express trip!
Admitting My Judgment

Over time, we got to know that mom and her husband. We ran into them at a conference a couple months later and were having a great conversation. As we were about to move on and get seated for the next session, I had to tell her. I admitted my judgmental experience on the train to her. Then I told her how humbled it made me to see her again in the context of our fostering group. She was gracious and laughed with me. She shared how she hadn’t thought through how hard the experience would be on her little one. 

The overall experience has reminded me that everyone has way more going on than we could ever know. Even if the kiddo on the train was not another foster child, there are still countless explanations that would have softened my heart to the situation. Desiring good things for the kiddos I’m caring for is not a bad thing. However, it was not right to pass judgment on another family when I don’t know the whole story. In the end, my kids never gave the crying kiddo a second thought. That situation didn’t bother them one bit and had no impact on their magical experience. It would serve me best to learn from them by being present in the moment and extending grace to those around me. 


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