For some of you, the following is familiar. Nevertheless, it’s still worth putting on the old blog, I think, and not just on Facebook. Feel free to share. . .
The lady in front of you at the grocery store has several kids. Maybe they are closer in age than you think is good family planning. Her cart is full of things like juice, regular milk, formula, and Cheerios. And just barely any fruits or vegetables. It’s not really your idea of a cart filled with nutritious food.
She seems a little overwhelmed as she unloads her groceries, pulling out these little blue checks. She uses several dividers on the conveyor belt, and her baby starts to scream.
“Great,” you think. “I got in the wrong line.”
The checks seem to be some sort of state assistance, which is weird because she actually looks like she might have some money. She half-smiles at you in an apologetic sort of way, and you notice her bag is brand-name and she is toting an iPhone.
“Great,” you think. “My tax dollars are paying for this lady’s food, who apparently also should learn family planning. She can’t feed her kids, but she’s got a Coach bag and smartphone.” As much as you think of yourself as a nonjudgmental person, you can’t help but feel annoyed by the whole thing.
As the transaction progresses, and one item refuses to go through, the baby is screaming, and she’s fumbling for a blue pamphlet of some sort, you sense her annoyance is growing. As it should. Because she’s a brand-new foster mom and the whole situation feels a little overwhelming at the moment.
Her foster baby can’t handle lots of stimulus but everything is taking so long he’s having a meltdown. She just had her first WIC appointment where she felt horribly out of place.
She has no idea why the “natural peanut butter” that seemed to be in the pamphlet won’t go through. She spent a good ten minutes looking up peanut butter alone. (Turns out it won’t work because it’s labeled peanut butter “spread,” not just “peanut butter.”)
Rather than spend $8 in juice, she would much rather have that amount in fresh fruit. In fact, she would much rather her whole shopping cart be full of fresh foods …. Rather than the measly $8 in fruits and veggies she receives a month from the state.
She can’t tell anyone details on the baby, or why he’s melting down at the moment, and it’s not from bad parenting. (At least, not HER bad parenting.) Yet she can feel your questions and accusations as you stare at her hand bag and business clothes.
She is embarrassed and feels ashamed, although she doesn’t know why. She just signed up to love on a baby as though he were her own, running interference on any of the issues that might arise from his abuse or neglect. She had no idea that she would feel the weight of a thousand eyes on her as she pulled out his state assistance, or fed him a bottle in public (because, you know, breast is best), or used his Provider One card at the doctor’s office.
She signed up to love and sacrifice. She just didn’t know that a trip to a grocery store (or anywhere in public) would be met with such judgment and feelings of embarrassment.
Finally, in a huff, she just tells you “I’m sorry. I’m a foster mom, and this is all new to me. Thanks for your patience.”
And suddenly, you realize appearances aren’t everything.
In fact, they rarely mean anything at all.