On the family you choose.

One day, three years ago, around about now, my middle child (Blue) told me about her friend (Chipmunk).  I had met her before, and I liked her well enough, but boy, was she hard work.  Chipmunk was a chronic runner, took off from everywhere she was placed.  She lived a street smart, book avoidant life.  She used illicit drugs, earned her money however she could and was mostly alone in the world.  She has a family, but for all the myriad reasons that families sometimes don’t provide what you need, she didn’t have a whanau.

Blue was worried for her friend.  Chipmunk was pregnant, just 16, and had been drying out in a CYPFS facility throughout her pregnancy.  She was at high risk of not getting to keep her child.  She was resistant to the support her family was willing to offer, and Blue feared that if she went ahead with the current plan, she would run back to her old life, and never recover if she lost her child as a result.  Blue’s fears were real.  And because I was a young mum, because I raised my kids to offer help when they saw it needed and promised to have their backs,  because I believe everyone deserves a second chance, I said we would do what we could to help.

A few weeks later, a baby boy was born.  And we offered to help.  Initially we thought that might look a number of different ways, but the more we talked to Chipmunk and her family and her support workers and her social workers and her lawyers, the more we realised that it would have to be all or nothing.  So, she moved in with us, and her six week old baby, just a few short weeks after he was born.

And she changed our family, forever.  My son gained a new sister, and a baby nephew.  Blues relationship with her best friend changed to a deeper more integral visceral relationship, and they all but co parented the baby.  I gained all the joy and heartache of another daughter, and got to experience the joys of grandchildren from a once removed position.  My husband did too, though he will to this day argue that he didn’t, because he is a hard ass like that.

I cannot even begin to express the pride I have in everything my extra daughter has achieved.  She kept her baby, she got a qualification, worked hard, stayed clean.  She rebuilt her relationship with her original family in a way I don’t think any of us ever thought possible.  She fought through a check list of restrictions and proofs to gain full and legal custody of her son, and she pursued a conviction against a violent partner.  She did all of this before she turned 20.

She totally screwed up sometimes, just like we all do, and she can curse like a sailor.  She has made some decisions which I have questioned her on and I am sure she will continue to.  She got a couple of really tacky tattoos, and at least one infected piercing (though, she has many more fantastic pieces which tell the story of who she is on her skin like this blog tells the story of who I am). She chose some dodgy boyfriends.  But then, who hasn’t?

Most importantly, though, she has changed ME, as a woman, as a midwife, as a mother.  she has taught me so much about how to be a better person, in such a short time.  She gave me the courage to have fun exactly how I want to, in a way that I never did before I knew her.  she built my confidence in myself as a person in ways she will probably never understand.  She showed me what I was doing wrong as a mother, as well as what I was doing right.  She reminded me to come to people where they are in a work context as well as in life.

She made my life better, which is something I never thought would happen when Blue asked me for my advice and support three years ago.

So, Chipmunk, if you are reading this.  You know I love you. You know I am proud of you.  You know, nothing will ever stop me from having your back, or loving that gorgeous, smart boy you are raising.  Whatever choices you make, I will always listen to your thought process and I will always try to be the best “not Mum” I can to you.  Thank you, for everything you brought into my world and my life and thank you for being my family, even when you hated it.  I know  things are challenging again right now, and I know that you feel on the cusp of important changes.  I have faith in  you.  You will do okay, whatever you choose.  And we will love you.  No matter what.

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