I remember when I first started watching The Fosters—I couldn’t stop. Every lunch break was spent watching the next episode on Netflix. Set in San Diego, California, the show follows Stef Foster and her wife, Lena Foster, who adopt four children from the foster care system while parenting Stef’s biological son from a previous marriage.
But this is not a Hollywood depiction of foster care and adoption. Nope. It’s bigger. The Fosters gets it.
Most of this world does not understand why people like myself and my wife choose to foster and adopt. Even those who have something to do with the journey often miss the reality of it. Over the years, I’ve come across many television shows and movies that have attempted to portray foster care and adoption. I’ve turned many off, shaking my head and wondering when someone will get it right. The reality of this journey is so much more than many storylines are able to capture, or accurately display.
The foster and adoptive journey is messy. Real messy. It is loss, tragedy, darkness, hope and beauty all bunched together in one life. It’s far from the perfect picture of family that we often see in television and movies. It’s real life — a glorious, amazing life, I might add.
In the pilot episode, when Lena first meets Callie outside of the juvenile detention center, the pain portrayed on Callie’s face instantly took me back eight years to my daughter’s painful, tear-soaked face when we drove away from a visitation center. Her birth mom failed to show up for the third time in a row.
The hard conversations Stef and Lena wrestle through, with their daughter who doesn’t want to visit her birth mother, have played out in real life in my home. We’ve walked through the tragedy of those same conversations. We’ve held our broken, hurting children as they attempted to cope with the deep loss of what was supposed to be, or what they fantasized. We’ve spent many sleepless nights awake with a child so deeply traumatized we were unsure if we’d ever sleep again.
We’ve laughed and cried, hoped and dreamed, mourned and celebrated with our children on this journey. We’ve rejoiced over the simple milestones our children have reached, as well as danced a happy dance when something has filled them up and made them glow.
This is real life. We celebrate the beauty and diversity of our family. We marvel at our children’s talents, and passions. We wouldn’t trade the tragedy or the triumph because they make us who we are—and finally, a show on television reflects that.
In honor of Foster Care Awareness Month, Babble has teamed up with Freeform to share the stories of foster families everywhere. To share your story as part of the #FostersFamilyStories campaign, click here.
Originally published on Babble
Photo courtesy of author