Before He Called Me Mom

When K first came to us in November 2017, I remember feeling awkward and weird when TJ was driving, I was in the passenger seat, and Kendrick was in the back. What on earth do we talk about? What is he thinking? Are we overdoing it? Am I doing this right? 

Since the goal of foster care is reunification (but K's parent's rights had been terminated), and the second goal is uniting kids in foster care with families, we had to prepare our hearts for two outcomes. He could stay with us forever OR he could go with biological family in Florida. But we decided long before any kids entered our home that we would love all kids with the same love because foster love is the same as adoption love is the same as birth love because it's just God's love - poured out on whoever is in our reach and for however long He places them there.

"Foster parent" is an odd role to play in the life of a kid. You are their parent in the sense that you are loving them and laying your life down for them and making dinner and buying them what they need. But you are not their parent biologically. So one of the main things people ask me is "What do they call you?"

We decided that since we have no biological kids, we would encourage any kid that entered our homes to call us "Karly" and "TJ." This would distinguish us from other adults in their lives that they usually call by "Mr." and "Miss," but still not take away from the endearing and special names that belong to their biological parents (again, if the goal is reuinification).

So, when we adopted K, the name "mom" didn't come very easily. Kendrick knew is biological mom for 8 years of his life. He loves her. We encouraged him to call us mom and dad, but he told us that he just wanted to call us by our names. And we were okay with that, though I will admit that it did sting a bit. It was TJ's idea to start calling ourselves mom and dad until Kendrick was ready to do it himself. To be honest, "mom" was a title I was hesitant to accept. It felt foreign and weird and just not right to me. I knew that I was a mom, but it felt like I was stealing an identity that was not yet mine to take, especially when the kid I loved - my kid- wasn't even ready to call me mom yet.

People would ask me, "Does he call you mom yet? I'm praying for that for you." And I, teary-eyed, would respond, "No, but thank you."

At that point, I didn't even pray that for myself yet. I still didn't feel ready.

I didn't realize until the last few weeks that it was bothering me, so I started praying about it. But I was nervous to bring it up to K. I thought maybe I would get the same response: "No, I just want to call you by your real names."

But one day, after he light-heartedly made a joke about calling TJ "Daddy," I brought it up.

"Hey bud- you think you would want to start calling us mom and dad for real?"


I was shocked. It couldn't be that easy. But it was.

I was pleasantly surprised that when he said, "Goodnight, Mom" to me every night this week, I felt a joy similar to the joy I felt on my wedding day. Yes, I was already his mom. But now he was choosing to call me that. It didn't feel weird like I thought it would. It felt right.

I think what made me feel weird in the first place was that I didn't believe that "mom" was my identity. What I failed to realize was that God had given me the name "mom" long before Kendrick entered our home.

Having a baby isn't the only way that you become a mom.

I became a mom when I decided to mother - to lay my life down, to sacrifice, to make dinners without onions, to buy hot chips, to sit through basketball practices, to drive and play and to love without condition.

But these situations, these circumstances, these choices - they're not what gave me the name, "Mom."

Jesus did - before the foundation of the world.

For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10

A long time a go, Jesus gave me a new name. I was lost in my efforts to be perfect. I wanted the credit, the glory, the praise. I wanted to be known. I was anxious, worn-out, and dead-set on doing it on my own. When I decided to follow Jesus, He gave a me some new names: Loved, Restored, Redeemed.

But he also gave me the name Mom. Long before K chose to call me that, God planned for me to open my home to kids who need one, to paint a chalkboard wall in one of our bedrooms, to endure the awkward car rides to CPS, to be a mom.

So, some encouragement:

Foster Mamas - Whatever your kids in your home call you, you are a Mom. Even when people who don't understand, ask you weird questions, and make you feel uncomfortable about your role in these kids' lives, you are their mom for whatever amount of time they are in your home. Own your role. Be a mama, no matter what anyone else may call you or think of you. God planned these good works for you way in advance. So go get it, mama.

Adoptive Mamas - If your kids don't feel comfortable calling you Mom yet, remember that their name for your does not determine who you are. Jesus does. Long ago, he planned the good works you would do and who you would be. Rest in knowing that Jesus called you mom before your children ever did. He loves you and He is walking with you in every stinging pain that you feel when all you want is to be called by the name God already gave you. He is there, and He is your identity.

{Oh, and you're allowed to pray and take action. It's okay to wait to be called mom and it's okay to ask for it right away and it's okay if they never call you mom. No matter what your circumstance, remember that in the waiting and the in-between, Jesus is with you}

All Mamas - Your identity is not in being a mom. Your identity is in Jesus. Abide in Him and in His love above all. Rest in the knowing that He is for you and He loves you, and that will overflow into your love for your kids.

Side note: I wrote this blog post over a year ago when K started calling us "mom" and "dad," but didn't know I would need the encouragement again after adopting our daughter. God is good and provides what we need exactly when we need it.

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