November 21, 2013

Could You Love a Surprise Package?

Years ago, I read a quote from my old nemesis, Nicole Kidman.

"My kids are adopted," she said, "so they are both surprise packages."

At the time, I didn't have children of my own, so that made perfect sense. If your kids are not your genetic material, then obviously you don't know what you'll get.

But then I had my own babies - three of them, in eight years - and I realised something quite remarkable.

'Natural' children are surprise packages, too.

My son was born the spitting image of his father. He was like someone had taken his dad's head, shrunk it with voodoo, and stuck it on a baby's body. It was weird. And his personality was a lot like his dad's too, only with a bit of his paternal grandfather thrown in for good measure. But of course, he became more and more of his own person, and now, at 14, he is no-one but Himself.

My big girl looks like her late auntie Tanya, and a bit like her siblings, and a little bit like me. In terms of personality, though, she is an outlier in our family. She is cheerful and laid back and easy going and relaxed, and I couldn't have predicted that in a billion conceptions.

As for my five year old, well, she's a maniac. And whilst that's not necessarily strange in itself - I mean, there's a little bit of maniac in me - it is the ways in which she is nuts that surprise me. She chats to chairs and does interpretive dancing in the street and gets massively excited about immunisations. I don't understand her a single bit, which makes raising her all the more fun.

So my point is this: natural children are surprise packages. Which make them not so different to adoptive children, or, for that matter, foster children either. And this is what I was thinking about yesterday, as I attended a Fostering Summit in honour of UN International Children’s Day.

I take my hat off to all those parents who give their love and support and time and energy to children who are not, genetically, their own. I wish more people would do it. Currently in NSW alone 900 new foster carers are urgently needed.

I heard a professor talk about a follow-up study of foster kids at aged 23. Those who did well were the ones who could name someone who had cared for them. Those who were not doing well were the ones who could not. No-one had ever loved them.

This broke my heart.

If you think you could care for a surprise package, make some enquiries. Because all children are surprise packages. Just not all of them are loved.

Note: This is not a sponsored post. I wrote this because I was very moved by what I learned at the summit.


  1. Ive sent this URL to a friend who is at the last of a 5 Interview process for Carer Approval. I think she will make a brilliant foster carer, responsible, genuinely loves kids, a favorite Auntie to friend's kids.
    I was a foster carer myself years ago to 2 girls 3 and 5. The eventual outcome was aweful. Their mother was killed in a murder suicide. When the kids grew up the eldest suicided. I still look back and sob. Not all finish up like this but its a rocky road.

  2. Oh that is terrible. Just dreadful. I don't know them or you but I am in tears just thinking about it. I am so sorry. Thank you for sharing your story. And love x

  3. My kids are wierd as hell and I love their freakiness. I say my kids but I only gave birth to one. I have a step son whos 10. He isnt allowed to see his mum under a court order. She isnt the most charming of women.

    I love my step son like his mine. I say to him 'I may not have given birth to you but I love you like I did'. I'd go into bat for that kid any day and protect him just as fiercely as his brother. He's turning into a teenager which is in itself difficult (Im waiting for the 'you're not my real mum') but you get that.

    Loving kids that arent yours isnt hard.

  4. I know what it is like to feel unloved as a child and it breaks my heart when I see or hear of children without love. Every child deserves love. Foster carers are such special people.

  5. Kathy www.yinyangmother.comNovember 22, 2013 at 6:58 AM

    Kerri - this is very heartfelt and you are very right about the importance of good, loving foster carers for children. The system is wrong in bouncing children back and forth between birth parents and foster carers. In my opinion, it is also wrong in not enabling adoption for children earlier or at all (before little lives are damaged by circumstances and lack of love and permanency). As an adoptive mum I can certainly vouch for how easy it is to love our much-wanted surprise packages. Stories like the one below break your heart - the system has a lot to answer for.

  6. I fostered a little boy on weekends from pre school till grade 4.I wont go into how the system fails these little people because if I start I wont stop.
    I came to know him as I volunteered at my daughters preschool and saw signs of abuse which sickened me.My girl took him under her wing and got continually picked on for it.
    His behavior was shocking at school and so other children wouldn't play with him yet when he came home with us several days a week after school and to stay over on weekends, he was an adorable well behaved little man.He didn't stop eating from the moment he arrived till it was time to go back home.
    I had to stop his care as we moved back to the mainland and also I couldn't take my heart breaking anymore as I watched him continually sent back to his parents.A home where you could not see the floor for all the rubbish on it.He would get his head pushed into the bathroom tiles if his father felt like it.
    Why are the children taken out of their home while the abuser is left there and able to sleep in their own bed?
    HIs grand parents took over where we left off and we would get a phone call here and there.
    The best feeling ever was when he rang me on his 18th birthday to say he was doing an apprenticeship and if it wasn't for our family he wouldn't be where he is now.He said he will never forget what we did for him.
    The best thing he said to me....I love you.
    I always felt we didn't do enough but those three simple words told me that what little we did do did make a difference.

  7. I once heard a woman who worked for Department of Community Services say that she had never met a mother who didn't love her children - it's just that sometimes they don't know how to care for them. Often they are emotionally, intellectually or physically damaged (or all three) and sometimes drugs and alcohol speak louder than maternal instinct. It's very sad.

    Foster carers should have a special place in heaven

  8. A worthwhile post. A friend who works for DOCS tells me that it's so true - they're critically short of foster-carers. It is heart-rending to think of all those little 'surprise packages' in need of nurturing. Thanks Kerri, for this caring message, it helps.

  9. According to the foster parents at the summit a great deal has changed in the past ten years. The four I spoke to all receive a huge amount of support from the system and the other foster parents in their network. But certainly there have been issues.

  10. Beautiful. Thank you for your comment.

  11. Oh Annie. You're very much loved now x

  12. Agree. TINY number of adoptions in NSW. Very sad.


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