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.