Adoption and foster care can be lonely. Special needs parenting can be even lonelier. Our families have unique circumstances, needs and stories. Often we are so desperate to share our experience with others that we miss the warning signs that a person is not trustworthy.
A few years ago, I met a lady at the park. A quick look at the slew of children between us showed that we had something unique in common. We both had multi-racial families. I watched her kids curiously across the playground. I sized her up as I counted the children she was minding. One, two, three, four, five. It could be a daycare, or maybe a play-date. I noticed that all five were calling her “Mommy.” My five were swarming around hers thankful for new friends. She struck up a conversation with me as I sat on the park bench bottle-feeding my foster daughter. My initial assessment was correct, she was a foster and adoptive mom.
I jumped at the chance to have a friend. We talked for an hour while our little one’s played.
A few things happened that should have alerted me that this was not a good friend. She gossiped about other families at the playground. She told too many details of her children’s private stories. She asked questions about my children that were blunt and invasive. I felt increasingly uncomfortable but continued to talk with her. I felt I had said too much but I didn’t know how to escape.
This chance encounter led to some very hurtful gossip in my town and eventually within my circle of friends. Some of this person’s hurtful talk made it’s way to one of my teenage daughters. What I thought was a comrade, was really an enemy in disguise. I’ve had to face that woman many times over the years. I vowed I would not be lured into an untrustworthy relationship again. When something like this happens there are 4 steps we can take…
Sometimes we are so thankful to have someone to talk to, we don’t realize we’ve made a mistake until it’s too late. It may be the nosey neighbor or the loose lipped church lady. You may have trusted her because of her listening ear. Maybe you thought he could be a resource for your family. You may not be able to take back what you’ve said but you can refuse to say more. As soon as you realize you’ve placed your trust in the wrong person, stop talking. Stop sharing. You don’t owe that person anything even if it’s a family member. You can begin by determining that you will keep details vague. Answer intrusive questions with simplistic answers. For example, “Janie is doing great, thank you for asking.” Now change the subject, “your garden looks beautiful, how do you get your roses to look so beautiful?”
When a person has lost your trust, sometimes you can walk away and not engage in the relationship again. Sometimes the relationship is with a family member or good friend. If the relationship is worth saving, you will need to confront. This person may not know he or she has even hurt you. This person may be blind to their own insensitivity. Ask them to sit down and talk. Share how the action made you or your child feel. Allow them to ask questions if necessary but stand firm. Use this time to set guidelines for knowledge of your child’s story.
You’ve messed up and so has the other person. First, forgive yourself. Humans desire relationship and humans make mistakes. You are human. Second, forgive the other person even if they do not ask for forgiveness. Third, if necessary seek your child’s forgiveness.
- Try Again.
Not all relationships are bad. Not all people will damage your trust. There are people out there who are on the same journey as you. There are people who will walk through the hard things with you despite the mess. There are people who will love your child no matter what. A real friend will protect your child’s story as they would their own. You can find those people. Take your time and tread with caution. Enter into the next relationship slowly and only allow small bits of your story at first. As time goes on, allow trust to build. Reciprocal, healthy relationships are possible.
Have you or your child ever been hurt by a person you trusted? How did you handle the situation? Were you able to make peace and find healing?
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