From Consumer to Contributor - Fostering Responsibility in Our Kids

It was time to go to the dentist again. With some fear and a tad of hesitation, we took our two boys to see their beloved Dr Hsu, the dentist who had been with them from the very beginning. I can count with the fingers from more than one hand the number of minor admonishments we have had over the years from our dear dentist; a man as gentle with the teeth as he is firm with dishing out advice. And we have heard it all - from asking the father to brush and floss the boys' teeth more regularly, to playfully reminding the children's grandaunt to stop supplying them with sweets. So this time it was no different. I entered the room and waited as Dr Hsu examined the boys' teeth. The verdict would be out soon; and I lowered my eyes in anticipation of the words I expected to hear.

Our kind "tooth doctor" Dr Hsu. The kids always look forward to the little rewards they get at the end of each session.
"Both boys have done a good job this time!" Dr Hsu remarked happily. "They seem to be brushing their teeth and flossing them very regularly," he observed. 

I was almost in shock at this favourable dental report; I believe it was the first time ever that both boys had been praised in such a manner. So I casually told Dr Hsu that these four months have been very hard due to our recent fostering escapades, and that I have had no time to monitor the boys' dental habits so closely. Yet they had managed to do so well in their dental hygiene.

It has not been easy having four boys in the house; especially two toddlers who seem to be demanding everything day and night.
Dr Hsu looked at me intentionally, and as he began to speak, his words seemed to pierce the air in a deliberate yet gentle manner.

"Dental hygiene is a reflection of your whole being," he remarked. "When you take care of your teeth, you demonstrate an overall responsibility that reflects the person whom you are." 

The dentist's words sliced through the air like a thin, sharp knife. 

Dr Hsu asked us how long we have been fostering, and calculated the timing of our last dental appointment. He then made one very interesting observation, "Both your boys have grown in their desire to be responsible; and that is a tangible outcome of your fostering work. Before they were letting others take care of their dental hygiene, but now they have taken on the responsibility to care for themselves. Before they were consumers of love, but now they are contributors of love." 

It was surreal to listen to our dentist praising our sons and describing them as "contributors of love". These are our two young boys; and these brothers fight with each other all day, sometimes whining when they struggle with their school work or at the beginning of a long car journey. But deep down I knew that Dr Hsu was right. Both Z and E have been a great help in our family's fostering journey. In fact, I have commented to various individuals that if our kids had not agreed to partner with us in the fostering journey, that we would not even decide to proceed.
Both our kids have taken the role of "big brother" very seriously and they are our constant source of help and support.
The current fostering placement has not been easy; and we have been exhausted with the day to day care of our young charges. There are times when we struggle and ask ourselves if we should even go on. So we ask our kids for their opinions, and the answer is clear. Our older son Z is resolute in his decision. He told us that while it may be hard to care for our foster kids, but since there is no one else able to care for them, he felt we need to take care of them. For our younger son E, he admitted that it has been a hard time. But he said that as long as we get regular rest, and that we have some respite from foster care once in a while, that he was agreeable to press on to care for them. 

Our boys have grown.

As I write this post, I am filled with gratitude at the persons they have become. When Sue and I first decided to foster, we never expected the extent to which fostering would have an impact on our family. And despite the numerous challenges we have faced during the almost two years of fostering, we know that we would not have it any other way. There are so many broken people with a plethora of needs in the world; and just to be able to make a difference to the few who come into our care - that's good enough for us. We know that we are making a difference one child at a time; one family at a time; and that's sufficient. 
Fostering has changed our lives drastically. It's not just about caring for the foster kids' day to day needs; it's also about teaching them valuable habits and life skills that would change the trajectory of their lives forever.
What's more than enough for us is if our kids can understand and be on the same page as us; growing in their empathy for others and making decisions that would change the world they live in - that's more than what we can expect for as their parents. 

A "contributor of love". That's what we desire for our children. We want them to see the world as God sees it; to give food to the hungry and shed tears for those who are broken and without a family to call their own; we want them to love the people who are cast aside and are seen by society to be unlovable.

After all that's what fostering is all about. And that's why we choose to foster.

The Lim Family 2020. We know that no matter how hard fostering may be; that we are called to do this, and that's all that matters.

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