Let’s Talk About Legends
I was talking with my mom not long ago about childhood memories and how the stories that get repeated become childhood legends. As I listened to her talk about her childhood stories of going to the cottage every summer—seeing her face light up and the nostalgia in her voice… I started thinking about my own childhood legends. The first one that came to mind is cake. My biological mom loved to bring us cake. We were never celebrating anything…but that didn’t matter. If my biological mom was gone for long periods, she would always come back with one of those McCain Deep’n Delicious cakes from the grocery store. I think it was one of those “I know I’ve been gone for a couple of days but we can pretend I’m a good mom with this” cake. Another memory that comes to mind is making paper airplanes in the kitchen with my biological father and how he used to give me piggyback rides all around the townhouse… up until he left us.
What I learned as a child was not to get my hopes up, because good things do not last. I know I know… how cynical. But hear me out, moving from home to home even when I thought I was in a good foster home, it never lasted. In most of the placements, I wasn’t there long enough to create good childhood stories. At the time I didn’t think I missed out on much. I was just a kid going through the motions of life. Of course, now that I look back, I realize I missed out on a large chunk of my childhood.
That cynical girl I once was started to see some good when I moved into my last home. From our summers at the cottage—going tubing with my siblings, boat rides to Dorset with the family to get ice cream and the family dinners we had every night after a long day of activities, to our annual Easter hunt where my dad would hide a series of clues around the house that my siblings and I would solve until we reached our surprise at the end. Each year my excitement for the hunts grew. For me, it was never about the surprise basket that we found at the end. It was always about the journey to the basket with my siblings and how much fun we had trying to solve each of our clues together. Another legend that comes to mind is our Christmas Eve tradition. Every Christmas Eve we open one present before bed, and it’s always the pajamas we wear Christmas morning.
I could go on about the many memories that I’ve been fortunate enough to make with my family, but I think I’ll end this with a couple of lessons I’ve learned. First, you only get to have legends when you don’t live in care. That sounds awful, but that is the reality for most of us who live in foster care. Parents need to focus more on making good memories for their children and not merely on the material benefits they provide. Your child may not remember every argument, but they will remember the good legends you helped make well into their 20s, 40s, 60s and so on. I’ve also learned to always look for the silver lining in every situation. No matter the horrible things you went through, the good can outweigh the bad, if you let it. I can sit here and dwell on my past and focus on the negativity of it all and never grow from it, or I can take my painful past and use it as an opportunity for teachable moments. I choose to do this every day through my work with the Adoption Council of Canada and my blog with Adopt4Life. My childhood legends will always be cherished. They will be passed down to my children, and my children’s children.
What legends are you making for your children?