When my family began their journey with the foster care system, I heard the saying "you don't need to share DNA to love someone unconditionally." While I believe it wholeheartedly, I didn't know what to expect when it came to loving foster sibilings as much as my real sibilings. I reassured my mom time and time again that I would love the new additions to our family, but I figured it would be something I have to work at. I have five sisters who already take up a lot of space in my heart, I didn't know if I would have enough love to give to whomever else came to stay with us, especially because you never know how long they are going to stay. These doubts and questions came simply from not knowing what to expect. We had never gone through this before and I had no idea how my entire family was going to react.
It took all of about 10 minutes after meeting my foster brothers to realize that those were the stupidest doubts in the world.
This summer I came home from Italy to find my room occupied by two tiny humans. I found my parent's usually clean living room cluttered with children's toys, sippy cups, and baby gates. I found that my family of 8 had expanded to a family of 10, and I got to meet my two foster brothers who would come to change everything about my life in the next couple months. Instead of coming home, relaxing, and sleeping in like I had planned on, I was woken up everyday to J* sitting at the end of my bed asking if it was time to play yet. I spent my days chasing M* around the house, playing soccer outside, changing diapers, reading bedtime stories, and cuddling on the couch with Cartoon Network in the background. Instead of my head being filled with doubts about the foster care system and the way my family would react, I spent the summer falling in love with my new family and becoming completely enamored with two little boys. Loving them unconditionally wasn't something I had to work at and I realized how much love I still had to give and receive even though I already had 5 sisters. I don't think of those two little boys any differently than I think about my other sibilings. I don't have two foster brothers, I have two brothers. My love for them isn't temporary, it will be forever whether or not they stay with us forever. I didn't know how completely a 7 and 1 year old could change my life, but they filled my already very happy life with a new light and joy that I am so unbelievably lucky to have.
My family being in the foster care system has been a whirlwind of emotions and at times it feels like a roller coaster that just won't stop throwing us curves. It is a day to day battle not knowing how much longer we get to spend with my little brothers. It is a life full of tearful phone calls, endless prayers, and a blind faith that this will all work out the way it is supposed to. Our new life pulls me up, down, and all around and yet every monday when J calls me after school to tell me what he got on his spelling test, it is all worth it. Getting to show the boys Marquette and hearing J tell me he is going to come here one day just like me, makes it worth it. The phone calls that get cut short because M is running up the stairs or feeding the dogs and my mom has to catch him, make it worth it. The family picture that sits on my desk, the one with all of us smiling and the knowledge that this is the happiest my family has been in a very long time, that's worth it.
J and M have taught me more in the last 4 months than I have learned in my first 20 years of life. You don't need to share DNA to love a sibiling, and your heart is big enough to be filled with love for as many family members as you want. It's okay to be scared of what will happen in the future, as long as you continue to laugh and cherish today.
***names have been edited out for legal reasons within the foster care system