I encourage Princess to talk about it. I want to know everything I missed out on - good, bad and mundane.
I look for ways to show her I'm listening and that it is okay to think about her past. Sometimes it's a big gesture, like letting her have a Facebook at 12 years and 2 months old when I have been adamant that there's no way she could have one until she's 13.
I made contact with her oldest sister's foster mother about six months ago with the help of case workers. She's been with the same foster family almost since they entered the foster system - she only had one other set of foster parents and that was for a short amount of time. She's been with them for seven years and although they haven't adopted her (and I'm not sure why), they clearly consider her their daughter. She' continue living with them when starts college next year.
She started sending little messages to Princess through my Facebook account or texting her to my phone. They don't discuss anything about their past or anything deep at all. It is all short little interactions about their daily lives. I've been monitoring it closely and watching how Princess responds. The contact has been good for her.
So I let Princess set up her own Facebook account to make the contact easier. This sister is six years older than Princess. She was the caretaker of the younger children and received the brunt of the abuse. She's not willing to discuss any of that now, but she's the key to Princess one day possibly receiving information about her biological family, her first four years and what she was like as a small child. Hopefully someday her sister will be able and willing to share.
I also acknowledge her past in ways that seem small to me, but I quickly see are huge to her.
Princess asked to buy herself a fish with her own money last weekend. She settled on a baby beta fish. She named him Spike. I ran in to a sub shop to pick up some lunch on our way home from the pet store. She stayed in the car with Spike.
I was excited to see these chips:
She's told me about lemon flavored chips she used to love in Texas. We've never seen them for sale here.
Her face lit up when I got in the car and asked her if these were the ones. However, it wasn't the chips that made her happiest. It was that I paid attention.
"You remembered! I can't believe you remembered! I feel so loved! Thank you, Mommy!"
They were the right chips and she still likes them. I found them to be pretty gross.
She's also talked about a party one of her foster parents had where there was a baby hidden inside a cake. It's one of her few really positive memories of foster care. I recently wrote an article about Mardi Gras party planning and realized she must be talking about a King cake. Guess what Princess and I will be making next month? I'm going to surprise her with it on a weekend.
We talk about her first parents and her hurt and confusion regarding their inability to care for their kids. We talk about her siblings and how much she misses them, even though she doesn't really remember them. We talk about things she misses about Texas like flaming hot chips and wildflowers. She's shared some of the hard stuff in bits and pieces. She knows she can talk about any of it any time she wants.
It's her past and it didn't get erased when she came to live with us.
I asked her the other day if she still misses Texas. She's lived in Florida almost three years, but she lived there for nine. She said,
"I miss some things about Texas, but Florida is my home now. Home is where you and Dad are."