Growing up in foster care I saw a different side to life. Almost as if I was on the outside looking in, I saw friends families behave in all sorts of ways, this helped me form my beliefs on what a family means to me. I have seen it all. Good, bad, and the ugly. I will, however ALWAYS count myself to be blessed as far as my experience goes while a crown ward in the system. Today, I look at our family and feel strength and a strong sense of belonging. For me, I was born a Ferrier, raised a Needham, but I found my place in the Robinson’s family. It is difficult to put into few words the impact, since there have been ripples upon ripples in my life where the Robinson’s have had a hand in shaping my hopes and dreams.
I first started seeing the Robinson family sometime in early 2004, on weekends to give my then foster mom, Patricia Needham, a break. I first met Danielle, my little sister, and the Robinson’s oldest child, when she was 5 years old. Even still to this day, we both will share a bag of Nib’s Licorice candy as a nostalgic way of bonding and remembering the first words she spoke to me the day I was moving in: “Want some Nibs?” barefoot and in her summer dress, red hair wild eating her candy treats. Cassandra, the youngest daughter, was only a newborn when I first met, and when I became a “full time sister” that summer, I would later rock her and soothe her to sleep. The first baby I ever really got to take care of.
With the Robinson’s I had a sense of place, a responsibility within the family. I wasn’t just “serving my time” till I was out of foster care, I was growing and living my life in a meaningful way with as much support as Amanda and Mike could give. My parents had to endure some of the most uncomfortable life events every parent must go through, the puberty, the sex talk, the strangely persistent “gothic” phase, the first boyfriend and the heart break, teaching about taxes, and the repercussions of your wrong actions... My parents have been there for every important life event that would pave my future and how I approach challenges. It wasn’t till I was older and a mother myself that I understood just how much the Robinson’s have become my cornerstone.
As a teen I was quite willfully blind and at times selfish, yet in the background... Amanda and Mike worked hard to drill into my conscience the things I would need to be a good person, a great friend, and a good mother. When I went through an emotionally unstable time due to anxiety and festering self-doubts, I had resorted to inflicting physical injury as a coping method. Amanda was the one who noticed and made me see through my doubts, immediately took action to be as supportive as she could. I can still remember this was a huge moment for me, and it is incredibly difficult to put it to words, but how Amanda handled the situation, how she handled me... I can still recall the feeling of absolute love, concern, and genuine desire from my mom to be exactly what I needed and how I needed it, and for me, in my first true dark hour, I had a hero. Two parents with unconditional love, and who never made me choose between families, I was given room to grow and acceptance.
When Amanda was pregnant with our little brother Michael, I got to experience the wait and anticipation of a baby for the first time in my life. And the morning my mother's water broke, I jumped into action taking up the role of caregiver, and big sister with complete disregard for what that meant. A sister does what a sister needs to do, and a daughter does what is needed to help her parents. I feel like this was the stand out moment for me, it still has a lasting impact looking back. When I showed my unconditional love by showing zero hesitation to wake up before the crack of dawn and jump in, clean up the amniotic fluid without being asked, to help get my parents out the door faster and hold down the fort at the house until our grandmother could come over while we waited for Michaels arrival. It is a memory that makes me laugh now, the chaos of that morning and the utter hilarity of my mother trying to scoot around the house with a pillow between her knees hollering for my dad to hurry up, it was a day I got to experience a small part of just what a mother goes through for her children.
For me, even as an adult now, my parents are my heroes, my confidants, my friends, my respected advisors. To have no fear in being who I am, to express myself and be met with acceptance as well as criticism... I cannot imagine a life where I didn’t turn to the Robinson’s in my time of need, or a life where they couldn’t turn to me and expect the same. When I left home, stubborn and foolish at the age of 17, I broke every single one of their hearts, my siblings, my grandparents, and my parents. I cut ties completely, and for nearly a year, my parents were in the dark. Was I eating okay? Hurt? Sick? It was an extremely trying time for them. Convinced I had burned the bridge between my foster family, I held myself back from connecting again until late 2010, when shortly before I would have found out I was pregnant with my son. Expecting a scolding, and perhaps the Robinson’s wanting nothing to do with me, it was quite the opposite. From the time I left in 2009, where I moved in with my biological cousins, which was quickly realized this was not a suitable living arrangement, I had been using my new-found independence to rebuild my relationship with my biological mother. Things were at the highest point of my relationship with Janet Ferrier, and our bond was strong and unconditional. I got to learn about my biological mom, understand her strengths, regrets and fears... My understanding of how life, as long as it may be for some, will still seem fleeting. Maturity set in, and I began to respect and understand the importance of rebuilding those relationships that make me who I am. So back to 2010, reconnecting with the Robinson’s, Janet died later that year from a heart attack at the age of 48, November 22, 2010. To make matters worse, the Ferrier family created riffs and ostracized Janet's children. I no longer had a connection to the Ferrier family due to the toxicity of the other relatives.
At this point in my life, I was pregnant for the first time, just lost my mother, and the rest of the family wanted nothing to do with me... I was lost all over again. Amanda with her instinctive mothering touch helped pick me up, straighten me out, and accept my grieving process. Amanda's strength with Mike’s unwavering support got me through the loss.
Fast forwarding to September 2012, I got married to my son’s father, and Mike walked me down the aisle. Then in October 2012, the heart-breaking news of another loss came, Patricia Needham passed away, the first foster mom I ever had. As a family, we came together again to support one another, visits became more frequent, driving between Kitchener and Barrie, enjoying the back roads through Hockley valley. It was a light in the dark, we made the best of times no matter how dark they seemed. A true testament to how our family has adapted and flourished.
My parents were present for both of my children’s births, driving the 160km as quick as they could to be there to support and share the joy of welcoming a baby into the world. For absolutely every milestone you could imagine, the Robinson’s have gone out of their way to be there to support me, and now, support my children. However, the greatest gift my parents gave me, was a home to return to and a fierce sense of protection and determination to save me from my abusive marriage. In 2014, with my 2 children, my parents and siblings stepped up and came together in support and love to make sure my family had a second chance. A chance to get things right, and to be a better version of me. Moving back in with my parents was a humbling experience, I had always been prideful to a fault, but again, Mike and Amanda refused to give up. From the summer of 2014 to 2017 I resided in Barrie, my parents and siblings helped out with childcare when I had to work nights and weekends, expecting nothing in return except the promise of always being the best version of me I could be. I was able to rebuild my life, go through the courts for divorce and custody of my children, move out of my parents and develop my own sense of self in a healthy home of our own. All this was possible to be the woman I am today because the 2 people I call mom and dad, and my siblings who have always called me sister.
Now living on base here at 8 wing Trenton, since January 2018, with my partner, and presently going through the application process for the military myself, my life without the Robinson’s is simply unfathomable. With the possibility of being posted provinces away, we have begun talking about what that means for our family's future, how we will adapt and grow and learn to love the journey wherever it takes us. We have also discussed what adoption means for us emotionally, but also legally. That in this fleeting life where no day is promised, having a relationship recognized legally takes away much of our worries knowing that what we feel in our hearts, will be recognized to the fullest. This adoption has been for so long desired, it will be a wonderful moment to see it finally completed.