Parentification is a word familiar to many foster parents. It refers to a child who seems more familiar [and sometimes more comfortable] in the role of mini-parent, than the role of child. Sometimes it happens to the older child in a group, often when the bio parents do not care adequately for the children. Here is a meditation from the "Hurdles" section than addresses that issue.
To an outsider it would have looked sweet. But I know that it is not sweet, but sad. I watched this so little girls at the end of a visit with her younger siblings. It was time to say good-bye. The other foster parents were there to pick the other kids up and take them home. We don't know when we will be able to get the siblings together again. And there she was. Buttoning up each one's coat. Helping them with their mittens and boots. "Remember to brush your teeth." Hugs. "Say your prayers every night." Kisses. "Be good!" Teary waves goodbye, brushed away gruffly. "I love you!," shouted to disappearing cars. All the things a mom would do and say. But she is not a mom. She is barely a young girl. It was a glimpse into what must have been for so long. How long was she the mom in the family, the best mom those younger children knew? How did she learn to do what her mother or father was not able or willing to do? Her independence and skill at making sandwiches and fixing breakfast suddenly has a darker tone. Help me teach her to let go. Help her learn that it is not up to her to keep them safe now. That those other foster parents will keep the other children safe. Help me teach her to let go. Help her let me be the parent. To trust me to take care of her. Help her to let go and learn to be a child. Everyone deserves a childhood. Help me give her one. Help her let me.
Excerpted from "The Caring Heart Speaks: Meditations for foster, kinship, and adoptive parents" by Gail Underwood Parker Artwork by Anna Parker David from the book cover.