I Promise I’m Still Alive

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It almost seems impossible that it has been a month since I’ve written here, but trust me, that knowledge has not escaped me. I think about it all the time. There’s a strange combination of guilt, relief, and general ambivalence about it that is running through my mind. I don’t know if I will be able to adequately explain why I haven’t been writing, but I’ll try.

First, there are the obvious reasons – I haven’t been able to workout much since my shoulder surgery, so there’s nothing to write about there. I did actually start running again last week, but I’m doing a whopping 3 miles a few times a week, so…I feel like you can live without updates on that for the time being. I am thinking about training for a race again, though! Maybe even a marathon? Stay tuned!

Second, we got a new foster care placement on November 29 – an 8 year old boy. This experience has been very different than our first placement in many ways, but the one thing that hasn’t changed is the challenging hustle and bustle of the first 30 days. Getting set up for school and aftercare, doing all of the initial appointments (doctor, dentist, and much more), keeping up with court and meetings – it’s a lot. Add that into the holidays, plus me still going to physical therapy multiple times per week with my shoulder and well…there’s not a whole lot of free time! But we all know I’ve never been a person who has a whole lot of free time, so by and large, that’s just an excuse.

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Hiking with my boys

I think the real reason I have been quiet on the blog and on social media for the past month is because this placement feels much different and much more personal than our last one. Last time, we knew that it was likely to be a short-term situation. This time, we are expecting the opposite. The details of our kiddo’s short life are heavy stuff. The tiny tragedies of foster care are with us every hour of the day and honestly, it’s not something I feel super comfortable writing a lot about. On my birthday, we went to pick up my birthday cake and he said, “Do you have a cake for your birthday every year?” I told him that yes, I do, and he got very quiet. “I’ve never had a birthday cake,” he said. “I’ll make sure you have one on your next birthday – any flavor you want,” I told him. “But what if I don’t live with you next year?” he asked. “I’ll do my best to find a way,” I said. But he’s right. What if? There are a million “what ifs” in foster care and virtually no guarantees.

There are many sad moments that he doesn’t even know are sad. We said something about Disney World in a conversation and he didn’t know what Disney World was. He’s not used to getting new toys, so when we wheeled out the brand new bike we got him for Christmas, he said “But I already have a bike?” He’s right – he does – but it is 2 sizes too small and was generously donated by our neighbor. Three hours later, he gave me a big hug and said “I love my new bike so much. I can’t believe it is mine.” I just held him and told him he deserved it, because he does.

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Woke up from a Christmas nap to find this

AJ and I were talking and we realized that this time last year, we were in Eastern Europe about to ring in the New Year. We had a trip to New Zealand coming up, and I hadn’t yet made the decision to go to Africa or hike the Tour du Mont Blanc. One year later and we have an 8 year old living in our house and celebrating the holidays with us! It’s crazy what can happen in a year. Who knows what 2018 will bring?

 

23 thoughts on “I Promise I’m Still Alive

  1. Thank you for sharing your story and thank you for opening your home and heart to the kids that need it most! You are making an incredible impact in their lives which they will carry with them. Keep it up.

    1. Thank you, Mel! That is what we tell ourselves on both the good days and the bad days. Knowing he will carry these memories with him is worth it!

  2. I have two boys, 8 and 10. I teared up a little reading his reactions. You are such a gift to him. I hope his story becomes happier.

  3. Danielle – as a fellow new-ish (almost ten months in) foster mom who has read your blog for at least four years, I do empathize with your dilemma of what to write about because there are so many heartbreaking moments like you shared. I hope you and AJ find the patience and persistence to stick with this young boy, to give him the birthday cake he’s not had, and to show him that you will keep your promises. That’s so very important to any child, but especially those who have simply never had anyone be there for him consistently.

    It’s a lesson I’m trying to gently share with everyone in my pre-foster mom life, but sometimes it’s too hard to explain or simply too confidential for my teenager. She can share her story, and she does with those she builds trust. But it’s not for me to share. It is a daily lesson of never truly knowing the battles she has fought, and trying to be kind, always.

    Thank you so much to you and AJ for opening your heart and your home and for writing what you are comfortable. If you can inspire just one more person to become a foster parent, that would be amazing.

    1. Michele, I could not have said this better myself. Confidentiality is so important, and you’re right, they are not our stories to share. Also, some of these moments and things are so hard to explain unless you’re living them. The smallest moments and changes that AJ and I celebrate over would sound crazy to explain to someone who isn’t a foster parent. Right now, I feel like the best thing I can do is just to soak up this time bonding with our kiddo and put my energy into him. I don’t want to completely disappear from blogging for exactly the reason you mention – I hope to inspire others to consider foster care, too! But it has admittedly been a struggle to figure out what to say. In a way, there is so much to say that there is really nothing to say. All we know right now is that he has a home with us for as long as he needs one! Thank you so much for fostering, too! I’d love to hear any advice you have.

      1. Trust your instincts – if it doesn’t sound like it will fit your child’s needs, it most likely won’t. Since I’m a first-time mom and my teenager has been in the system since she was 2, I have several people advising me on what I should and should not do based on her alphabet’s soup of diagnoses. The challenge was that their advice was based on raising their own children, reading a book about that diagnosis and following to the letter the recommendations, and / or assuming that a child’s chronological age matches their emotional age. For my teen, I have to keep a very long vision in mind – she is taking baby steps, but those steps move her forward overall. Consequences for her don’t match anyone else’s kids in my life, but they do work on her in the manner that I impose them. She can be exasperating and mystifying and then the next minute sincerely apologize and want to show me the new coloring app that everyone is playing so that we can color together. That was yesterday, and the fact that she apologized was huge, and then wanting to share something with me was monumental! Just like you said, you and AJ recognize and celebrate small moments that are insignificant to most. Trust that they are not insignificant to him.

        Take a break – I am a single parent also in a newer relationship, and my guy (an experienced parent and the most patient man I will ever know) is a godsend at hanging with my teen for a couple of hours while I run errands on my own. She doesn’t always need someone there with her, but she does like his company and trusts him. Take care of yourself and let AJ do the same – breaks are so important to sanity, especially as first-time parents! Set those alone times and together with AJ only routinely and stick to them. And going to work is not a break πŸ™‚ You hopefully have respite providers via your agency – ask if you don’t have a list and use them!

        Be persistent – this is another series of marathons just like your pursuit of 50 states, and you will encounter so many obstacles just as you have in running. There are tons of local therapeutic resources at school and from the state system, but you may have to go get them. It sounds as if your agency is very supportive and helps you learn, which is fantastic. Don’t hesitate to ask for everything you need and then some – I have had my teen almost ten months and found out just last week that we had not been able to get some available education opportunities that we should have had months ago. I am fortunate to have ample financial resources because I’m also a late-in-life parent, so at first I didn’t want to ask, thinking that other kids and families needed it more. But that meant I was denying my teen what she has merited by being in the system so long. So now I ask several people from different agencies the same question until I get somewhere. I talk with her about how she will provide some day for her own kids and how to advocate for what she and her family need. She’s already said she will be a mama bear, so I’m grateful we get to use that motivation for some rich teachable moments.

        Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need anything!

        1. That is such an important perspective – everyone wants to help, but not everyone can … in fact, some of those with great intentions often have terrible advice. I have found this to be true in every area of life and parenting … and I can only imagine when you inject an unknown history into things!

        2. Absolutely amazing advice, Michele! I read this the day you posted it and meant to post a lengthy response after it sunk in, but I failed to do that and I’m sorry. I won’t respond to each point, but know that you have deeply touched me with your words and I appreciate your support so much!

  4. My heart just breaks at the untold sorrow that he’s experienced in his life. I know you and AJ will provide him with the love that he so needs and deserves.

    1. It is heartbreaking for sure! We are doing the best we can to give him everything he needs emotionally, mentally, and physically for as long as he is with us.

  5. Perhaps a last bday cake at 6months after his last(or whenever u can) and have a past birthday party for him? Then one on his next one (or whenever you can). Won’t make it up to him but would give him a special day nonetheless. Just an idea. Nice job keep it up.

  6. With your very limited social media presence … my assumption was simply ‘you have your priorities in order’, and that your new foster situation WAS quite different.

    I love all of the comments, and really don’t have much to add, but the theme seems really important: there is much you cannot control, but it is important to wholly own that which you DO control. For all parenting the ‘say what you mean, mean what you say’ is important, but I think it is even more true here – and it combines with a focus on keeping your word. Don’t over-promise, be mindful of the potentially limited time, but mark the events you have together in a way that is not over the top, but makes him feel special.

    Speaking of which, you guys have a 1 month anniversary coming up … seems like an opportunity.

    Good luck and thank you for what you and AJ are doing … I have had limited exposure to the system, Lisa saw much more through teaching through a non-profit to low-income kids … and it is heartbreaking.

    1. Yes! “Say what you mean, mean what you say” is one of the most important parenting “rules” that exists in foster care. It is easy to see that our current placement has been promised a lot of things and has been disappointed many times. We try very hard not to let that happen. He’s extremely literal, so if you tell him you’re going to pick him up at 5:30, you better be there at 5:30! We learned to speak in much more vague terms very quickly, haha!

  7. I don’t have much to add, especially reading the other comments from those who have an obvious perspective on foster care, but thanks for the update and for doing this. I think we all know and understand that each placement is going to be different and there are things you cannot share, and it is OK not to blog them or not blog for awhile. After all, being responsible for another human being is way more important than blogging, even if you have the purpose of inspiring others to consider foster care and share your journey.

    Also, you definitely need to have a birthday cake for him! Admittedly, I have no clue how to do this to where he will not “expect” it if he gets placed elsewhere and someone else may not do it, or constantly expect it from you (say, if you did it for his one month anniversary). That’s what is so difficult I bet, having the wisdom to know those things- but I’m glad he had a special Christmas being with you guys.

    1. Thanks, Amy! It is always nice to hear from another blogger that it is ok to let things go for awhile. I think sometimes we put undue pressure on ourselves to create content and continue to drive up readership, even if those aren’t things we necessarily care about that much. I don’t want to drop off the face of the planet, but I also don’t want to make myself miserable trying to keep up, either. I’m working on finding a balance! I hope you feel better and get off Team Janky soon.

  8. Of course I am biased when it comes to my daughter, but I have to say that I have never been prouder of her since she has become a foster parent. Her patience with both children has been mind boggling…. she has such a tender, empathetic, way of dealing with each situation that comes up. I have to admit that my kids saw my husband and I yelling at each other more than they should have, but it is what it is, but yet she doesn’t yell. In fact, because I tend to be a little emotional, she can settle my butt down so easily. She really is a treasure, who I love more than words can express. xoxo

  9. I’m glad your new foster placement is going well. Being a foster parent is something I have always wanted to do (not quite in the position yet, but someday) so it has been so inspiring and eye-opening to read about how everything works from a first-hand account.

    Sidenote–I found your blog from listening to your episode on Ali’s podcast, and have been following along since. I really enjoy it πŸ™‚

    1. Hi, Mandy! I’m so glad you found my blog, and thank you for the kind words! Even though foster care is hard to write about sometimes, I think it is really important to talk about. When we first started going through the process, I was very frustrated by how hard it was to find good blog posts about what the day-to-day was really like! I hope you find my posts helpful. I’m more than happy to answer any questions you have if you decide to go forward with the process! It seems daunting at first, but I don’t think it is really as bad as people say.

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