FOSTER CARE: IN GOOD TIMES AND IN BAD

I know that I haven’t written very much about our current foster care placement. As I mentioned previously, the 8-year old boy that came to live with us a few days after Thanksgiving has come from much different circumstances and has, likely, a much different future than that of our first placement. That makes things feel different, and in a lot of ways, it makes them hard to write about in a way that doesn’t overshare his story. It’s a tough position to be in, because I try to write in a way that is as authentic and “real” as possible. But sometimes, being “real” might mean a breach in confidentiality, and it’s a fine line to tread. I don’t want to share anything that paints our foster son (or any child) in a negative light, but I also don’t want to pretend like we became foster parents and just immediately knew what to do and every single day was easy and care free. That’s not been the case at all for the past few weeks.

There is an air about this case that is much different. The best way I can think to describe how it all feels is “heavy.” I think this is the part of foster care that we didn’t really think about, plan for, or expect, because you really can’t. You spend all of your time worrying in training about things like how to handle a kid punching a hole in your wall, or what it will feel like when they leave your home, or how best to interact with the biological family. You don’t think about what it feels like to hear your foster son’s heart break when it is time to hang up the phone with his mom. You don’t think about what you’ll do when you’re “doing everything right” according to what “the books” tell you to do but your placement is still not behaving. You don’t think about what it might feel like to go to sleep wondering if the little boy sleeping down the hall will remember you in a positive way, a negative way, or at all. You don’t think that you might  wonder if he likes you at all.

We have had many wonderful, happy days with our current placement. We have also, especially recently, had plenty of very tough, exhausting, and depressing days. We wonder if we’re cut out to be parents at all, let alone foster parents. We think, rethink, and then overthink our rewards and consequences, practice how best to respond calmly and lovingly, and pray that tomorrow will be better. Sometimes, tomorrow is better. Sometimes, it is not.

 

No one has ever suggested that foster parenting is easy, and I certainly didn’t expect it to be. With that said, I think the things that feel hard are different than what I expected, and I sometimes find myself unsure of how to handle that. Some of our feelings stem from just the major shift that exists when you go from doing exactly what you want, whenever you want, to being responsible for another human life that is not quite so flexible. Parenting is a hard adjustment no matter how it happens. Some of it comes from feeling totally inadequate, helpless, and emotionally exhausted. And some of it comes from the fact that you know what? Kids, whether biological, foster, or adopted, aren’t always well behaved. Kids from hard places definitely are not, and they have very big and very valid feelings, worries, and thoughts that they cannot always express in ways that we find pleasant. For two people who are generally pretty calm and level-headed, that can be…well, unsettling.

That is not to say that every moment is bad or hard, because that is not even close to being true. Our current placement is sweet, thoughtful, smart, and kind. This weekend, he found out it was a neighbor’s birthday (we had no idea) and took it upon himself to color a picture for her as a birthday present.  His giggle is contagious, his excitement about starting soccer soon (his very first ever organized sport) is endless, and it’s hard to turn down his requests for “just one more story.” We spent a day at the park with our first placement this past weekend, and they got along like two peas in a pod! We’ve been so blessed to remain close to our first placement and his family, and there will hopefully be many more park dates in the future. The relationships that we’re building are what keep us going at the tough times.

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The best we can do day to day is savor the many wonderful moments and do our best to ride out the hard ones. We’re trying our hardest to give this kiddo the life he deserves for as long as he’s with us. We’re not perfect, but we’re present, and sometimes, it’s just about showing up.

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