Friday, December 31, 2021

Sometimes it's too much

Sometimes it feels like I'm making a difference. Like I'm doing something important for a child. Like it's worth all the stress and heartache and driving and appointments and frustration and sacrifice.

And sometimes it's too much. I'll have a nightmare that the adopted family of a former foster son of mine decided they didn't want him anymore and dropped him off with a stranger without asking us if we wanted him back. Then I'll be spoon-feeding my current foster son and notice his bib says "I Love Mommy" and I will start to cry.

Because I'm not his mommy. 

I am. But I'm not.

And I'll start thinking about what a broken system it is and what a broken world and how these kids that I have for a short time are going to eventually be out there on their own with a million obstacles in their way and a million pounds of baggage to carry around, and I won't be there. Sure, I loved them and cared for them for a few months or even a year or two when they were babies, but I won't be there when they start asking questions about what happened to them or what happened to their parents or why they're adopted or why they were sent back to parents who were not ready or why they weren't wanted. I won't be there to tell them that they were. They were always wanted. Always special. Always loved.

Sometimes it's all too much. I want to give up. I look at the chubby little cheeks of our foster baby and they remind me of our last foster baby, and I think "What have I done?" Have I done nothing but traumatize them more by making them love me then giving them up? How cruel. How selfish. How horrible to live in a world where these things can happen. Where kids can be abused by their parents and shuffled around from home to home and treated like nothing more than numbers. How can there not be a better way?

The baby we have now is the sweetest thing you've ever seen. And he'll play in one room while I'm in the other and babble happily and clap his hands and try so hard to crawl. But then, I will walk through the room he's in on my way to help one of the other kids or do a load of laundry or go to the bathroom or whatever, and he will see me, and he will start to cry. He'll fix his eyes on me and whimper and whine, and I don't know why. I don't know why the sight of me makes him fuss. I think it's because somehow he knows I am the one person who will do anything for him, so when I'm around he doesn't have to make do or comfort himself or wait for something he needs or wants. Because there I am. I will do it.

Until the day he's gone and I won't anymore. And that's just...too much sometimes.

The Bible teaches that someday everything will be made right. Justice will reign. Tears will be dried. Broken things will be made whole. I don't think I could do foster care without that hope. And even if you think the Bible is nonsense, I bet you still have that longing for something more, something better. For everything to be made new. For the day all children will be precious and beloved by stable and selfless parents.

That day is not today. Today, it's too much and the inside of my chest feels like it's being wrung out by the cruel hands of despair. But I believe in Someday. I believe in hope. So I will keep loving through the pain.

And I hope you will too.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

The Trouble With Babies

I love babies. I love the feel of their tiny hands wrapped around my finger. The smell of their hair and the smoothness of their skin. I even love the squeaky cries they make when they are merely weeks old, which grow lustier and more opinionated as weeks turn into months. I love it all. And that's one of the reasons we've chosen at this stage in our lives to only foster babies.


The trouble with babies is they do not know, when you hold them in your arms, that you are not forever. They have no memory of before, only of you, day after day, giving them food when they are hungry, changing them when they are dirty. Smiling down at them every morning to lift them from their cribs. Kissing their cheeks, one side then the other. 

A baby can't understand the difference between temporary and permanent. Can't understand when you say, "Court is next week, and then someone other than me will decide your future." No child can truly understand such a thing, but a baby? A baby just watches your mouth form the words and babbles in reply, certain your words are just more of the love they have come to expect from you. 

I love the way babies grow and change so fast their first year of life. Everything is new, everything is a first. They are astounded by the simplest things and clap their hands in delight when they try applesauce for the first time. 

But the trouble with babies is they have no reason not to trust you. Many older children in foster care have been hurt before. Betrayed before. Maybe been in and out of care before. They are wary and streetwise beyond their years. But a baby has not yet learned the world is a difficult and unfair place. I love babies, but I don't love being the one to teach them that.

Whenever the time draws near that I will be sending another baby on his way to a new life, I start giving him extra kisses and praying that somehow--somehow--he won't miss me like I will miss him. That he will hardly notice when I suddenly disappear from his life. That instead of a memory of pain and loss and confusion about why I abandoned him he will have only a memory somewhere deep in his heart of a brown-haired woman glancing back at him from the driver's seat with a smile and saying, "Almost home."

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

There's no plan for this

Image by Amanda Randolph from Pixabay

I've always been a planner. I knew the when and where of what everyone in my family was up to even as a young child. I was meticulous with school work and schedules growing up, which helped me achieve a 4.0 GPA even while involved in numerous sports, activities, volunteering, and work.

Planning has also served me well as an adult, allowing our family to get by on one income by sticking to a planned-out budget. Keeping my day-to-day life under control enough to carve out time for my writing career. Decreasing the stress in my life by having family meals planned out a week at a time.

Yes, planning can be a useful and beneficial thing. And I used to think it was the most useful and beneficial thing.

Then I became a foster parent.

You can't plan which evening you're going to receive a late and desperate phone call from a social worker wondering if you will take a placement. You can't plan what a foster child's parents will or will not do, what the court can or can't decide. Can't plan for how it feels when you meet a new child. How it feels to love them. How it feels when they leave you.

Being a foster parent has taught me--by force, I suppose, but taught me nonetheless--about the beauty of living in the moment. Living for today. I like to plan ahead. I like being prepared. But there's something really special about holding a child close right now, today, and letting it be enough that you got to do that right now, today. Not stewing about how many more days they will be with you or who will decide what about which part of the child's case. Not trying to plan for this to happen, and then that, and then this. Just being thankful for today.

I wonder what it would be like if we could all love the people in our lives as they are right now, one day at a time. Not wishing for more or waiting for change or running around too busy and distracted by everything coming up to appreciate what we already have.

Planning ahead makes me better at a lot of things, but living for today makes me a better foster mom. It's hard, but I'm called to love each child that comes along as much as I can, while I can. I'm called to surrender my need to know what's coming. My desire for order and schedules. My carefully thought out calendar. And I'm called to trust that God will take care of all that stuff while I do the job He gave me to do.

So...I guess that's my plan.