I’ve been trying to write this post now for well over a week. But, wouldn’t you know… if I thought I did a lot of laundry and dishes before all this, well… turns out I knew nothing back then!
So. It’s official… the day has arrived. Jen and I are foster parents to a real-life child!
I know, you have a lot of questions. I have them, too.
It’s okay to ask me, I don’t mind answering if you’re curious about it. Just know that I might not always know the answer. We’re learning, too.
Everyday is a new question, a new challenge, a new experience.
We’re learning the foster care system. We’re learning what it’s like to have an almost-two-year-old running around your house. We’re learning about daycare, and DHS, and about how you balance adult-interaction time with kid-time. We’re learning our new little one’s personality, and (related) how to redirect the attention span of a squirrel.
We’re trying to figure out how to make sure our pets have what they need, make sure that we have what we need, and figuring out how to keep life moving forward in some semblance of a routine, even though it’s been totally disrupted. We’re learning about empathy, and compassion, and how to deal with really complicated things.
And this is just the beginning.
One day we got a call, and less than twenty-four hours passed before there was a little girl sitting on our couch staring back at us as a social worker walked in, and then out, of our home.
These first few weeks have just been an up and down whirlwind of emotion. Sometimes, I feel really happy to see the world colored by the lens of a child. Sometimes, I feel lucky to have a partner as great as Jen to share in this experience with me. Sometimes I feel frustrated by all the technicalities, paperwork, and hoops. Sometimes, I just feel like crying.
I’m still trying to process everything.
I’m still getting used to telling people there’s a child in my home.
Their responses, though, have been positive. People will say things to me like:
“I’m so happy for you!”
“She’s so lucky to have you two!”
And while I sincerely appreciate the support and kind words… I don’t quite know how to respond, yet.
Saying, “Thank you” feels wrong. Saying, “Yeah” doesn’t feel like enough.
I’m stuck, because yes… it’s great that Jen and I are at a place in life where we can provide some stability and love to a child. And yes… we want to have children in our life, and one day raise children of our own. And yes… it’s special to welcome a child into your home under crazy circumstances. And I do really really appreciate your supportive words and well-wishes.
But this is different.
The idea of foster care is that this kid is in your home because they can’t (for whatever reason) be with their own family. So things like congrats and well wishes feel… off. Because it’s not by happy circumstances this child is here. And while we’re happy she is so we can help her and her family… we’re equally sad that she has to be here at all.
A common question people wonder is how long we’ll have her. And do we want to adopt her?
The answer is: We don’t really know how long we’ll have her. And also… we’re definitely not doing this to adopt every kid who comes into our home.
Our job as foster parents is to provide care while other people work on a permanency plan for them–whether that’s with their biological family, or with someone else.
I mean… yeah. Theoretically, we would adopt if that was something we felt we could do and had a positive and stable relationship with the child. I don’t know how you could have a kid in your house for a handful of months and not at least consider giving them that continued stability.
But the idea that our family could be created by another family being torn apart is… simultaneously beyond-happy for Jen and I to adopt a child, and also crushingly heartbreaking for everyone involved (us included).
I don’t know how to balance that feeling yet. And I don’t know if I will ever experience it first hand.
At this point… We just want to be able to provide a stable, loving, home for as long as we can. To be a reliable bright spot in a kid’s life when the rest of it is unpredictable and twisted. To love them for as long as we have them. To do our job as foster parents, and have a little trust that everyone else is doing their job, too.
The hardest part so far isn’t the kid. It’s all the unknowns.
Is everyone else doing their job? Will bio-mom show up for her visit? Why would someone not want to make their kid their top priority? Will whatever happens really be the best thing for this child? Who’s side am I really on? What kind of mess are we involved in?
I know I’m supposed to root for the family. Don’t get me wrong… I don’t want them to fail. I just want what’s best for this kid, and sometimes there’s a little voice in the back of my mind that goes around wondering if going back to the bio-fam is really the right thing.
But another part to this equation is knowing that we have no control in that. We’re not the legal system. We can have an opinion, but we don’t really have a voice. We just have a job: Love. Provide. And pray for the best outcome.
People will say things like, “Oh, I could never do that. How could you give up a kid after having them for so long?”
Yeah, I don’t expect that part to be easy. On some level, I hope it hurts. Because that means I did my job right. I don’t think you can have a child as a daily part of your life and not care for her as if she were your own.
My thought is that you have to be as present as you would if they were your own kid. Regardless of how long they’re with you. Because to be distant and cold would only be doing a disservice to the ones you’re supposed to be helping.
Because I try to think that if I had my kid taken away from me, and I was doing everything I could do to get them back… I’d want to know that in the meantime they were well-cared for, and well-loved.
And on the flip-side, if down the road, a kid did become a permanent member of our family… I’d like to think I wouldn’t have to love them differently just because they weren’t going away someday.
Someone asked me the other day if we would adopt this particular child in our home now, if her bio-parents’ rights were terminated. But it’s hard to even have that conversation right now.
It’s hard to look at this real-life kid, in our real-life life, and let my mind wander like that. Instead, I find myself peering down two parallel futures.
One: reunification with bio-fam.
But all I can do is look, because I can’t walk down either one of those roads right now. They have to exist in the same moment, each equally as likely, while also neither one being a reality at all.
I’m still trying to find the right words to explain that feeling. Of somehow being realistic and distant while also being loving and present.
I was on a solo road-trip over the weekend to ride in a mountain bike race while Jen graciously stayed home with our new addition… and as I was driving and listening to Spotify, this song came on with a chorus that sang:
Everything is okay
Even when it’s not
Even when it’s not…
Everything is okay
Everything is okay
Even when it’s not.
And I just started crying. Because that’s exactly how I felt. This child’s situation is messed up. The thoughts and feelings I have about it all are hardly captured here in this post. And yet… it’s all okay. Somehow. But also, it’s really not.
I remind myself that at the end of the day, we’re only human. We can only do so much. Our hearts only beat so many times a day. They’ll only ever pump so much blood through our bodies. They’re physically strong, while also so very fragile. And they grow, and love, and hurt, and heal. And that’s what it’s all about.
So I’ll just keep going along trying to love, care for others, help where help is needed, be warm, be realistic, and be human.