Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Getting a second chance to make a difference

Note: This column appears in the 4/16 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 4/17 issue of the Peoria Times

It was a Friday morning not too long ago and my wife and I were looking forward to celebrating our five-year anniversary. We were going to a restaurant called True Food in the Biltmore section of Phoenix that evening, and we were going to have a romantic dinner.

A few hours into the day, I received a phone call from our agency. They had a foster placement for us. Now, we had said “yes” to several foster placements since our first and only one back in January, but had never received follow-up from the state, and they have the last say on which family will get which placement. That, combined with the slowing stream of foster kids in general thanks to statewide budget cuts had us wondering if we’d ever get a second chance to be foster parents.

So we said “yes,” and then went about our day, not expecting to hear anything else.

This time however, the state called. They wanted to confirm we were available for this placement. Even though I had just said “yes,” another yes would really mean yes. I gathered my thoughts -– which were many, and racing, and ranged from “we don’t have any toys!” to “how am I going to watch baseball now?” -– and just dove in headfirst. Yes, we were available.

Oh, and this placement was not for one kid, but two. Sister and brother. They were going to be at the house in a few hours.

We were not going out to dinner.

It really is funny how things work out sometimes. At the exact moment we were souring on the entire foster process, and deciding to go on with life and making plans that had no plans of being interrupted, everything turned upside down. Before I left work that day I emailed my mom to tell her the news, and she was thrilled to see us get an anniversary gift that no one else could have ever given us –- instant family.

So thank you, state of Arizona.

I think.

As I write this, my wife and I have about three weeks worth of overall foster parenting experience. That is not a long time. It has however, given us a whole new level of respect for parents in general. How many times –- in just three weeks -- have both of us wanted to scream out the window to every parent within earshot: “How do you do it???”

I think the echo would always ring back the same: You just do.

It has been an amazing experience so far, and it looks as though it’s just getting started. From the downs of messy diapers and spit-up caught in my arm hair, to the awkwardness of not being 100% sure which kid was mine when I went to pick him up at daycare (hey, some babies look strikingly similar, ya’ know?), to the extreme highs of seeing a kid’s eyes light up just because you’re there. Not to mention going to bed at night feeling pretty darn positive about doing something good for somebody else.

That Friday night, after we put our new kiddos to bed, my wife and I sat in front of the TV exhausted, eating the pizza we had ordered – true food, indeed -- and wondering aloud to each other if we can handle this.

We decided that we can. I mean, we have to.

“Do you mind if we put on some baseball?” I asked her.

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