Note: This column appears in the 11/25 issue of The Glendale Star and the 11/27 issue of the Peoria Times
We’ve had a few “I can’t do this anymore” moments as foster parents.
The first of these moments occurred when CPS came and rather suddenly picked up our first foster child just ten days after we met him. The next moment occurred when two children –- a two-year old and a three-month old –- arrived at our doorstep. There were a few moments after that as well, but one in particular sticks out very vividly in my mind.
We were about a month into our placement and had yet to really settle in. My parents were visiting from back east, and the quality time we were used to spending with them on their visits was lost amidst the chaos of having two foster kids. I got back from work that Monday feeling very sick, only to discover that our foster daughter most likely had pink eye. I felt terrible for my parents, but my wife and I were going to have to bring her to urgent care. We also needed to decide who was taking off the next day, as I had taken off work one day the previous week because the baby was sick. We were completely overwhelmed.
I sat in the doctor’s office and thought about what time in the morning I should call CPS to have someone come get the kids. I was dead serious. We were done.
This too shall pass. Luckily, that feeling of dread did just that. Shortly thereafter, something clicked. We just completely settled in. We had our routine down pat, and nothing could stop us. We were like a machine –- a machine working on 20 hours of sleep per week and stained with spit-up and urine –- but a machine nonetheless. Before we knew it we had potty-trained a child, took her on a cross-country trip back east, helped diagnose some lingering health issues for a vulnerable baby, and then watched him develop into a little boy.
One of my favorite truths goes like this: “God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called.” We had no equipment –- we didn’t even have a crib! Seriously -– but we did it. For almost eight months, we did it.
I thought of these things as we made the drive up north to officially return our two little foster kiddos to their family last weekend. The fear and uncertainty of their arrival at our house, which had morphed into the anxiety of them being in our house, had now become a deep sadness at the reality of them leaving our house.
After an emotional farewell, we returned home to a quiet, clean house, and had a chance to reflect on eight months that felt like three years, that felt like three days. What overwhelmed the emptiness inside was the feeling of gratefulness I felt to be a part of their lives. I was so unbelievably happy that we never caved to the pressure.
I’m also grateful for the confidence this experience gave me. Going from zero to two kids was almost more than we could handle, but like I told my wife the other day -– I now feel like I could spin one kid on my fingertip like a basketball. One kid? Pfftt.
That said, I think it’s time for a little break. We have a ton to be thankful for this year, so I think we’ll especially enjoy Thanksgiving this week.
And besides -– we need to clean the machine.