Foster Care: and just like that, I have a fourth child
I’m beside the pool at my friend’s house when I get the call. Standing there in my swimsuit, counting my kids over and over again to make sure I see happy heads above water, and I’m listening to a social worker vaguely describe a little girl who needs a safe home today, and are we interested?
My husband and I have gone back and forth all year as to whether or not we should be on the foster care call list at all, because of my health. We’ve previously fostered three newborn boys, one of whom stayed with us until his first birthday and will forever be in my heart. But all that was awhile back and since then we’ve pondered whether to do it again.
We would love to adopt a little girl at some point, and listening to the caseworker on the phone, I wondered: Is this our opportunity? Or would this be way too much right now?
Long story short, we decided to give it a try and take it one day at a time, hopeful that it will become increasingly clear whether we should keep going or turn back.
That was only a week ago and we’ve had highs and lows since then. Fostering a child is very different than fostering a baby. In some ways this is easier—no containers of Similac. No middle-of-the-night feedings. No apnea monitors. But in some ways, it’s a lot harder, as if we’re trying to build the first story of a house when we realize there is little to no foundation, and we need to somehow try to piece that in at the same time.
There was that moment when I said: “You need to obey,” and she said: “What does obey mean?” and I thought, O Lord, where do I begin?
There was that moment when we were saying family prayer at bedtime. She had been very excited to contribute her prayer: “God is grace, God is good, thank you for this food amen” and then she decided to embellish it to add some sentences of her own. She looked around the room: “Where is God? How can He hear us?”
There have been so many moments when I see her desperate need for parenting, and I wonder if that is a need we can and should try to meet. Moments when I realize she cannot do the alphabet puzzle, she has never heard of Goodnight Moon, and she is scared if I drop her off somewhere that I will never come back.
I can hope that we could make a forever difference in her life and that we could see redemption and healing.
But there have also been moments when I am so overwhelmed I can’t see to the next minute, and I wonder if this is way too much. We’ve decided to put in several weeks and see if we can get to a good rhythm where we have a workable routine and can see that this is a healthy situation for everyone. Beyond that, we don’t know.
I don’t like not knowing where and how this will go, but to me foster care has always been a lesson in uncertainty and vulnerability, in trying to do the best thing today and to leave the tomorrows to God.
Two books I’ve been reading lately have reminded me that love is not always easy. Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full by Gloria Furman speaks to how love for children can be complicating to the life of a mother. Love complicates things. What used to be simple, easy, and straightforward in life is now crazy chaotically complicated. That’s okay. It’s part of loving someone.
A Loving Life by Paul Miller described love as sometimes trapping—that when we commit ourselves to love another person, there are times when we genuinely feel trapped. We’ve given up an element of our freedom and autonomy to bind ourselves to someone else, and sometimes that honestly doesn’t feel good.
In context of their entire message, neither of these books are discouraging love by describing it as complicating and trapping. They are being realistic. To me, the honesty is refreshing. I want to follow in the footsteps of Jesus by living a life of love for other people.
But sometimes I envision that as meaning a life filled with warm fuzzies, romantic sunsets, good feelings, and happy sighs. It’s true that all those are part of love, but the complicated, trapped feelings are, too. Love is dying to yourself every day.