Foster Parenting and Playing Pretend

 Photo by Kara DiCarlo

Photo by Kara DiCarlo

Yesterday at my gym we had a partner workout. As my partner and I, strangers before today, traded off at the barbell, we made joke excuses for our poor performance by complaining about our kids keeping us up all night. Whether that was the real reason for my bad lifting or not, it was fun to joke around with another father for a little while.

But in the back of my mind was a fear that I would be discovered as a fraud. You see, I didn't tell him my kids were foster kids.

That's partially because it isn't always appropriate to bring it up. But a lot of the reason is I want to feel like a normal dad, and that's easier with strangers than with friends who know our situation.

In February of this year, a 2-year-old and her 5 1/2 month old sister came to live with us. In that time, my wife and I have absolutely become their parents. Last week, I took our now almost 3-year-old (we call her Dubs online) to gymnastics class. As I carried her into class, she wrapped her arms around my neck and said "My Dada." Unprompted. I melted.

So while I feel like dad to these girls a lot of the time, there are frequent moments that remind me I'm not. A court hearing. A visit with a biological parent. Not being able to share my most recent adorable family picture on Instagram (I know that's lame, but it's sad not to join in with peers doing the same thing). Even a kind friend asking if we're going to be able to keep them (we still have no idea at this point) can be hard at times1.

So I find myself creating moments to help me forget. Whether it's a conversation at the gym, or speaking to the girls a little too loudly in Kroger to seem like their real dad (which I doubt is ever in question to begin with), these times are life giving for me. They temporarily free me of the anxiety brought by knowing what tomorrow will bring for our little family.

So forgive me if we ever meet and I don't disclose that my kids aren't technically mine, or if I'm a little obnoxious playing with them in public. I'm trying to make this strange and at times difficult situation feel a little more normal.

  1. Don’t read that as you shouldn’t ask! We always appreciate people asking. ↩︎

Sh*t's Getting Real, Y'all

(Pardon Our French.)

We’ve reached the point in this foster adventure where — you guessed it — sh*t is getting real. 

In the past few weeks we’ve had All The Feelings. All of them. Joy, sadness, fear, anger — basically your whole Inside Out crew. And they like to fight over the control panel. More than usual.

If I don’t step back and look at it every once in a while, I get bogged down in the frustrating minutia of parenting and working and fostering and annoying phone calls and meltdowns and nothing being simple. But when I do look at the big picture, I really can see God working in this messy story of ours. For that, and many other things, I’m thankful.

I will admit, though, that it can be exhausting. There are a lot of moving parts to our ridiculous life right now. A lot of people are involved at any given moment, which means I have to be a lot of different things to a lot of different people. A playdate/visit planner, an appointment transporter, a mommy, a mommy-but-also-someone-who-respects-your-bio-mommy person, a house-cleaner (but don't quote me on that because people would probably laugh), an advocate, a squeaky wheel, a high-maintenance question-asker, a dinner-maker, a writer, a dont-touch-that sayer, an animal feeder, an animal-yeller-ater, a comforter, a contact for the girls’ lawyer, a mentor of sorts, an encourager…while still trying to have a healthy grasp on what I feel and letting myself feel it and all that. 

Thankfully I kind of hit a breaking point and thankfully I have a husband who encourages me to let stuff go and just take a minute to go get a gel manicure (have you ever had one of those? I’m forever changed).

All that to say, sh*t is getting real. Soon Dubs will be transitioning over to live with her dad, which we fully support, but it will be a difficult reality, for sure. We have been ridiculously blessed by God that her dad is who he is. He is kind, humble, eager to learn, trustworthy, and he adores that little girl. We couldn’t ask for a better situation for us, either, because he is not only letting us be involved, but wants us to be. It’s Three’s Company up in here, y’all.

One of my favorite things that’s happened so far is Dubs’ dad commenting to Craig that due to their difference in college allegiances, Dubs will need a license plate when she’s 16 that says “My Two Dads are divided.” I mean, you guys. My Two Dads. That’s how he sees this. Like I said, we are ridiculously blessed by this.

None of us knows what we’re doing. He doesn’t; we don’t. But we are thankful to have someone in it with us who understands that and is willing to just come alongside us and stumble through it together.

As a side note, we are thankful also for a church community who loves our girls and loves Dubs’ dad and wants to support all five of us in any way they can. 

So here we are, just moving forward the best we can. We adore each of these girls with all we have. There has been a couple of moments lately where I’ve felt like I’m a true parent, and I wanted to share them, because I feel like they are irrational feelings only parents will understand.

A couple months ago P was carrying around this off-brand Croc we have (I don’t know) with a cap to one of her bottles in it. She was carrying it so carefully, and so pridefully from one spot to another, that I had this overwhelming feeling swell up in me that I would curb-stomp anyone or anything that threatened to dislodge that bottle cap from that shoe. Like she was so proud of this thing that she’d carefully constructed to be what she wanted it to be, however trivial, that I would not let anything happen to it or her so long as I was breathing. See? Totally an irrational parent feeling.

Similarly, I walked with Dubs up a hill at our pastor’s house the other day. She was wearing her bathing suit and shorts and flip flops and had come to play on the slip n slide. For whatever reason no other kids were playing on it, but she loved it. We had gone down to their swing set and were walking back up the hill toward the slip n slide. She was the only kid in her bathing suit but wore it proudly and was ready to go back in for more, and I had, again, an overwhelming feeling to never let anything bad happen to her or let anyone make fun of her or so help me they would feel my wrath.

I think this feeling just equates to their utter innocence and joy, untainted by anyone else’s opinions or feelings, un-muddied by self-consciousness or perceived limitations. They were just free. And vulnerable. And I wanted to protect that with everything I am.

Anyway, as always, this post rambles and wanders. But here are some things the girls have done that have given us joy lately:

-P’s laugh. It’s the best tiny person laugh and she blesses us with it daily, especially when Dubs makes her laugh.
-Dubs’ full sentences and addressing names on the end of sentences. “I love you, mommy” was my favorite so far. “I don’t want that!” is my least favorite so far.
-How proud P is when she stacks blocks by herself, one by one.
-Dubs and P holding hands (prompted by Dubs) and playing together
-How Dubs loves her bio dad
-Dubs drawing her bio dad a picture
-P saying “Dada!” when Craig walks up
-P saying “puppy” for the first time
-Dubs recognizing the letter A

If you’d like to pray for us or our girls or their families, we welcome it! We would love prayers for peace and God’s sovereignty and grace for all of us. Safety and protection and unconditional love for the girls, no matter where they are. And courage for us and Dubs’ bio dad as we walk into this new season.

One Year

July 15 marked one year of being foster parents.

It’s kind of ridiculous to think about, but we have been parenting strangers' kids for more than 365 days. Well, not entirely. We took a break for a while. But you get it.

We’ve had eight kids in our care since day 1. Eight little pairs of feet and eyes and hands and eight little smiles and cries and screams (except for K. He doesn't scream.).

I finally put up photos of each of them on our wall. Even though we only had some of them for less than a week, each of them touched our hearts and we will never forget them. I’m going to get a piece of art (or make one) that says “Family” to put above it, because that’s what we consider each of these babies.

I’ll admit, we were hoping that by the time we’d been doing this for a year we’d be closer to at least the on-ramp for adoption. Before we started, I was thinking I would take a month off from work to adjust and then go back to work and keep on keepin’ on. I was just so sweet and adorable, wasn’t I? We got three placements in 6 weeks. (I’m glad I didn’t keep the job I had because that never would’ve worked.)

Anyway, we’re not really any closer to adoption than we were a year ago, but God did answer our prayer for a longer placement. We’ve had our girls for about 5.5 months now, and it’s hard to imagine life without either one of them. But adoption, if it ever comes, will still be a long time away.

Without giving too much away on a public forum, Dubs has begun visits with her dad and is moving toward going to live with him. We of course are heartbroken that she’s not our forever child (though in a way, she is), but y’all — we love her dad. Again, not to say too much, but he has a relationship with the Lord and is so excited to have her, and he’s kind of the best case scenario. He’s turning his life upside down for this little girl and even moving to Nashville, and wants us to be as involved as we want for as long as we want. We are beyond thankful for him and for God working this out.

With P, we still don’t know. Some details have changed with her family, so there’s still a possibility she could go to someone else, but we are praying, praying, praying, that it would be in God’s will to make a way for us to keep her, especially to keep her in contact with Dubs. They are developing such a sweet relationship, you guys. No one makes P laugh harder than Dubs, and whenever P hits her head or falls, Dubs goes, “Ok, P? Ok? I kiss it” and kisses her to make it better. I MEAN.

Speaking of P, guess who is WALKING? WHAT IN THE ENTIRE WORLD, you guys. [Watch proof here.] Remember when we got her and she was 5mo and just stayed there whenever you laid her down? Gah. My heart. This sweet tiny baby (NOT TODDLER, DAYCARE WORKER WHO SAID SHE COULD MOVE UP CLASSES SOON AND HURT MY FEELINGS - RUDE.) is everything. She turns one next month and I JUST CAN’T.

Dubs is becoming such her own little person. She’s delightfully weird and hilarious. We couldn’t love her more. She’s doing great with her language and singing songs (including ‘Work’ by Rihanna which I’m not sure how I feel about), learning colors, counting to 10, and we are so proud.

Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive of us and loved our kids so well. We are thankful for our community!