This week, we find ourselves longing for normal.
The holidays were a blast -- especially with a nearly-3-year-old who just found out Christmas presents exist -- but they have been a whirlwind. Not only are we doing it for the first time with small children, but small children who sometimes struggle with transitions. The time of year has also brought out, we think, some trauma from this time a year ago, when the disruption in their little lives began. We can’t be sure, but with the weather changes, the Christmas lights…we think some triggers are possible.
Either way, feelings have been exploding all over the place lately, and we’ve run up against the reality that we are not normal. We are not a “normal” family. As much as we try to fit in with other families, do things “normal” families do, meet up with other families for a joint activity — this week has been a glaring reminder that a lot of times, we just can’t. It’s a painful reality check, to be honest. As much as we want to see ourselves as a regular, run-of-the-mill household with 2 kids, a dog and two cats — there’s so much more going on here. So many more factors at play. Factors that are often invisible to other people, which makes it even more difficult to manage the weight of.
I feel it when we spend a Saturday at home and realize we spend the whole day in survival mode just waiting for bedtime, which results in guilt. Why can’t we just enjoy a nice day at home watching movies and hanging out? Why is this so difficult for us as parents when it feels like it should be something we are more than capable of handling? To be honest it makes me feel like a bad parent. Wishing the day away, not being able to get our kids to nap except in the car and then having to drive around aimlessly or sit in the driveway for an hour and a half reading. I feel like I should be able to manage my kids in the house all day or put them down for naps. But that darn meddler, Trauma, keeps seeping in and ruining everything, reminding us that we can’t.
It feels isolating, maddening, heart-breaking, frustrating. It’s not their fault. They’re just tiny humans, as one of my favorite bloggers says, “made of SO much human.” But it’s exhausting, and it feels sometimes like we’ll never get to do things normal families do.
Today, the kids are off from daycare, so I took them with me to my workout class. They have childcare, and the girls have been before, so I thought it would be no problem, even if they cried a bit at first. We’d had a somewhat tumultuous morning with a biting incident (I MEAN REALLY), but all had been calmed so I thought they’d be fine.
I spent 15 minutes of the class trying to get them to stay in the childcare room. Trying to salve the resulting panic-tantrums, I tried all my Karyn-Purvis-ing (and when that wasn’t working quickly enough, bribes) to get them to stay, but they just couldn’t do it. So we had to leave. It was the straw that broke me after a hard weekend of tiny person breakdowns and rainy weather and stuck-inside-ness. I fought off sobs as I rushed them out and my sweet instructor asked if everything was okay. I just said I was overwhelmed (true) and kept going. One of my co-worker-outers, whose name I didn’t even know at first (but I’d definitely seen her before) offered to sit with Dubs while I worked out, but I didn’t think Dubs would do it, so I declined, explaining our situation a bit and that this happens sometimes (having to bail) — still fighting off tears because I am trying to be an adult who doesn’t cry over missing workouts (this was a built-in excuse not to exercise, right?). This woman later found me at my car, told me she felt like she was supposed to help me, helped me get Dubs in the car and immediately started telling her “you are so loved,” and Dubs went right to her, no problem. Her sweet servant heart shone as she gave me a hug and prayed for me right then and there as I sobbed (JUST A LITTLE) in an almost-stranger's arms. Allie was Jesus for me today (and my little community at Beatbox is no joke. I am so thankful for them.). I'd just wanted to do that one thing for me today. To wear my new, overpriced Lululemon pants and do some burpees and that one song I hate and be encouraged and pretend to punch some things and then go home. And somehow not being able to just broke me.
All that to say, sometimes we can’t do things like normal families. And it sucks. And sometimes the sweet childcare worker says kind things like “They did great before!” and “you can go! I don’t want you to miss your class” and you have to decline because you know it won’t be okay if you leave and the sweet older girls with their brand new American Girl dolls are looking on like they’ve seen a ghost while your kid screams bloody murder because she has issues with people leaving and it seems like you’re enabling by staying but really you’re just trying to help her heal and all you can hear is Sia blaring in the next room and all you can think is how much you just want to be in there with everyone else, but you can’t. And that’s the selfishness of being Made of Human, p.s.
If you made it this far into my ramblings, bless you.
I think we got lulled into a false sense of complacency with our girls. Yes, we had some issues here and there but many of them had subsided to a certain degree and we seemed to have ended up with a family that yes, has two toddlers, but otherwise is fairly normal. But alas. Foster care actually IS hard, you guys. Even when they don't leave. Even when we've become “mama” and “daddy.” Even when it’s been nearly a year of looking them in the eyes and telling them they’re safe and trying to prove that to them day in and day out.
But, lest you believe otherwise, we adore these girls inside and out. They are just as hilarious and joy-giving as they are frustrating and heart-breaking. And we would not trade them for anyone.