It’s Foster Care Awareness Month!
This gives me an excuse to write on this site. I go a long time without posting updates, because, as I’ve mentioned before, it feels very personal at this point and everything that happens (or doesn’t happen) is directly related to my girls’ stories. I feel strongly that I should keep those sacred and let them tell their own stories as they feel led to later on.
That said, for the sake of an update, in general we are doing great. The girls are thriving, and as much as I want them to stay little forever (especially P who is SO TINY still), it’s so fun watching them grow up. #Dubs is straight crushing it in her phonics class at daycare, learning all her letters and sounds. She nearly can write her name all by herself now, and it’s not an easy one to write. The things she says now sound so grown up, and her logical reasoning skills surprise me almost daily. We still struggle with meltdowns, but that girl has come so far and we are so proud.
P is crushing it at being crazytown, but in the best way. Her cuteness is in proportion to her crazy, so it works out. She has the promise of a great gymnast due to her small size and fearless nature, and she adores her big sister. She will do anything #Dubs tells her to do, basically, without question. She’s a great hype girl and sidekick. Energetic, loyal and great at the “yes-and.”
They both think adding “poopie” onto phrases is the funniest thing to have ever happened. So we are deep in the potty humor already. But I digress.
The reason I’m writing is because it is Foster Care Awareness Month. I think this means that I should give you a glimpse into what foster care is like, and also help you understand that if you feel like God is calling you do it, you can do it. We are not uniquely qualified — though I do feel we have been called to this — nor are we specially equipped with hearts that don’t break. But we take it one day at a time (don’t we all?), and I think you could do that, too. If He asked you to.
Here are some things that make my life unusual because of foster care:
-My family is enormous. I say that because we have relationships with biological family of our girls on top of our own families of origin, so let’s just say these girls get about 400 packages in the mail for every major and minor holiday. It’s the strangest, most beautiful thing to watch unfold. Because at the end of the day, it’s just more people that love our girls. It makes things complicated logistically at times, but the girls having grandparents on grandparents on grandparents isn’t the worst thing in the world. It’s been really sweet to see how God is writing this story. Sometimes I’m blown away by how carefully He has orchestrated this entire situation and find myself going “what are the odds that —,” but clearly it’s Him.
-I’ve added a lot of seemingly random individuals to my phone contacts. Caseworkers, more caseworkers, lawyers, biological family members, you name it. Over the last 27 months I’ve had to get over my dislike for the phone (mostly) and call people I don’t know, try to advocate for our girls, but mostly just ask a lot of questions. A lot. Of questions. All the questions. Am I a caseworker’s worst nightmare? WHO CAN SAY.
-I understand a lot of acronyms that feel like gibberish to most people: CFTM, TPR, CPS, GAL, FML (LOL JK)
-I let people help me. I’m not ashamed to let people make me food or clean my house or donate stuff to me. This is mostly applicable for the first year of our placement, but I always tell people “don’t say it if you don’t mean it” because I WILL take you up on it. That includes babysitting. And yes, one kind sweet soul offered on more than one occasion to clean for me AND I LET HER because I am a giving and generous spirit but also my bathroom was gross and she didn’t even judge me once.
-Bedtimes are not easy. I don’t lay my kids down and say “love you peace out” and go binge Wild Wild Country. We have to physically lay down with our children to help them go to sleep, and sometimes that takes an hour (just the falling asleep part, not the bath/teeth brushing/stories, etc.). Now, we’ve managed to get a system down that allows us to do it simultaneously even though they share a room but we are still far from laying them both down in their room and peacing out. I say this not necessarily to complain but just to say it even to myself — my life is not the typical one, and that’s okay. I may not be able to do a girls night every week at 8:30 because my kids are not asleep by 8:30 even though their bedtime is 7:30. Some people may think we are being overly permissive or babying them. But when your kid comes from a hard place, you do everything you can to make them feel safe that first night. #Dubs and I ended up sleeping most of the night on the floor of her room together. She used to not fall asleep unless she was physically laying on top of me. We’ve graduated to side-by-side, but still. We set a precedent, so it's a process. What I was reminded recently at the Empowered to Connect conference is that connection and relationship is the most important thing. So if I have to lay down with my 2yo for an hour every night, so be it, because it connects us. I’m learning to not be bitter about that and embrace the blessing that it is. (THAT WAS LONG SORRY)
-Speaking of bedtime, I parent differently than a lot of people do. Craig and I learned about Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) and Dr. Karyn Purivs about 4 or so years ago and everything we have done since then has basically been us just trying to do our best Karyn Purvis impression at all times (and failing because that woman was a saint and a hero and a blessing to the world). We do redos, we don’t really take away privileges, we try to teach our kids how to regulate their bodies, we grant snacks pretty much any time as long as they’re not just grossly unhealthy, we rarely do time-outs and when we do we stay next to them. It’s all about neuroscience and trauma and you can read about it elsewhere, but I’m sure it can seem weird or overly permissive to some people. But let me tell you — it works. It works so. hard. Ask me about it and I will be happy to gush over it to you.
If you’re still reading, God bless you.
Foster care has not been the easiest thing we’ve ever done. Far from it. But it has given us some of the greatest blessings and has shown us God’s goodness and grace in so many ways. It’s shown us how to live in the gray areas and shrug off the black-and-white. It’s shown us how to cultivate patience and compassion for not only our kids but people who are different from us. It’s shown us not how to avoid pain but how to trust that it will be okay if we do endure pain.
If you’re interested in foster care, please don’t ignore that gentle tug on your heart. Take a step. Talk to a foster parent (hi) or an agency. Just dip your toe in the water and see what happens. There are kids who need love and healing, and you might just be someone who can give that.