- You just have no idea when your phone is going to ring and a caseworker is going to ask if you’d like to take on a kid. Sometimes you’re just waiting and waiting eagerly. Sometimes you’re crossing your fingers saying “I’ve got three right now, I’m feeling a bit busy, thank you, but….” And sometimes they ask if you can pick up a kid within 15 minutes!
- You just have no idea how long a kid is going to stay with you. It might be three days for a “shelter hearing” when a relative or someone else is found to take the foster child, or it might be 6 months and 2 days, or 18 months and 9 days, or at least 18 years and the rest of the kids’ life once you’ve adopted the child.
- You just have no idea when they are going to schedule a “visit” for the child to see his or her biological parent and once the child goes off in a stranger’s car, when the child will return to you. If the parent shows up for the visit, it might be a couple hours. If the parent doesn’t show, it might be just a round-trip in a car. You just have no idea how truly irksome this is to have little control over your schedule.
- You just have no idea whether to get rid of some of the 3T boy clothes you still have in boxes or whether you should keep them just in case another kid comes along. Do you take the carseats out of the car or shove them in the trunk?
- You just have no idea how much paperwork you’re going to have each time the caseworker stops by for a visit. And when one agency decides to stop their foster care services and you have to switch to another agency, you have another thousand and five pages to complete, and clearances to run, and home inspections to prepare for.
- You just have no idea how each child is going to respond to arriving in your house. You can’t predict if they’ll cuddle right in or scream for hours. You don’t know if they’ll throw punches at the wall or help with the dishes. You don’t know if the other children are going to be thrilled with a new “friend” or wish that they were gone. The uncertainty is huge because everyone is reacting to a major unexpected change.
- You just have no idea how painful it is to have a child leave your house with only a few hours notice and realizing that you likely will never see that child again in your life, despite being the one and only parent the child has had in the past 10 months. The empty space hurts.
- You just have no idea how protective you can become of a child, caring for them the best you can and wanting so badly to advocate for their well-being.
- You just have no idea how frustrating it is to not really have a voice for a child. You provide the 24-hour a day love and care but have no influence over the bigger picture. You wash and feed the child, watch them grow, encourage their development, treat the fevers, but no one wants to hear your point of view.
- You just have no idea how quickly your heart is going to fall in love with the child in your home as you rock them to sleep and kiss their scrapes and bumps. You tell yourself that you’re keeping a distance, that you’re not really attached, that this is just “foster love,” but your heart never listens to that anyway.
You just have no idea how your love and your hugs and your home can make all the difference in a child’s life, comforting them in a moment of chaos and giving them layers and layers of love to buffer them through life’s future troubles. They may stay with you. They may return home. They may more on. But your touch is always written upon their life.
You just have no idea how wonderful it can be to be a foster parent.
Think about it.
Some kid somewhere out there needs you to be brave enough, strong enough, creative enough to say, “I just have no idea….and you know what? That’s okay.”
The pastor this morning asked us to think about that “moment” when you felt a mother’s love for your child. She started by describing the pregnancy and the feel of the baby within and the developing love as you bonded with this new creation. And then those first few moments after birth….and the first days and weeks when your love grew. The process is so very different when you are part of a system – the foster care system.
I was “in love” with Micah from the moment I first saw him in the hospital bassinet….barely listening to the social worker tell my sister and I about him. Yearning to pick him up as she briefly left to find a set of mismatched clothes to put on him. Staring at him in the back seat of the car….well, staring at the back of the carseat facing the other direction. Giddy about getting him home and holding him. In awe during the first few middle of the night feedings. I was in love.
But it was not a “mother’s love” – I was not his mother. There was a qualifier in front of the word. “Foster.” It was always there – “I am a foster mother.” This is my “foster” child. We have “foster” children. It was not until Micah was 22 months old that I could jump over the “foster” word and leave it out altogether. Not until that moment in the court room with tears welling up in my eyes and my heart so full of love that I could fully claim to be a mother….that I could claim him as my son.
So that love was a journey….a push and pull….an embracing of the little boy and a slight holding back in fear and worry that it might not work out….that he might return to his biological mother. Yet I had a sense with him that it was almost 100% okay to love him. Similarly, it seemed so certain with Noah. He was two days shy of his first birthday when I was told that I was his mother, though the love had blossomed long before then.
And then there was Seth. Seth began with a phone call that asked if I was ready to “adopt another?” I honestly wasn’t prepared to answer that within the 15 minutes that they wanted a call-back. I knew at that time that I was struggling with Micah’s behaviors. That Noah was just embarking on his two-year independence regime. That I was ramping up work on a new nonprofit organization. It was a busy time. Yet….and yet…Seth was blood brother to the boys. My answer was “yes to the fostering… time will tell about adoption.”
Two days after picking him up from the hospital, we went on vacation to the beach. I spent the week bonding with him – shocked and nervous about another boy. Trying to convince myself that this would and could work out. By the end of the week I was ready to be mother to another. And….a letter sat in our mailbox waiting for us to come home. A letter from a man in prison professing his love for his newborn son. Happy that he had a home to stay in until his father would be free to come get him. Struck down, I cried.
For months I received at least weekly letters and drawings from the alleged father. For months I tried to offer Seth a mother’s love while trying to protect my heart from the pain that was coming. For months I tried to talk to Micah about this “father” who would take Seth someday. Months and months (8 months and 6 days to be exact)….until the paternity testing. We celebrated with a cake and my heart began to take away a brick or two, a shingle, a siding…open up some space…and let the mother love take hold.
- To love is a very precious thing.
- To become a mother is a very difficult journey.
- To know of motherly love is very ephemeral
- It is only in moments that you might touch it
- Moments when you kiss the head of the sleeping child on your chest in security and comfort
- Moments when you rejoice in the first touchdown or goal, heart welling with pride
- Moments when you point to an adult and tell your 5-year-old “Someday, boy, you can be just like him. You can do whatever you want to do,” knowing of the dreams you have
- Moments when you realize they are the air that you breathe, the last thought before you sleep, the face you delight in in the morning.
- Cherished, loved, (entirely frustrating and maddening at times) and so delightfully mine.
My three sons…(minus the “foster”).
Happy Mother’s Day!