A long, long time ago, I wanted to adopt. To be completely honest, I was 14 and I wanted a baby right then, but knew I couldn’t violate the strict chastity laws imposed on me by my parents and have a baby of my own at that age. So instead I would create elaborate fantasies of finding a child in the woods or on the street, and for some reason I would be the only possible parenting option. Crazy, of course. And no, I didn’t explain all this to my husband when I met him—I know how that would have turned out. But from a young age I knew that one day a baby in need would end up on my doorstep.
A few years back (it just happens to be a coincidence that this began soon after my husband decided he would no longer allow me to steal his manhood and impregnate myself), I started pestering my husband to allow us to become foster parents. I’m not quite sure whether I’m an excellent nagger or my husband loves me tremendously, but regardless, he agreed to go through the training and approval process to become foster parents- which was no small feat. From there, it was paperwork and background checks and his willingness to be available for home studies. JMahl was a trooper through all of that. He would roll his eyes every now and then and say “you know this is crazy, right?”—but he kept moving forward and doing what needed to be done. Occasionally he’d take advantage of the opportunity to remind me of just how much I owed him—or take payment—but he kept moving forward.
And then we were a certified foster family. But just because we *could* foster didn’t mean we *would* foster. JMahl said “just respite care”, “just short term care”. And I agreed: sure, whatever. I’d already accomplished my goal of “being able to”. I didn’t actually expect to ever get the call. Similar to being pregnant for nine months—you never quite believe you are going to have that baby.
But when we did get that call, we had 15 minutes to make up our mind. Yes or No? There’s a need. No one else can take this child. We’ve exhausted all resources. Will you take a child into your home?
And then that baby- -and his 11 year old brother—landed on our doorstep. And our foster parenting saga began.
I’m going to start off by acknowledging that fostering a 4 month old child and fostering an 11 year old child are two completely different things. Everyone loves a baby. A baby is easy to care for (exhaustion aside). A baby is pretty simple to feed and clothe and create rules for. A baby doesn’t really care who his mommy is at the moment, as long as someone is holding him, loving him, and giving him a bottle. So, suffice it to say, Baby L is just fine and dandy, even though I forgot what sleep deprivation was and formula is so gosh darn expensive and inconvenient that I’m tempted to figure out a way to breast feed this one too.
But: an 11 year old who has just pulled from his family and has never met any of you and may have eaten vegetables for the first time (separate from pizza or cheeseburgers) since coming into your home is a very, very different story than a giggling, bouncy, happy baby.
My Foster Son, “S”, is a very sweet boy. I’ll start with that. One night in he was squeezing us and telling us how much he loved us and how grateful he is to be with us and how much he loves fishing and soccer and hiking.
Two nights in he was explaining that he doesn’t eat eggs or peppers, would really like some juice, and doesn’t really like soccer or hiking, but does like video games.
Three nights in he was begging for candy, detested fishing (broken rod to prove it), a keen user of the word “WHY?”, and desperate for a trip to Wendy’s.
JMahl put it pretty succinctly on the fourth day: “This kid just doesn’t *fit* with our family.” And no, he doesn’t. He has very little in common with our kids. He’s not used to eating what the family eats or family dinner table or no technology time or not questioning every single rule I make. He’s not used to sports and being outdoors and being active. He’s not used to interacting as part of a large family. Mason is immensely disappointed that the addition of a brother did not come with a fishing buddy and soccer competitor installed, but we didn’t put in an order that DSS delivered per our specifications.
S is definitely not like our kids, but he doesn’t have to be. We aren’t adopting this child. Hopefully, his mother will do what is necessary to bring him home, because he misses her immensely. So I’m not concerned with permanent fit. All we have to do is give him what he needs now so that he can feel safe, protected, loved. One day at a time.
One week in as a Foster Mother and the first thing I’ve learned is this: It’s not what we want, it’s what this child needs.