Thursday, September 20, 2012


I think becoming a foster parent is kind of like the first time you carve a pumpkin. You open up it up, and you know it's going to messy, but you don't really know what you're in for until you thrust your hands into the goop. It's kind of fun, kind of gross, kind of uncomfortable, and far more messy than you could have imagined. 

At some point in the process you realize that you've got a thick layer of slime up to your elbows and you're not sure it will ever come off. This is a crucial moment. Some kids start to cry. Some beg to be done, leaving the task to be finished by someone else. Others take a deep breath, use their shoulder to wipe the hair and pumpkin slime off of their forehead, and dig right back in.

Surprisingly enough I haven't shed many tears thus far. I'm pretty sure I was in shock the first three weeks. I'm due for a sobbing breakdown any day now.

This foster parenting thing, this odd version of motherhood, the whole becoming a parent overnight to two children who were raised (or, not raised) thus far by someone else's messy.

These children we have been given to love and care for, they are precious and they are oh so broken.

It's been a year since they were separated from their mother. They had a foster family they loved, but when the couple's dream of pregnancy came true they decided the boys were more than they could handle. They had all three, M, J, and their brother, W, who's just a year older than M for nine months. They had talked about adoption. J, the oldest was ready to change his name.

On the way to the CPS office the foster dad told J, who was asking why they couldn’t live with them anymore, that they just really wanted to have their own kid.

The boys spent the next two and a half months in a shelter. It should have been much shorter, but a home for all three was impossible to find, considering their emotional/behavioral issues and the level of care needed, on top of simply being a sibling group of 3 with no toddler or baby in the mix.

Their case worker finally decided to separate them, keeping J and M together, as the middle brother, W’s, needs/issues were more severe.

The boys have been separated from their brother for 8 weeks. They’ve been living with us for 5. In the last two and a half weeks they have had a visit with the brother and a visit with the mom and the brother together. Both visits have resulted in horrible behavior from little M, both at home and at school. He’s angry, confused, and completely heartbroken.

Most of the time my heart is broken for him. But when he’s screaming in my face, or running around the doctor’s office like a maniac, all I can feel is anger and frustration.

And despair. Complete despair.

I don’t know if these children can be restored to wholeness. I don’t know if they’ll ever have the wonder and delight of a healthy child, or if it’s too late.

This does not make sense considering my belief structure, my vocation, or the God I love and serve, who I believe does truly work in the world, redeeming and healing and restoring all of creation.

Some days I am more hopeful than others. Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief.

So that’s the emotional, messed up, because-of-what-they’ve-been-through kind of stuff. And then there’s all the regular parent stuff.

Parents, I have to say I really had no idea just how much work, how much time, how much energy and effort it would take. I thought I knew, but I didn’t. 

The Kids' Room: Updated Version
I clean my house and a few hours later it looks like a tornado hit it.

I’m pretty sure the kids change clothes 5 times a day, because that’s how much laundry there is to be done.

And I truly had no idea how much contact I would have with human waste.

There is much, much more, but the reality is that parenting in general is very hard work. So add in years of abuse and neglect, learning disabilities and emotional disorders, piles of paperwork, regular visits to therapists, doctors, and psychiatrists, and the simple fact that these children are not bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh…I don’t even know how to finish this sentence.

I’m up to my elbows. The reality is setting in. I’m not breaking down or giving up, but I am moving forward with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat.

I wish I would have written my first post-placement blog post at a more joyful and hopeful point in this journey, like at two and a half weeks when I was at the grocery store getting food for the first week of school lunches and the lady checking me out asked how many kids I had. I answered, “Two.” It was a moment.

There have been many wonderful, joyful moments. And I know there are many more to come. But right now it really just feels like a big mess.

So this fall, whenever you or your kids find yourselves elbow deep in pumpkin seeds and orange slime, think of us, and all the foster parents out there, and say a little prayer, for hope, for strength, for perseverance.

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