So, we've gone from 3 kids to 5 kids. Yep, all of that stuff we went through is finally paying off.. we are officially foster parents!
Two weeks ago I got a call from a county several hours away asking if we could take in two boys, ages 6 and 1. I quickly called my husband, and then called her right back to say, "Sure!" A couple of hours later, two exhausted, filthy, scared, and sad boys showed up on our doorstep. Well, one was all of those... the other, the 1 year old, seemed as happy as he could be.
I had wondered how that moment would be ever since we first decided to become foster parents. I spent countless hours daydreaming about different scenarios and how I would react to each emotion children might show when they first came to our home. Nothing could prepare me for the reality.
I will not be disclosing much information about the boys and why they were taken. What I will say is there was a "neglect" issue. I will say that my heart was not prepared for seeing a truly neglected child in my home, and the pain I would feel for them. My heart was not prepared to watch a 6 year old walk into my home so dirty that he had to take a bath before I could put him to bed, at 11:00 at night. My heart was not ready for the pain in that 6 year old's heart. All I could do was sit and stroke his then clean hair as he cried into his pillow, asking when could he go home, and could his baby brother please sleep with him. The exhaustion from his 14 hour day with DHS took over very quickly, and within minutes he was sound asleep. As I walked out into the hallway to tend to his baby brother, I just burst into tears. There are pains that I cannot heal. The pain of "I want my mommy" is definitely on that list.
I headed to the living room to help Clayton with the little guy. He was sitting very contently, cuddling with his foster dad. He drank several cups of water, and definitely found it an odd experience to have his teeth brushed. A fresh diaper, a warm blanket, and a short lullaby sent him right into dream land. I layed him in the pack 'n' play that I had moved right beside his brother's bed, so that big brother could keep his eyes on him at all times.
To my amazement, they both slept soundly all night. It was nearly 10:00 the next morning before they started waking up. I was so worried about how the 6 year old would do that first day here. Would he cry all day? Would he be angry that he was with us? He came out of his room, smiling. He snuggled beside me on the couch, and was amazed at his breakfast plate. He ate heartily, and then suddenly stopped saying he was full, and he would just save the rest for his brother. After much reassurance that his brother already had a plate waiting, he quickly ate the rest of his food, and then asked for seconds.
That was two weeks ago... and today everyone has adjusted very well. They had their first visit with their mom and grandmother yesterday, and it went well. I was very surprised when the baby cried and held me tight when the grandmother reached for him... He cried as I walked away. I felt like I was abandoning him. I thought he would be thrilled to be with them! Poor little guy. What on earth must go through his baby brain about all of this? A tearful goodbye with mom and grandma one hour later, and many thank-you's from them to me about taking such good care of them and we were all back at the house. Shockingly, everyone walked in and just started playing as usual. As if nothing at all had happened. The 6 year old is happy that he gets to see them once each week. The baby doesn't seem to care at all.
Part of me really wants to hate their family. From the stories I'm being told by the 6-year-old, and the case file on them... as a mother.. it's hard to sympathize with their mom. The bigger part of me hurts too much for her. Her black eye said it all when I first saw her. Her obvious shame when she saw me, in my nice clothes, with my beautiful children (hers included), in my van, having all of the things she needs to get her children back, but probably feels she can never obtain, breaks my heart.
The baby says please, thank you, and many other words. He gives kisses, hugs, and is so sweet. The 6 year old cries for his mom from time to time... it is obvious that she loves them. I know that love. And, I know it's by God's grace alone that our lives are not swapped. How easily it could be me, or anyone. As I sit and watch the baby play pat-a-cake, I know that I did not teach that to him. As he lifts his stuffed giraffe to kiss me on the cheek, I know that I did not teach him that. As he cuddles deeply into my chest, I know that someone has shown him how nice being held is. It wasn't me. It was her. And I pray for her everyday that God will grant her strength, courage, and the ability to do what she needs to do to get her babies back.
As I take pictures of them reading, riding bikes, and drawing pictures... I think of how incredibly heartbroken... heart sick.. I would be if I were her. I wonder if she worries for them as I would if my children were living with a strange family, in a strange town. I hope so. And I hope it motivates her to get her life in order for them.
Fostering is not what I pictured. It isn't as hard as I imagined work-wise... at least not so far. Adding two children to the mix hasn't been that much more work. We've gone to church, grocery shopped, and had people over - God is granting much patience and strength I suppose. Emotionally, it is hard. I worry about the boys a lot. I worry about their family. Then, I remind myself that God loves them so much more than I do, and he is taking care of them. That's why he made sure they were placed here - he knew it would be a great fit. So I just must put my trust in him... and hand their lives over to him. I'm doing all I can on my end... what else can you do, right?