It’s been an interesting couple of weeks. Fostering has stretched us in ways we never could have imagined and we’ve only been at it 6 months. We chose to begin this journey because we thought we had something to give. The other way to put that is having something taken.
I don’t know about you, but I was a fairly involved parent. I wouldn’t say I was a helicopter parent but I knew what my kids were up to most of the time. When they were younger we had to meet their friends, and often the parents of the homes they would visit. I knew what they were watching and reading in my home and the activities they were involved in when they were away. I knew and trusted the other adults who were in their world, mostly teachers and family friends. This felt safe and normal to me. Although I never voiced it, I felt mostly in control of the world my kids lived in. There were minor hiccups. I didn’t protect them from everything. Bullying happened. They were exposed to things I wouldn’t have chose for them. But we seemed to navigate those intrusions into our safety fairly well. Teenage years brought new challenges and more freedoms but by then we knew who our kids were and trusted that they were strong enough to hold on to their true selves as they explored who they wanted to become.
That was normal in my world.
This new world we have entered is a bare shadow of that. There is still the framework of parenting. We choose to care for their needs, take interest in their activities, try to guide their curiosities and help them build healthy habits. We invest our hearts in building relationship with them and include them in not only our family but our extended families. All this gives the impression that we are a family and that we are in control of the life we are leading. It feels right.
Then the jarring realization that the lawyer is coming tonight to talk to the kids, and you can’t be a part of the conversation. The caseworker has visited them at school and you won’t hear what was said there either. The visit with family where they re-engage with the world they are from and you are a foreigner… not family.
Our sense of control is taken from us. These things drive home the reality that these kids, however close to your heart they might be, are not yours and you will never know them as well as you know your own. They have lived in a world that you have never traveled in and cannot visit.
We have to let go of our desire to control and choose to serve in the space we are given. It is in this awkward space between being a parent and being a caregiver that foster parenting lands. We are called to parent and love whole-heartedly but the option to think we are in control is out of our hands. We have to choose to trust someone else to make good choices on behalf of these kids. This is hard. There is so much negative information out there. But I hope people will believe the best of us, so I will choose to believe the best of the system that is trying to serve our kids.
As we picked up our kids from a family visit this past week one of the family members grabbed my hand and stopped me. With tears in her eyes she thanked me for being good parents to these relatives of hers. She told me she was very afraid when she heard they were in foster care because she has seen so many bad things on the news. She had spent the day talking with the kids trying to find anything that would indicate they were not being treated well. She told me she can see that they love us and feel safe with us. She said she is at peace now and happy with them being with us because she knows it is a better place for them than with their mother.
Humbling. I hadn’t thought about the fears the other mother might have when she heard the words foster care.
In the midst of the mess