I have to confess, I'm not really sure how to operate in this space anymore. If you read back over the last almost four years of writings that take up room here on this page, we've been an open book. I've shared the deepest parts of my heart and my family. It's been one of the greatest joys of my life to connect with people in this way. There has been such healing and redemption and fun in putting my life here. And now that we are foster parents, there are so many rules about what we can and can't share. In many ways, that has crippled me because I am a sharer. My husband would say that I'm an oversharer. Whatever.
But more than that, it just makes me fear that my corner of the Internet will now become somehow less authentic. Less like our real lives. More canned. Less truth. Kind of like how I felt when I realized that parts of Teen Mom are scripted. (Just for the record, that was devastating to me, y'all.)
And so I've struggled with what this will become- when so much of our lives will have to be hidden. I'm still figuring it out. The story is still being written. It's molding and changing and in so many ways, the way that this space is having to change is representative of the ways that our lives are changing, too.
The stress and insanity that comes with a new foster placement is dying down. All of those initial appointments are over. Parents have been met, workers have been established. Initial fears have died down. New sibling rivalries are born and die in rapid fire cycles and the children are beginning to operate like brothers and sisters instead of strangers or versions of "the old kids" and "the new kid". Life begins again. Different life. Life where another family's story and our family's story collide and mingle and twist and turn and we all try to turn this into something beautiful. We try to write a new story that will be different for everyone involved. We are different- and no matter how long this placement lasts, I can guarantee you, we will never be the same.
For us, we went into this hoping not just to take on another child, but to take on another family. Not to step in and be saviors, but to walk along side. To carry one another's burdens and listen when appropriate, to learn when appropriate and to act when appropriate. I can not tell you what a great joy it is to watch healing take place in the life of another family. I can not tell you how amazing it is to have a front row seat in watching the pieces of brokenness slowly get glued back together. It's an incredible blessing.
One time I heard Michelle Bachmann say "Every child deserves to have at least one person who is absolutely crazy about them" and then later in the same speech, "Every mom needs at least one person who is behind her who believes in her." The magnitude of the opportunity to do both here, is not lost on me.
We see the stories on the news- the ones where people's children get taken away for leaving them in cages or for starving them or other horrific things. It's easy to assume that all kids in foster care have parents like this. It's easy to pass our judgement. I find that when we pass judgement, we take the easy way out. Passing judgement gives us a free pass to not get involved. To keep from getting dirty in the mess of rebuilding lives.
Somewhere along the way I heard someone say, "We are all just one mistake away from having our children taken away." At first, I wanted to brush that off. Not me. I would never. That happens to other people. The kind that are really bad. But after I let that statement marinate for a long time, it's become a simple sentence that I come back to in life repeatedly. It brings me back to a really unhappy time in my life.
I recently talked about what a difficult time I had after our middle child was born. I was a 25 year old woman, at home with two children and one of them cried all day long. It didn't take me long to get to a breaking point. I was still at a point in my life where I felt like I had to prove something to people. I couldn't ask for help because that would show people that I didn't have it all together. And so I sat in my house with a screaming baby day in and day out and cried. There were times where it became so intense that I wondered what would happen if I just got in the car and drove away. There were times that I thought I could snap. But I had people I could call. My mom would come. Or my granny would invite us over for dinner. Or I could get in the car and drive to Target. And I had a husband who would eventually come home from work and help take over so that I didn't go nuts.
Not everyone has those supports in place. And even though I felt like a failure for using them (don't you love how our twenties trick us into thinking that we have to be superwomen?) they were there and were my saving grace. They kept me from being one mistake away.
What if those supports hadn't been in place? I think that the longer we study these kinds of things and the longer that we are entrenched in the adoption/foster community- the more that we realize how many things happen just because of the lack of supports for families. And while I wish there were more supports available to people before something bad happens, I still find it to be such an incredible blessing to be a part of being that support now and to hopefully continue to be a support for families even after their kids leave our homes. There are times when this seems so far off and there are times when a conversation with our birth mom has totally restored my faith in humanity. It makes me sad that I ever judged to begin with. If you ever want a way to keep your judgement in check- become a foster family. We all have so much to learn- especially me.
So, forgive me if this space becomes blank sometimes- or feels like a scripted reality show sometimes. We are figuring this out. Oh boy- are we learning! I am still trying to figure out what it looks like to live our lives out loud and yet be reserved. Because while I really want to tell you the stories from the trenches of foster care, like how a certain visitor taught all of our kids about oral s.ex at the breakfast table on a random Saturday morning, perhaps I shouldn't. Or how all the posters hanging in the office where we take our foster daughter for her supervised visits make my kids who can read say things like, "Mom? Is my period late? Should I call this number for help?" (For the record, no, six year old boy, your period is not late.)
For now, we'll focus on the big picture. And the big picture? It's pretty freaking cool.