If you scroll through my DVR, it reads like a who's who of train wreck television. It's full of Teen Mom and pretty much everything on E! and Bravo. Once my husband scrolled through and asked what in the world kind of show is "It's A Brad Brad World"? I tried to explain to him about my love for shows about celebrity stylists but I think that my daily sweatpants wardrobe just confused this whole matter. I'm also almost ashamed to admit it, but there are even episodes of Sister Wives on there. Every now and then, I actually learn something from all my trash TV... one time one of those Sister Wives said something to the effect of how polygamy draws out all the negative out of them and forces them to polish off the rough edges to live like they do. Polygamy, in their minds equalled a polishing and perfecting process. Evidently, foster care is my polygamy.
Taking a self inventory is hard stuff. This time last year, I would have said that I was a caring, loving, determined and fairly selfless person. Fast forward to today and all of the terrible things about me that must have been right below the surface are suddenly popping out so rapidly that sometimes when I think about the feelings that I have all I can say is "Whoa! Where did that come from?" I believe in refining. I'm so grateful for the times in my life which have caused me to re-evaluate and reflect and change the things about me that I don't like. But this? This is new territory for me because the things that are coming out change things that I thought to be fundamentally true to my very core. Things like selflessness and kindness are things that I thought were quintessential to my nature and suddenly I don't feel kind or selfless and it all adds up to make me wonder what in the world is true about myself.
Three months in and I've decided that I'd like to nominate all of my fellow fostering cohorts for sainthood. I don't want that to sound self serving- because, to be honest, I don't yet consider myself a real foster parent. I feel like somehow I'm just practicing. Practicing for what, I don't know, but surely I've got to get a whole lot better at this before I can actually call myself a full fledged foster parent. Here's what I do know. Parenting is hard. Just regular ol' day to day parenting issues that happen between me and my spouse and my kids are hard things But this? Oh holy hell. Parenting with me and my spouse... AND her mom and significant other AND her dad and his significant other AND her social worker AND our social worker AND her therapists AND all of their supervisors all operating within a system that is cuh-razy on it's best day and a pit of fire and brimstone on the others AND we also have other kids here to think about. And well, you can see how that's a whole lot of hands in the parenting pot that set one up to fail. Oddly, though, I believe in foster care. I believe that even in a broken system, it can work.
I also believe that foster care sucks. It sucks for the parents who don't want to get their kids back- those parents miss out on the incredible blessing that their kids are. It sucks for the parents who work their tails off to get their kids back, because so often the hoops are so insurmountable that they miss out on precious time with their children. Most of all, it sucks for the kids who stay in a constant state of confusion that no amount of safety or love from a temporary family can conquer. And it sucks for the foster families, who also operate in that same sphere of the unknown while they try to pick up the pieces of other people's lives. None of it makes sense. None of it is how it's supposed to be and it just leaves a wake of crazy in so many lives. And yet? And yet, I know that beautiful things can be created out of the dust.
This past weekend we got some respite. It was 12 kinds of blissful. Our kids seemed to go back to being their old selves and I realized that there had been a knot in the pit of my stomach for so long that I'd stopped noticing it was even there until it magically disappeared during respite. We laughed and felt carefree. We snuggled and talked and took care of their precious little emotions. (It's going to forever be the great conundrum for me because being a foster family asks SO much of my children) I enjoyed my kids so much in a way that I have not been able to do since we became a foster family. It's made everything in our home so different. We are different. Before this, I felt like a pretty darn good mom. The weird thing is, deep down, I'm still that same good mom. But having this many people watch me parent makes me so anxious that I've become almost un-functional. Which is just ridiculous! I should just open up the doors and say, "Come on in world! Watch me pour bowls of cereal and slap peanut butter on bread and watch Spongebob with us and play endless rounds of Uno and checkers!" But instead I just get so scared of screwing this all up that I'm just stifled. Being stiffled just leads to a lot of self reflection. Self reflection and inventory is just not fun! Necessary, but not fun.
It's also a weird thing to choose to live right in the middle of the drama. This was a very conscious choice that our family made to live this way. You know how much hurt and drama and behaviors affect family life- but choosing to invite them in and living it day to day are two very different things. There have been times when my kids have had friends over that I just couldn't wait to leave. I always thought, if that were my kid and they fell into our routine, it would be fine, but the visiting is just hard! And part of me though that over time foster care would be like that- like a friend that just stayed and then fell into our routine. But at the root of it all, that is NOT my child, will never be my child and that just makes the water feel muddy all the time. Parenting someone else's child is immensely harder to get over than I thought it would be.
If I'm being really honest, I've discovered some things about myself during this process that I hate. I'd always heard that the true measure of giving was to give to someone who could never repay you. I've found that in life, there are few ways that you can actually do that. There's always so much more that you get out of it- even when someone can't repay you in the same way that you've given. But with this? This may just be the thing in my life that can't repay me and I'm just not sure I'm that selfless. (Oh my Lord, self reflection hurts. Self reflective typing for the world to judge hurts a whole lot worse.) I keep going back to how a selfless person would look at this beautiful, valuable foster child who's been entrusted to us and say, "How wonderful that we have been chosen to impact this one." And here I am thinking, "What fresh hell have we brought on the other three?" I'm not usually bent toward the negative, and yet, I just can't help all the negativity that just flows right out of me these days. It's possible that the words, "I hate being a foster parent" might have come out of my mouth a time or two or twenty. (My inner dialogue adds a few f bombs to that statement) And why? I think foster care is so freaking valuable- I believe in it- so why in the heck do I feel this way? I'm pretty sure that it's purely a selfish desire for the easy life and that makes me mad at myself.
You see, when we adopted Miles and the days were so unbelievably hard- there was something in the back of my mind that kept telling me that the seeds that we were sowing were going to bear fruit. And now three years later, there is so much fruit and Miles bring such immense joy into our family. In that instance, all that hard work had a direct payoff for me- even if that wasn't what was driving me at the time. And this is the same amount of work- hard, deep, gritty, cry your self to sleep kind of work and I will probably NEVER ever see how those seeds produce fruit. Or even know if they produced fruit at all. In so many ways it feels futile. And I want to say that I'm a strong enough person to do all that work and then send this child on back, but I'm just not sure that I am and that's a bitter pill to swallow. And to complicate it- the very sincerest desire of my heart is to send this child back home. It's all in the world that I want for her. This experience has confirmed for me just how desperately kids need their parents and I want for this kid to not lose that!!! It's hard to reconcile why this feels so futile while at the same time preparing this kid to go home. Oddly- the only thing that I can come up with is that I'm just not as selfless as I'd like to be. I don't want to plant this fruit for myself and yet, I feel very weird planting it for someone else. I'm feeling like a sh!tty farmer. I know, it doesn't make sense.
I was talking to a friend about it yesterday. She got all Jesus on me and reminded me of Paul saying, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do." After I got over wanting to rip her arm off and hit her with it, I took comfort in the fact that people have been confusing themselves and living in ways that don't make sense to others (or themselves) for forever. I'm not unique in this. But sometimes, despite how supported we are, it feels like I'm the only person who's ever wondered why in the world we willingly invite this into our lives. Surely, I'm not.
I'm guessing it goes back to the desire to be polished- to do things that just aren't conventional in order to bring out those things in us that need changing... refining. I'd like to be the kind of person that surrenders to being refined instead of the person that kicks and screams the whole time. Unfortunately, even my methods of being refined, need refining.
If I was wanting to get ultra relidge up in here I'd conclude by saying something like "Come quickly, Lord Jesus." Instead, I think I'm just going to say, "Is it bedtime yet?" Or the even classier, "Pass the wine."