Tuesday’s Tears. Sometimes these topics are truly things that make me cry out of anguish and pain – like when my uncle was murdered or when the system reared it’s ugly head and we “lost” our daughter’s brother. Sometimes they are my thoughts on stories and trends I see out there in the world, like verbal abuse. Other times my frustrations get the best of mie and I rant about how challenging it can be to remain patient when 4 kids decide to try and run rampant. (By the way, I forgot to add in that post that I believe this was just kids being kids – I don’t blame them a bit and though it was crazy I still had everything under control, with help of course from the One who is really in control).
Today’s topic represents tears of a different sort - tears of passion. Passion of a woman’s heart that has been transformed to be madly in love with children she didn’t birth and of the mission to truly care for each orphaned child, whether orphaned temporarily (foster) or permanently (adoption). Admittedly, it took infertility to get mie to the place where I am today – the place where I believe I understand more about our need to rise up and care for kids who are not biologically our own and yet desperately need us as parents.
Truth be told – we need them as our children too, maybe even more so. I didn’t intend to go here, but what would be a post from Mie without at least one aside? We talk about how children are a blessing. In some Christian circles there is the concept (from the Bible) about how children are a measure of blessing and he who has a “Quiver full” is blessed indeed. Though this is not the predominant belief in American or European cultures, surely you can imagine why in Biblical times children were understood to be a blessing. Not only was there less of an understanding of how scientifically the body worked to reproduce and therefore there was a natural understanding that there was a supernatural intervention to create life but from a purely practical perspective if a couple, especially a woman, was without child they had no one to care for them as they aged. They desperately needed children to be able to survive. This is no longer true in
. In fact, the common perception is that the
child-free couple or those who have a minimum amount of children are better
able to provide for themselves a life worth living. They have less expenses. They have more time to travel and pursue
their hobbies and interests than someone with children. So, absent the survival need for children,
they have now become more commonly considered a burden rather than a
blessing. If you disagree or don’t
believe mie, just pay attention to how people around you talk about children…better
yet, take 4 with you, by yourself, to the grocery store and see how many people
give looks, chatter amongst themselves, and often times say some random things. America
Christmas Eve I did just that (it wasn’t the first, or the last time either). My kids were singing Christmas carols through the aisles, all off-key, singing different songs none of whom (except maybe
knew the correct words or tune.
Nevertheless they were full of joy and with the exception of a few
random hair pulls or reaches for products on the shelf they were very well
behaved, especially considering none of them had been able to nap that
day. Some people saw what I saw – the beauty
of the season through these precious kiddos eyes. There were others who thought I was crazy I’m
sure but were polite enough to force themselves to say something with good
intentions, like “you sure have your hands full!” There was this one set of ladies though with
whom I almost lost it. I don’t get that way
often but they stirred a passion in mie that I almost couldn’t control. I think it was a mother and daughter
or maybe an older sister and younger sister.
As often seen around here, they had pristine hair and makeup far more
worthy of Nordstroms than the Target produce section where we happened to cross
paths. As I joyfully danced to the tunes
my kids were singing and talked to them as we picked out our produce I caught
their glance and overt whispers. No
amount of applied beauty products could cover whatever ugliness was in their
hearts and whispers. Granted, I couldn’t
hear what they actually said, but it was clear that it had something to do with
mie being the crazy lady who clearly hadn’t learned where babies come
from. I almost lost it and walked over
to them to Logan not-so-kindly tell them that I was a foster parent and ask them what
THEY were doing for others on Christmas Eve.
I was furious at their audacious judgment and self-righteous
indignation. It still fires mie up. But I controlled myself and just went on
enjoying my shopping trip.
You may have noticed a theme in the foster parenting blogosphere over the past few days. It’s right up my alley and I pray it turns into a groundswell for community awareness for foster parenting. Seriously, I already have the ad campaign written and if I knew how to market it (not to make money, but just to continue to spread the word) I’d do it in a heartbeat.
I’ve said it before, one of the comments I (and most foster parents for that matter) hear most frequently when we tell others about what we do is “I could never do that”. Often times that statement is well-meaning and accompanied by many thanks and acclamations of sainthood. Other times it’s paired with “You must be crazy”. Yes people actually say that.
The truth with mie and apparently many others is that I am not special. I just said yes. Follow the embedded links and you can learn how Tammy, MamaFoster, The Wright Family, and Maggie aren’t super special either (though I love them all). We and many other men and woman have chosen to acknowledge reality outside our homes and accept the risk that comes with providing for children who need parents. Despite what so many tell us, we aren’t saints. We aren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Many (though not all) of us initially began our foster care experience for less-than-altruistic intentions – we wanted to be parents and hoped fostering would give us a chance to adopt at some point. But we’ve all come to the same conclusion. Children, though yes they are a lot of work, are still a blessing today. Yes there is pain involved in letting a kid go after you’ve raised them in your home for a period of time. But it’s worth it. We are at the point now where we can say without a shadow of a doubt WE are the blessed ones in this relationship.
Others before mie have shared some of their reality so I’ll share a glimpse of mine too.
- I still have almost all of my Christmas decorations up in my home. All, of course, except the tree ornaments which came of ASAP because I was dead tired of keeping the youngest (#10) from throwing them around the house and eating them. Yes, I said eating them. I have no idea when they’ll eventually get taken down.
- I sent more than half of my Christmas cards out in the middle of January - and I’m not Orthodox.
- This morning despite waking up 30 minutes early and getting out of the house 15-30 minutes earlier than usual I was still late to work. Why? Because after dropping off the first two kiddos at their daycare, driving the other two the extra 10 minutes to their daycare, and then walking them in to their classrooms I got back into the car to find a voicemail from the first daycare that said I had brought #10 in with only one shoe. The honest truth? I would have left him there with 1 shoe if it hadn’t been for their visit today. I’m perfectly ok with being the mom who leaves their 1 year old at daycare with only 1 shoe on most days, but not on visit days. So, I drove the long way back to their daycare because by the time I got the message I was already past the point where I could literally “turn around” and I happily delivered the lost shoe. From the time I left my house it took mie 1 hour and 15 minutes to drive the 26 miles to work.
- I once told one of my children to drink their spit in their mouth when they told mie they were thirsty and it earned mie quite the scowl from the other “soccer moms”. It doesn’t matter that he’d just finished a 16 oz drink after finishing 2 chocolate milks at dinner within the past 15 minutes and I knew that this was just an attempt for him to get attention at least in part due to his RADish behavior. I was an evil parent.
- Last weekend when the 3rd child of the day pooped in her pants and we were at the park, I took a look to see that it was still coming out. I simply “caught it” with a baby wipe and took it to the trashcan and let the kids finish playing.
Like the others - though I try - I can’t prevent every injury, I don’t always talk with perfect love despite the fact it is our family rule, I’m not always patient, and sometimes I want to run away.
But the blessing we’ve received is that while many people acknowledge these “weaknesses” in themselves and use it as an excuse to not get involved, we’ve said yes anyway and that has produced refinement. No, I’m not always patient but if you hang out with mie and my kids most days I do believe I’m more patient than many. Why? Because I’ve learned to be patient. What else are you going to do with this many kids? How else are you going to get themall home from school and fed and to bed while they’re all tired and hungry and ornery? You have to be patient. You have to choose love when you don’t have those natural biological feelings of love you might get when you carry a child for 9 months and then birth them. When you go from 1 child to 3 to 1 to 2 to 3 to 2 to 4 to 2 to 4 to 2 to 4 and other than saying yes to accept a new placement you have no control over what happens to these kids you have to learn to be flexible. And so the “singing” chaos in Target on Christmas Eve is now something you enjoy rather than an obnoxious annoyance.
And you know that even though these kids may not remember you because they were too young, you had a chance in shaping the lives of each one that comes through your home, no matter how long or short they are there, no matter if you “liked them” or not, no matter if they left your home and went straight back into the environment they came from. You protected them and provided for them for those hours, days, weeks, and years and you hope that for a lifetime they're better off because of it.
And YOU got to be a part of something like that.
You no longer care if you will get to go to Tahiti this year or if you’ll ever get to see
Stonehenge. You don’t care if your furniture has no doors
for safety reasons (sorry I’d give credit but I don’t remember who that was!)
or if your homestudy says your home is decorated “simply and functionally”
rather than elegantly. You don’t care if
your TV isn’t the newest model and if, indeed, it has a horizontal blue line
across the bottom. You’re grateful for - of all things - a washing machine that doesn’t pour water all over the place
because you are simultaneously potty training, managing a stomach bug, and
dealing with mounds of mud from where grass used to be but you haven’t had a
chance to replant yet and doing that with 4 kids and no washing machine proves challenging.
You care about lives. You say yes to almost any placement because you know deep in your heart that these lives of kids you’ve never met are worth it and because you said yes you’ll be blessed immeasurably – definitely not with material gain despite the fact we’re reminded “some people do it for the money” on the news or documentaries, but blessed with things money can’t buy. Memories and life lessons not easily learned elsewhere. You’re blessed knowing that if you’re granted the chance to live to be grey sitting on a front porch rocker you will look back and know that you are a better person than you would have been and your life experiences were the important ones. You will have never wasted a moment on something fleeting – kids don’t give you that chance J
So how does this tie into my post yesterday about donations? Because some people may truly not be called to be foster or adoptive parents. Though I think more people are being called that ignore said call, there are some who are not supposed to foster. And because there are some that are called and yet despite everything I could ever tell you about how blessed I am for saying yes you still will choose to say “I couldn’t do it”. For all of you who for one reason or another choose not to foster – you can still get involved. Very clearly – help those of us who’ve already said yes. Take your turn to say yes by helping those of us who do.
Some have suggested you provide meals. Great idea. Typically though new parents will get meals from friends and family, foster parents rarely get that same type of support when they have a new placement even though they often will add 2 or 3 children to their home at a time.
Here’s another idea. Find safe kids things. Clean them and collect them. Heck – just collect them because we’ll clean them anyway, we’re used to it. Then find a foster parent who needs something. We almost always could find use for something or, if we can’t in our home we will find another foster parent or even a birth parent who is really working their plan who needs these things and we’ll make a way to get it there. Here are suggestions:
· Beds – cribs, pack n plays, toddler beds, twin beds, bunk beds, futons, anything. And for that matter – bedding sets.
· Pack n’ plays, swings, car seats (not expired), booster seats, strollers, etc. Even if we have one trust mie we can use another. Example – in our family we have 7 car seats. That’s because different kids need different sizes. And still, with that arrangement, we sometimes have to drive 50 extra miles in a day to switch cars so that we can manage pick-up and drop off because we don’t have enough car seats for the less-used car. And 2 are expiring later this year so we’ll have to buy more. That means if nothing else changes in our family we’re short at least 4 car seats this year. If nothing else changes, and that's not likely.
· Booster seats, sippy cups, kids utensils and dinnerwear, bibs, towels, washcloths, bath toys, toothbrushes and toothpaste.
· Toys – of all ages, types, and sizes, indoor and outdoor (no trampolines, door-jam jumpers, or walkers). Because we care more that our kids can play with stuff than whether it clutters our house.
· Stuffed animals or cuddle blankets – hand made knitted or crocheted are wonderful tokens to say “you are special” to a kid in need. My mom once knitted #7 a beanie because she’d done it for
. Oh my how he loved that thing. It showed him he was important to someone. Think about it – there are little kids who don’t
know they are important and frequently before they come to our homes they
aren’t important to anyone. Are they
important to you? Logan
· Clothes – seriously we can use all weather, all sizes, etc.
On that note – I have a dream of setting up a closet for local foster parents. We have something provided by the county but it has to be new stuff and obviously you can only get a little here and there. Many foster parents have higher income levels and don't qualify for additional support set aside for those below the poverty line. With that in mind, I want to set up a supply for my friends and family who foster so that when they have a new placement they can raid the closet for a full wardrobe. So far I’m set for girls size 18mo - 3T and boys sizes 2T to 4T, but if I could get that “set” for babies (girl and boys, size 0-12 months) and girls 4T-5/6 and boys 5/6, I’d be able to really serve this population who volunteers their homes, hearts, and wallets to help these kids who need a home.
Many times kids grow out of things and parents will have a yard sale and donate the leftovers. Consider finding a foster parent to donate to. Sometimes people see a good deal at the store and want to buy it but don’t need it themselves – buy it for a foster parent. Earn a free gallon of milk with grocery store rewards points? Just drop it off at your local foster or adoptive parents home – I’m sure they could use it or again they’ll find someone who will. Buy a lot of clothes off ebay – pick up a playset and deliver it from Craigslist – see a dresser on the side of the road pick it up and bring it over. We can use it. I promise. And though it may not match our décor – we’ll make it work. We’re great at that.
Don’t have any money? Come do our laundry one day – or play with our kids while we mop the floor. Let us take a nap when we’re sick. Take them to the park so we can plan meals for a week. Bring your own kids over to play – trust mie, one or several more won’t bother us at all if it means we have the chance to get something else done around the house. Offer to come with us when we go grocery shopping – it really helps to have someone stay with the cart and other kids when one of the kids has to go to the bathroom – NOW. Offer to wash our car or the windows or clean our showers because seriously that stuff doesn’t get done nearly as often as it needs to.
It really doesn’t matter what you do – if you can’t or won’t foster/adopt yourselves, if you really care but would say “I don’t think I could do that”- first rethink it, maybe you can – I’d say try it yourself you might be surprised. We were. Second – reach out and do something to help us – whatever you do it will be helpful AND it will encourage us and rejuvenate us so that we can keep going. I’ve had 10 kids in 18 months in addition to my own biological son. Think about your circle of friends – how many of them have added 10 kids and lost 7 in the past 2 years? I’m not looking for credit – I’ve already explained I’ve been paid in full. My point is this – if you know those who’ve experienced something in the past 2 years and you’ve felt the call to help them out – try not to ignore the need for those in the community, first of all the kids and second those who don’t have to and yet still reach out and open their homes and lives to the risk of pain in order to help those kids in need.
We are extremely grateful to everyone who recognizes the effort we make and even more so decides to join us on the journey.