This is the 2nd year I was able to take advantage of this benefit and I was impressed at how well the doctor was able to make it seem as if he remembered me and my history. He knew my kids and husband by name (of course, from notes in my file I'm sure) and was quick to point out that things had changed since last year.
He did so by saying "Where did all these kids come from?"
Apparently last year we didn't talk about our status as a foster family. I was in between placements when I saw him last year and I guess it never came up (seriously...how it didn't is beyond me). We made small talk about fostering for a little bit and then he got down to it...the lecture.
I heard about someone in his life that had a really large family (more than a dozen kids), more than half of whom were adopted (vs. biological), a set of biological children that were bitter and rebeling against the whole foster-to-adopt experience because of lack of resources and parental time and feeling left out and etc., etc., etc. There was institutionalization due to some of the horrific things that happen in foster care/adoption (and "regular" families too, by the way). There was drug abuse/addiction. I even heard about the tatoos. I heard about how there wasn't enough money to send their children to college and about what a saint the dad was and about how the parents now wish (maybe) they hadn't adopted but instead fostered without adopting.
His point was that I really needed to pay attention to my "own" (what I'd rather call "core" family), especially as someone with a busy career and a husband who needs me, making sure I don't bite off more than I can chew. When I came back after the fact he made sure to tell me if I'm going to live this life I need to make sure I take better care of myself (eating/excersizing habits) so I can endure.
I sat there listening to him not sure how to react. Everything in mie wanted to rebut everything he was saying:
- I don't have (more than a dozen) kids. I have 6.
- The state I live in (vs. the person he was talking about) only allows us to have 6 kids in my home without additional licensing processes that we have no desire to go through at this time. 6 is our max.
- God will provide. Part of that provision is college to those adopted from foster care. With that said 5 of my 6 kids will have college paid for - we'd have to come up with funding for 1 child. ONE - and that's assuming college is mandatory or something. Now, I fully support education and don't want my Ph.D. revoked but that is not THE most important thing in the world - nor is being able to setup a trust fund so my kids can go to school without working some. Those might be goals but it isn't what drive me (and yes, I have told my kids they are going to college).
- God will provide, and has. Resources are not unlimited but we have plenty of space and funds. Time and energy are not always in abundance but God provides. Always.
- We've BTDT with "dangerous" kids. I will do everything in my power to keep all of my kids safe but I refuse to live my life in a complete bubble so we're always happy and healthy and risk-free. We put boundaries in place, try to remain vigilant, and pray.
- ...and last but not least:
I think we know what His answer is to that...
And yet I said none of that. Instead I sat there pondering the wisdom I could gleam from his lecture. He is a believer and I know does have some knowledge and wisdom to share. If God partnered us up, surely there was something God wanted me to hear from what the good ol' doc had to say. Here's what I came up with, much of which I already knew but it was a decent reminder:
- Keep your first things first. He said my marriage is my primary relationship - not knowing my faith I know why he would say this and would agree if you're not counting my relationship with God, but of course I count that relationship and intellectually put it first.
- Make sure my relationships know where they stand. Intellectually I know to put God first but do I? My husband is my second priority but does he always know that? Does he take priority over my children? Do I actively appreciate him enough? How can I bless him more?
- Make sure my forever children know how special they are. I don't mean this in that they are more important than fosters or that my bio is more important than my adopted. One thing I like about foster care is it helps my children see they are not the center of the universe. BUT, I do believe my kids need to know that they are enough, that they were fearfully and wonderfully made, and that they are worth fighting for too. Because of the situations we find ourselves in as foster parents we often end up "fighting" for our foster children by advocating for them in the system with CASA and CPS workers and lawyers and the court. Our family sees this "fight". I can see how that can end up sucking our time and energy dry and leading to us taking our "easy" children for granted. I want my forever kids to know that they matter to us and to God as much as the other children. I want them to know they are loved for who they are and who they were created to be. I never want any of them to feel unloved or forgotten.
- Prayerfully consider every step. Make sure no matter what we do we are trying to stay aligned with the will of God for each of our lives, not just having a sappy heart.
- Take care of myself. This one is complicated in that I don't believe in the whole "putting myself first" thing. I'm not first. I'm not meant to be first. I am here to serve. With that in mind I do need to take care of the temple I've been given, not becoming obsessed about my health or my looks but more importantly making sure my body has the energy from the right kinds of food and the appropriate rest it needs to continue to "do the good works laid out before me". I do need to make healthier food choices and book regular time for exercising into my schedule. I also need to go to the doc to follow-up on my narcolepsy (found out I was allergic to my meds in 2011 and haven't gone back) and to get my eyes fixed (per my vision screening I have a rare-ish eye condition).