In relationships I am all in from the first hello. Stranger says kind words, I give them my heart on a silver platter. I went from one to 10 tattoos in two years, two half sleeves cover my once barren arms. I went from zero to six kids in three years, upgrading our home and vehicle this year to have #roomformore. I wake each day with the posture of come as you are. Our dinner parties get out of control, Saturday morning brunches become a mesh of chaos and beauty. This spring we jumped our creature count adding to our two dogs of ten years, a fish, a rabbit and 6 chickens. We do life and we do it full.
Maybe that is an unhealthy reflection of some deep aching need inside me or maybe it’s just who I am. I have spent the last several years balancing the thin line between those two realities. I have been so intentional this season of life, embracing who I am and where I thrive, while checking my motives. Embracing the moments to say yes and walk towards something even if it seems hard or difficult. However allowing myself the grace to say no after assessing the risk and finding it too costly.
Foster parents are really good at pressing into hard things. They are really good at opening their homes to all or many. Often foster parents have longed for children for quite some time that reality makes for us to easily feel guilt. I often check myself asking, “do I need to hit my kid goal of 6-12 all in the first three years of being a parent.” I find that I long to take them all in, I long that no child should go unloved or unsafe. Every child that I say yes to will costs me something and our home dynamics will change.
Building your family through foster care comes with the harsh reality that it will not be easy, actually it is freaking messy. Parenting is never easy but parenting trauma kids comes with a whole new level of needed skills. We are navigating endless court hearings, cruel bio families and the inconvenience of workers, visits and rules in our homes. All the while struggling with our own guilt when we don’t bond to a child right away. The struggle when one child’s needs takes a lot of our time and focus leaving the rest of our crew depleted. The guilt that comes when we won’t adopt a child who has already been in our home. After endless attempts to fix the behaviors we must give notice to have a child removed from our home, guilt shows up. Then we have the cases where we want the child to stay forever and we fall in love instantly only to months later say goodbye to them, returning them to situations that are less than ideal. The reality is, it all hurts.
How do we love well in the risk of loss? How do we move on and heal when the goodbyes happen? How do we choose when to say no, feeling the weight of the world in guilt? There is no golden ticket answer that fits it all. When it comes to the reality of foster care we must choose to put the kiddos first, we do this for them not us. They do not complete us, there is too much pressure in that we instead see, petition and fight for them. These kiddos have not had enough people do that for them, they are victims. We will heal after they leave because we can, it takes time and I can say the ache never fully goes away but each day ache seems less overwhelming. We remember that our no is somebody’s prayer for a yes, we need to remember that sometimes when it doesn’t feel right it’s not because they aren’t ours.
I have said “no” to 30 or so kids, I have learned to say no. I have learned that there are times as a family we can’t take more. I have learned that certain behaviors or needs we just can’t accommodate. I have learned that in times of healing we say yes for that helps us process. At times loving well means saying no, to more children, social engagements and even just no to my children. Other times saying yes seems to be the way to grow, yes to more, yes to having people over for dinner and yes to doing.
Most often as foster parents we air on the side of yes, and we figure it out. The world of foster care has kept us flexible and ready to go at a moment’s notice. We want to love them all and heal them all which can leave us empty. We must learn to find the balance in the times to say yes and the times to say no. Allowing ourselves the grace to make either decision. So when it feels the world questions our decisions we must find ourselves in a place where we love well and that includes ourselves.