Monday, June 25, 2018

The Cost

Being a foster parent is a very seasonal kind of parenting, to be fair all parenting is. Fostering has a tendency to just speed everything up. Traditional parenting typically has a 9 month preparation and then gradually you grow and change along with your child, each stage preparing you and them for the next. The sweetness of a baby warms your heart for the struggle of a toddler and that toddler prepares you for the teenager they will be someday. Fostering it all comes at once, you are dealing with the unexplainable tantrum of a little stranger you just met, that may or may not have had some trauma triggered. There is no preparation and often there is very little bond for you to fall back on when you are dealing with the meltdown.

The journey of foster parenting is filling the gap and loving these little souls while their families are healing and rebuilding. We desperately love borrowed babies, snuggling them, becoming experts on all their favorites and studying all their quirks. We learn them, we know them, we love them. Then the call comes, the one we all dread, time becomes short. In that brief moment we are jerked into a new reality, one of counting down and preparing. We wash load after load of laundry walking through our homes gathering their items, we make books, send clothes and write bio-parents a detailed schedule. Other times, we get the call and barely have time to get ourselves to their daycare fast enough to soak up just one more snuggle.

That moment hits and we find ourselves ramping up the grieving process. The loss of little souls we bonded with whether just weeks, months or even a year worth of love. Sometimes we even feel like we shouldn’t feel as deeply as we do for these little ones. It’s the kind of loss that when I speak about it, the lump in my throat grows and no words seem to only escape through hot tears filling up my eyes. The loss that dwells in the quiet and a loss so sharp when we find little socks around the house.

Our home has been in all sorts of transition and to be honest, I haven’t even processed a fraction of the change we have been through. I am putting that on the to do list, right after find new insurance company and before book a massage. Many of you have followed our story sometime now, so you know back in March our sweet four year old boy left us just shy of one year of being with us. We threw a huge party, rallied around him, made books, talked it through and cried a lot of tears as a family. It was my first experience walking through the loss he was going through, he was my first verbal processor that suddenly left without much notice. Six weeks later the call came again for his return, that time he was with us two months. Then another goodbye, less extravagant. A couple of my kiddos have come and gone several times that one is a hard one to juggle.

Then two weeks ago, a mere ten days after he left our home the call came. That night he was being dropped off at my doorstep. The heart of a foster parent is trained to be malleable, we are quick to adapt to change. We become parents overnight to strangers, with invisible suitcases filled with trauma. Attachment disorders quickly teach us that this is not about us but them. We are tossed to and fro on the waves of emotions as we are helplessly falling in love with these borrowed babies. At times the bonds are slow to form so we must press in and love well even when we don’t feel like it.

I am finding myself clutching a bit, holding tightly to the things I feel I can control with the reality of loss. Every time I look into the eyes of my babies, that may just be mine for a season I am learning to savor them. Oh, to hold a perfect memory of every look, smile and memory forever.

To love deeply is to lose deeply and what a bittersweet gift that it. To know a love so deep that when it is gone we can physically feel the void. May we find the strength to love these borrowed babies well, with our all, if even for just a season.

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