Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Good Parts of Saying Good-Bye

I've shared so much about the heartache of saying good-bye to our foster son. But honestly, having him here was really really hard.

There have been a lot of good things since he left and I wouldn't be telling the whole story if I left those out.

I was in a pretty dark spot for awhile when Little Man was here. I wasn't able to do the things that keep me afloat and I was struggling. So many people were willing to help, but I didn't even know what to ask for, or how to ask it. After he left we talked a lot about what sort of things would need to happen if we were to take another foster child in. There would be things we would have to do differently if we were going to not just survive in it, but thrive. It's so important to have the hard and honest conversations about how this sort of thing affects you and your family, otherwise you set yourself up for burnout and failure.

Jack really started to hate school. He's an amazing student, extremely smart and has lots of friends, and yet getting him to school became a battle all of the sudden. He started having stomach aches and I got a few calls from the office. He may not have been able to verbalize everything he was feeling, but what we got out of him was that he was at school and Little Man was home with me, and even his brothers were only in school for a short amount of time. He was feeling left out, sad that he was away from me and he wasn't angry at Little Man but he definitely felt the transition of this in a different way.

The boys miss Little Man a lot, and ask about him often. Jack even asks if we can adopt him. There was not a lack of love and acceptance, and only once did one of our kids say they were annoyed by him. That doesn't mean it wasn't hard to share not just their space, but their time with another child.

We've loved the freedom again to just pick up and take off, go on a trip or head out of town to the beach for the day. I don't miss changing diapers. I don't miss the mess of a new eater and I was so over making bottles! While I loved rocking him to sleep, I missed my sleep. Our boys are great sleepers, and for the most part have always been. I took that for granted!


Since Little Man went back with his Mom, we've been much more in tune with each of our kids needs. We've been more intentional and it's been a good time for us to evaluate. I've also been able to be a lot more honest with myself about what I'm capable of, as a stay at home Mom of three (then 4) boys and the kinds of things that I need in my life to be able to function in a sane way.

It's a tough balance. Figuring out the part that says "sacrifice will hurt" and also "don't kill yourself or your family". It looks different for every family, and while I don't want to scare anyone away from doing foster care....you have to be able to honestly asses what you and your family are capable of long term.

As we move forward in evaluating our lives and schedules, it's important to us we continue to have those honest talks and stay involved in some way. The need is desperate, I cannot stress that enough. We hope to be an example of a normal family with young kids that took a leap of faith and despite the hard parts--it was worth every single second.

Even if we didn't have the relationship with Little Man's Mom that we do, it would be worth it. I'm so thankful for the added bonus of our continued involvement. I am looking forward to seeing what God does.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Two Months Later

It's been quiet around these parts. Sometimes writing things down is so good for my processing, and other times I have to process first before I can write anything coherent.

According to my last post we were preparing to say goodbye to our foster son. Preparing is a funny word. When I prepare dinner I have the ingredients at the ready, but there is nothing at the ready in this sort of situation. You wash the clothes and sort out the ones that he still fits in and will go with him. You fold and store the ones he has outgrown in his time with you, remembering each outfit and thankful you took so many darn pictures. You set aside the one pair of footie pajamas he came in, sniffing in the smell of them and tucking them in a special box. You sanitize the toys, boxing up the ones that are his and putting the others away in case another little one comes to stay for awhile. You then ask your husband to remove every item in the home that would remind you of him, the gate, the high chair, the bottles and diapers... because if it's there after he is gone, every time you look at them it will punch you in the gut. You do leave his picture on the wall, the one you took and the one made into a Mother's Day gift. You don't erase him, you honor and acknowledge his space in your home and in your life, if even for a few short months. You watch the window for the social worker to pull up in the state car and remove him from your arms. You rock and rock and sing and pray and squeeze and hold tight until she comes.

That is the preparing you can do. There is no preparing your heart for the feeling of loss that comes. You have mothered a child. You've attended to the midnight cries with soothing rocks in the comfy chair and warm bottles. You've sung the goodnight song, said the prayers and the scripture over him. You've done the doctor visits, the antibiotics, the care of wounds. You've been the arms he's come back to after visits with him Mom, you've been the safe haven and the routine and schedule he's depended on. Your kids have bonded to him like any other new sibling, your family has embraced him as their own. Your church family, scrambling to hold him or see him- to love on him. You have given birth to a kind of love in your heart you didn't know existed. A new kind of love that represents a new characteristic of Christ, one that doesn't even make sense because you are loving a child that is not your own, nor will he ever be yours....and yet you go all in because you don't know how not too.

You've done the dance with social workers, judges, attorneys, and extended family. You've shown grace when you wanted to curse. You've advocated for him and been protective of him while also championing his mother and that has not been easy. You have put your own feelings aside, and trusted God to write this little one's story. 

And now you must relinquish him. You will no longer have a say in his care, his future, his life. You were a middle mom. You served your part for a time and now that time has come to an end and while the daily routine of caring for him ends...your heart does not stop caring. It can not, will not stop the loving, caring, aching for this child because that is not how love works. And there is no preparing for the hurt and grief you feel when that separation happens. 

It's been just over two months since we said goodbye and although we are still in touch it is so very different. To go from Mom to friend, to watch and not step in as he's given food too old for him or starts to run out into danger. To give his Mom space to learn to mother him while also not just turning a blind eye. Carefully choosing words that encourage and guide instead of judging. Walking the line of support and care, while creating boundaries for us all is a whole new sort of balancing act.

His eyes light up when he sees us. He knows us. I pray someday he will know just how much we loved him and still do...and why we loved him the way we did. This is the good and hard love we are called to.