We are quickly approaching the moments people talk about when they say “I could never foster – it would be too hard to let them go.” I felt ready for this, for the most part, until this invisible clock started ticking in my ear yesterday with some changes in court. Six kids is a lot. It’s slightly exhausting. The thought of “only” having four is appealing. And yet – I have this pit in my stomach that won’t go away. This week, I will hold the hands of two little boys as they say goodbye to their biological family forever. I will buckle them back into my car and drive away from all they have ever known. We will stuff our faces ice cream and I will apologize on behalf of everyone in their life. I am sorry. I am so, so sorry. Someone has to be responsible for this…it can’t be them. It wasn’t their fault. They are lovable and amazing and they were no mistake. Someday soon, I will buckle them into someone else’s car. I will watch them drive away from me, from everything they have known for the last 8 months. Our house will be so quiet. (Ok, quiet-ish.) No more “ahhhh morning!” from monkey first thing every morning. No more “maybe it’s a mystery!” from rabbit when I lose things, 42 times a day. No more of the millions of other happy memories I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
I brought “rabbit” some new pajamas home today, and he threw his arms around my neck. “THANK YOU, MOM! I LOVE THEM!” He kept those sweet little arms around my neck for the better part of five minutes. I couldn’t even get through our bed-time book without crying. “What’s wrong?” he asked. “I just love you so much and I want you to be happy. So much.” He laughed – “I *am* happy! I love you.”
I don’t know how their story is going to end, but it has been an absolute privilege to be a chapter in it.
I had a hard week. Nothing was different, really, but it was hard. Like…sort of mental health crisis hard. I felt like changing careers. I felt like being done fostering after this round. I felt kind of like running away.
I spent the last 24 hours getting a game plan of sorts, and thinking about what was so much harder this week. This is the life we have chosen. I have the incessant urge to heal people who feel broken, which results in constantly being immersed in other’s pain. It’s what I do for a living, and it is the way our family is formed. Anyway…for some reason, what popped into my head was the advice of the nurses after I had Jax’s c-section to “stay ahead of the pain.” Once you get behind, they told me, it’s hard to catch up. Take the pain meds even when you don’t feel like you need them. Stay. Ahead. Of. The. Pain. That’s a hard thing to do when you aren’t feeling pain.
This feels a lot like self-care, to me. It’s hard to remember when you aren’t in crisis. But for the love of GOD, you have to do it. For me, self-care means working out, having an hour of quiet time somewhere in my day, monthly respite/date night, blogging, music – playing or listening, getting time in nature, and practicing daily gratitude. I am focusing tonight on my 3 year old foster son thanking me for letting him stay here. I am choosing not to let that break my heart, but to feel peace about being a stepping stone on his journey. I am grateful for my kind 10 year old daughter, who felt my stress and asked – “can I fold a couple baskets of laundry to help you?” I am thankful for my circus clown of a husband, who brings constant joy (and maybe a little confusion?) into our home that could have the potential to have a different feeling when all of us had such different beginnings. I am thankful for the grace and chaos from our six kids and the love in our home. I am re-centering and vowing to stay ahead of the pain, because compassion hurts.