I am not a mommy (yet), therefore I have not joined the “Parenthood Club,” but over the past year, I have had the wonderful opportunity of opening my home to children who are in need of a safe, warm, and loving environment to lay their heads down at night.
Today marks the one year anniversary of Daniel and I welcoming our first “Safe Families” child into our home. Safe Families is a Christian based program here in Illinois (and other states) where parents can voluntarily place their children with “host parents” due to a crisis occurring in their lives. This crisis could be an illness, unemployment, domestic violence, homelessness, or just feeling overwhelmed. Many of us have friends and family we can turn to, but often times, these parents have no one to rely on for support.
It is amazing because the parents maintain full custody but it gives them an opportunity to not worry about their children being taken care while they “get back on their feet”. We are not compensated financially, but our reward is far greater than any reimbursement check we could ever receive. We are compensated with the joy and satisfaction of being able to share the love of Christ to not only the children, but also their parents who may be unfamiliar with the unfailing love of our Savior. With nearly every parent we have come in contact with they are just in awe that someone would be willing to sacrifice so much for them and their children (which to us, it isn’t much of a sacrifice at all when I think about the benefits we are both receiving).
Last year on November 2nd, we had the privilege of caring for a sweet, two-year old little boy for three months while His mother found work and an apartment. He definitely brought life to our home and helped break up the monotonous life we were living in our own little bubble. For me, it was nice to finally have someone to communicate with during the day rather than me always talking to our two cats.
This little person full of life sure did initiate me right away into full-blown motherhood! Within the first two weeks we had him, he caught the stomach bug and threw up (everywhere and on everyone) all night long. I believe I called my parents multiple times during the wee hours of the morning because I had never seen such a small body throw up so much before. I thought for sure the child was dying in my care! My dad reassured me that he would be fine…and he was. By 10am the next morning, he was acting himself and was even able to go and visit his mom. But by the next day, I came down with the stomach bug and the following day my husband had it 🙂
The next week he was up all night and nothing could soothe him…that’s when I discovered he had a horrible double ear infection despite tubes being put in his ears a couple of weeks prior. During the entire three months we had him, we made weekly trips to the doctor’s office because nothing was working to get rid of the ear infection. Finally the week before he returned to his mother, the doctor reinserted his tubes. Hallelujah!
He returned to his mother at the end of January and many would marvel at our ability to “just give him back”. But the entire time we cared for him we knew our roles.
He was not ours and our roles were to simply love him, care for him, and provide for him. I spent many moments with the Lord in prayer each day for grace to care and love him like a mother, but to not get too emotionally attached like a mother would. Was I sad when he left? Of course! Were their moments following the return to his mother did I look at the clock and think…”this was normally his nap time.” Yep! Whenever I passed by his old bedroom I would think about how he used to spend HOURS looking at all of his toy cars. But I was never too emotionally attached that it felt like a piece of me left when he did.
In April, we had the joy of caring for two brothers ages 6 and 7 for a week and boy were they entertainment! My favorite time spent with them was right before bed whenever we did story and prayer time. There prayer requests were so childlike and innocent. I loved listening to what was on their heart and just living through them…they truly showed me what it was like to come to Jesus like a child. Their innocence and openness touched me every night.
These two boys also showed me first hand that kids really do say the craziest things! I will never forget one time when the oldest boy was outside playing football with me and he immediately dropped the ball, looked at me with eyes of worry and ran as fast as he could inside to the bathroom, all while screaming, “I HAVE TO POOP! I HAVE TO POOP!”. After a couple of minutes, I decided that if I wanted to continue to play football with him and if he was going to touch the football, then he needed to remember to wash his hands. So as a reminder, I poked my head inside and shouted, “Don’t forget to wash your hands!”. His response, “I only need to wash the one–ya know, it only takes the one hand to wipe.” After he said this, I kinda just stood there speechless and thought…“I guess you do only use one hand.” (Don’t worry, I still made him wash both hands)
In June, we began watching siblings, 4-year-old and 8-year-old two nights a week in order to help a single mother be able to care for her sick mother who just had surgery. It also gave the children an opportunity to be mentored (kinda like big brothers/big sisters). What a blessing the mother and children have been to us! They are also full of life and so much joy to be around. Their mother is the sweetest thing too!
Our last placement was two weeks ago when we had the opportunity to help out another host parent who was caring for a nine month old while she was unable to care for him for a week. It was quite the experience going from zero children to a nine month old as it was fun, entertaining, exhausting, and frustrating all in the same minute at times. Caring for this child was a true taste of parenthood. No longer was I able to tackle my chores during the day or eat dinner when I wanted. Instead it was finishing the task of folding laundry at 8pm that I had started off and on since 1pm, eating on the go, picking crusted boogers off my sleeve, guessing the stains on my pants (were they from lunch or supper?) and checking to make sure he was still breathing every two hours while he slept. I. Was. Exhausted. But I enjoyed every minute of him being in our home.
For some struggling with the battle of trying to conceive, this probably isn’t the best program to participate in; but God is good and He is faithful. He has given us the grace to be able to care for these precious families without becoming too attached. Also, I firmly believe that it is part of job to care for those in need, even strangers. Hebrews 13:2 tells us that in doing so, we entertain angels without even knowing it. I often wonder how many angels Daniel and I have entertained…