There I stood in the cereal aisle at Walmart when another woman approached me. She began complimenting our foster princess on her well-behaved manners before pointing out her beautiful blonde curls that were tucked so neatly behind her pink bow. She began questioning where she got her hair since it is so much different from mine. And that’s when I began telling this very sweet woman that her gorgeous blonde locks didn’t come from me. Nor did they come from my handsome husband. In fact, they came from her momma as she is our beautiful foster child. Immediately the woman began telling me I was “a saint” as she could never open herself up to such heartache and uncertainty. She even went on to say, “I have always wanted to become a foster parent, but it would be too hard for me.” To which I nodded. Because I get it. I understand. I too have said her words. Because the thing is? She is right. And I was right. Foster parenting is not always tea parties and coloring. It is hard.
It’s hard to go from a calm, flowing, and efficient schedule to one of chaos.
It’s hard voluntarily allowing a child into your home who has lice, bed bugs or worse.
It’s hard unpacking their belongings out of a trash bag and trying to hold back the tears.
It’s hard finding a place to tuck away the gut wrenching story in your brain so that you don’t have an emotional breakdown every time you look into their eyes.
It’s hard to not scoop them up and try to save them from this world that is treating them unfairly.
It’s hard finding the balance between loving them like crazy but not “spoiling them rotten.”
It’s hard to pray for their parents and not hate them when you read the allegations on court documents.
It’s hard scheduling and completing the mandatory doctor, dental and vision appointments within the first 30 days of placement.
It’s hard hearing a child tell you horrific stories they should never know, let alone have experienced.
It’s hard consoling them as they cry for their parents who you believe should be put in prison for the decisions they have made.
It’s hard waking up for the fourth time in the night because they have had yet another nightmare.
It’s hard trying to not say or do the wrong thing that might cause them to blow up in public.
It’s hard having case workers, child advocates and other social services parade through your home unannounced on a weekly basis and scrutinize you in ways no one does for a biological child.
It’s hard because these visits could be at 8:30 in the morning or 8:30 in the evening.
It’s hard standing in the court room face to face with their parents. Is the mother mad at me? Is she grateful? Dare you make eye contact or just look at the floor?
It’s hard not ever knowing what to expect and living a life of uncertainty.
It’s hard and even heartbreaking. But can I tell you something else? The chaos? The unannounced visits? The never-ending doctor appointments? The awkward parent meetings? Court hearings? And middle of the night cries? They are all worth it to see even one of their smiles. To feel just one of their warm hugs. Hear even the slightest sound of their laughter. Or catch a glimpse into their gentle eyes.
Foster parenting is hard. But it’s also worth it. Because love? Love is always worth it.
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