After the boy was placed with his father and the girls were placed with their grandmother (called kinship placement in the foster parenting world), we had two glorious weeks of freedom and quiet. I wish I could say that I felt some sadness when they left, but I didn't. They were going to live with family, which is always the first goal for kids placed in foster care, and besides that, as I said last week, we either didn't have the time or the personalities to bond. They left with smiles as wide as mine.
This would've been my first clear opportunity to quit. And looking back on how miserable I was those first few months, I'm not sure why I didn't. I have some stubbornness issues, certainly, and I'd spent years thinking that I needed to do this. I might not be equipped to help people in any other way, but I could take care of some kids. It can't be that hard.
I must have been crazy.
For someone who can't tolerate a messy house, unnecessary noise, most other people...yeah, I don't know what I was thinking.
But however it happened, Daniel and I stayed on the list, and he continued, as he always does, to make me a better person and comfort me when I feel like I can't take another moment.
Sibling group #2 arrived late one evening. There was a four-year-old girl (we'll call her Carrie, like Stephen King's psychotic teenage protagonist) and her ten-month-old little brother (who we'll call Michael, like the archangel).
Our first three kids had been evidently well-cared for: their clothes were clean, they had at least heard of the word, "please," and they looked like someone had limited their intake of corn syrup and made sure they had some broccoli now and then.
None of these things were true of Carrie and Michael. It seemed that Carrie had never had a bed time or meal times, and the concept of time-outs (and sometimes just the word "no") was met with all-out screaming, punching, and kicking, whether we were at home or in public, whoever was within kicking distance. Keep in mind, this isn't a fussy two-year-old. This kid is four. She's so full of anger that even when she's playing with a toy phone, she shouts and curses at whoever she imagines on the other end.
Michael seemed to have been taken off formula a long time ago in favor of cheaper whole milk. He was twice the size he should've been and still wasn't getting important nutrients he needed. But the kid was so sweet that I literally spent hours a day just smiling at him.
Even in code, even leaving out details, I feel like I'm saying too much. But I really need to say it. Kids like these, abused and neglected and in such desperate need, are the reason I need to be a foster mom, as much as it sucks.
Within days of placement, Carrie began to show improvement. There still wasn't an hour that passed without a time-out, and we had to be extremely strict with her, and I still went to my room several times a day just to breathe for a few minutes. I had to constantly remind myself that she was so awful because no one had taken the time to help her. Still, I've never disliked anyone more than that child, and that's a horrible thing to admit.
Carrie and Michael were with us for nine days before they were turned over to their aunt, a wonderful woman who had been trying for months to get them out of their home and into her care.
They left, and as relieved as I felt about saying good-bye to Carrie, I cried for days over Michael. I'd said good-bye to the first baby in my care, not just a baby, but a boy so unimaginably precious and full of smiles that I was happy to hear him wake up in the night so I could spend a few more minutes with him.
Again, I was sure that I was done with foster care, and again, I decided to wait and see.
Next week: Foster Parenting's Strange Vacations