Walking in Uncertainty:: Becoming a Foster Parent

Walking in Uncertainty:: Becoming a Foster Parent | Houston Moms Blog

Anetrius Wallace Photography

A quick search on Google yields any number of apps created for the sole purpose of walking you through your pregnancy. Simply plug in some numbers and out pops an approximate due date. They tell you when your baby is the size of a cantaloupe or when their little arms and tiny toes are developing. You can design the nursery, attend showers, and determine what Pinterest-worthy theme your gender reveal party will have—in short, you can formulate a plan. Sure, some families experience surprises no one can “plan” for and occasionally babies show up a tad early or late, but generally speaking, you know what you’re in for and perhaps more importantly, when.

Preparing to Be Unprepared

I knew when we started down the winding road of foster care that nothing about this would be “normal.” Because we are open to caring for children of either gender within a relatively wide age range, planning anything in advance can prove rather challenging. We chose what we feel is a gender neutral theme for the bedroom, but what about toys? Items that are safe for a baby and challenging enough for a 5-year-old look very different. Currently, our “playroom” is equipped with a few staples:: blocks, books, puzzles, toy cars, art supplies…but none of those are really baby-friendly. What if we get a call for a 6-month-old? We will be woefully unprepared. {Yes, these are the thoughts that wake me at 3 a.m.} Flip that around, a 6 or 7-year-old will likely be gravely uninterested in our collection of Mega Bloks that we’ve somehow acquired. Forget stockpiling clothing of any kind—I don’t have Goodwill-level storage capacity.

The bed in our designated kid’s room is a trundle, so if we take on siblings we have that going for us, but what child doesn’t want their own bed after a while? That requires some major reconfiguration {and purchases} on our part. Not to mention there is no space for two dressers. {Bring on beds with built-in storage!} We haven’t invested in a crib or car seats because well, we can’t. We have no idea what we’ll need until we need it. This includes bottles, dishes, booster seats, diapers, toddler-friendly flatware… Imagine every baby shower and child’s birthday through age 6 you’ve ever been to. Now think to yourself how different those purchases were—that’s where my mind is—all the time. As a foster parent, I am stuck in a swirling limbo of what can I buy ahead of time to feel prepared but not so much so that it’s “worthless” if it doesn’t fit the age or gender of the placement that we receive.

Walking in Uncertainty:: Becoming a Foster Parent | Houston Moms Blog

Anetrius Wallace Photography

Waiting for a Shift

My Type A personality has begun to spin out {or could very well be past that point; we aren’t certain} at the realization that as we are now officially licensed foster parents, and our world has the potential to change drastically at a moment’s notice. Consider the mind-blowing weight of that. We have no idea when this world-shattering moment will happen. There is no app that can give us a timeline. There is no gender reveal until the phone rings. We won’t know their age or backstory. In a matter of moments, our world will shift from a couple of married folks who decide on a whim to go to brunch or the beach to someone’s parents. A title we’ve never held and honestly don’t have the first clue about how to either. I find myself constantly concerned about planning future events. What about our annual trip to the river? What if we have a child by then? I don’t know the first thing about buying children’s life jackets! My husband—currently the more even-keeled one—reminds me that we have to just keep living our life, keep buying movie tickets. There’s no reason to buy a Costco-sized bag of chicken strips until we know there will be someone here to eat them.

For now, I jump every time my phone buzzes. I imagine all kinds of scenarios, none of which will likely play out because life doesn’t work that way. We can only prepare our home, minds, and hearts as best we can with the training we’ve been given. But here’s the thing. Foster parents have been prepped for how to handle medical scenarios, what’s allowed as far as discipline, and even tips for communicating with children who have experienced trauma and how to help calm them. I have oodles of notes on all kinds of topics. {I even have certificates! Cue over-competitive nature.} But no one has prepped me for everyday life. I don’t know how to keep them from slipping in the tub or what type of night light is best. I haven’t a clue what programs kids watch and I often {unintentionally} buy games that are not age-appropriate {think small pieces and difficult rules, sorry sis}. Moments of panic and self-doubt inevitably creep in, but then I see a profile or hear a video of a child just begging for a family to love him instead of hurting him, and I’m wrecked all over again. We have no other choice really, we were meant for this.

Keeping the Perspective

We knew what we signed on for. In the end, it’s not about us at all. For all of our worry and our anxiety, most of these children in foster care are just striving to survive. They are living in environments where they may not have known what it’s like to feel safe or if meals were guaranteed. Where being “loved” equates to violence. It’s not about new paint in the bedroom or whether or not I bought the right coloring books.

What matters is when that precious face enters our front door for the first time that they feel loved, wanted, and that they are inherently valuable in this world. And whether they return to their biological family or stay and forever become a member of our outrageous clan, I hope they remember the crazy foster mom that cried when they cried, always did the voices when she read books, danced in the kitchen, made silly faces when she was trying not to scream, and loved them like crazy.

Walking in Uncertainty:: Becoming a Foster Parent | Houston Moms Blog


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