I’m pretty sure that we all suffer from a little bit of “Mom Amnesia” from time to time. We fondly remember the coos, giggles and baby smiles while selectively forgetting the smell of spit-up, diaper blow-outs and overall exhaustion that comes with having a newborn. We love to talk about first words and first steps, but we never mention the screams and stumbles that inevitably come before. Mom Amnesia plays a special role in the world, I think. I’m pretty sure it’s why the human race keeps persisting, because none of us would decide to have another baby without it.
I definitely suffer from Mom Amnesia, but it’s a rare and severe strain known as “Foster Mom Amnesia.”
Our family has been licensed as foster parents for nearly four years, and we have had the honor and privilege — and, let’s face it, craziness — of welcoming almost a dozen sweet kiddos into our home since then. Some have been with us only a few days for respite care, while others, like our sweet Kamila, have become a part of our forever family.
All that said, it’s been two years since we have had an actual placement — the official term in the language of foster care — in our home (cue the amnesia). Long story short: we adopted Kamila, I had a baby, and we were just getting our feet back under us. About two months ago we let our agency know we were ready, and three days later we received a call right as we were putting our kids in bed. We said yes, and a sweet, scared little three-year-old came into our home a few hours later.
As we have navigated and — let’s be honest — done all we can to survive these past few weeks, I have realized that there were quite a few parts of foster care that I had forgotten. I can honestly say that, as a family, we are much the better for fostering. But, y’all, it’s not easy. But then again, nothing meaningful in life really is.
May is National Foster Care Month, and you’d better believe that I am always trying to convince others to get involved (babysitter-certified, anyone?). I won’t sugar-coat it. Parenting is hard. And foster parenting is exponentially so, but here’s an honest, in-the-trenches look at everything I forgot about being a foster mom.
Uncertainty is uncomfortable for everyone:
“Are you keeping her?” It’s the million-dollar question, and the first one on everyone’s minds. In foster care, there is so much that is uncertain. I can tell you the goal of a certain child’s case. I can tell you that visits with family are or aren’t happening. I can tell you the progress that I’m seeing. But I’m not the one who makes decisions about placement or the long-term. Uncertainty. It’s my middle name as a foster mom. And it’s hard for me, sure. But it’s even harder for the precious one placed in my care. So I’ll step into the unknown with her and answer her questions about the chaos that is swirling around her the best that I can.
Trauma is real, and it can affect every part of life (yours and the child’s):
We complete trainings every year about the seriousness of trauma. But, wow. I had forgotten its intensity in the life of a small child. Intense like, “I will scream every time you put me in the carseat because the last time someone put me in an unknown car, my whole world crashed around me.” Intense like, “I must brush my teeth immediately after bath time because that’s how we did it at home…but wait, you don’t know that, because this home is not the home I’m used to.” Cue the total meltdown that I definitely didn’t see coming.
I hate taking kids to the doctor:
When I say “hate,” I really mean it. And with ever foster child we’ve ever had, being at the doctor has been just a normal part of life. It was like going to back to see old friends when I took our newest addition for her initial check-up a few weeks ago. Except while I’m seeing said old friends I have a terrified and inconsolable three-year-old attached to my hip. And I know none of her medical history and I don’t have her shot record. But I’ll see y’all next week, because I’m sure I’ll be back.
My kids are absolute champs and teach me so much about compassion and patience:
I can’t even begin to express how proud I am of my kids. One night they are going to sleep like usual. And the next morning, there’s a new child sleeping in the bedroom next door. What do they do? Without reservation, they welcome this new little one into our home. They share their toys and ask questions about all of her favorite things. Their understanding, acceptance and flexibility far outweigh my own, and I had forgotten how much they can teach me.
Paperwork and hula hoops:
Yikes. I had definitely forgotten the mountain of paperwork that comes with the territory. Forms for the doctor to fill out. Forms for medication. Clothing inventories. Incident reports. Daily schedule. The list goes on. I seriously think that licensing agencies should lay out an obstacle course of hula hoops at their first orientation meetings for prospective foster parents. If you can make it through without tripping and falling, you’ll be just fine in the world of foster care.
We can do so much more than we think we can, when we step out of our comfort zone:
I’m not really sure how we have survived the last month and a half, but by the grace of God we have. We really can do more than we think that we can. But so often we are worried about comfort and control, or at least I know that I am. There’s nothing like the crazy of foster care to tell you that you’re not in control at all. It’s not a lesson that I learn easily, and it’s obviously one that I needed to learn again.
Progress takes time, but it will come:
I forget how much I take my own kids for granted. We have a history, and they know (even if they don’t always act like it) that I have their best interest at heart as I parent them. When a foster child comes into our home, that history and trust isn’t there. And it just takes time. Our newest has only been with us for six or so weeks, but carseat meltdowns are basically over, and we have successfully figured out a bedtime routine. The struggle is still real (see doctors and paperwork above…), but we are seeing trust begin to take root in the life of this little one, and for that I am grateful.
Just like with all my other kids, I know that what I’ll remember most about this season of life are the high points — the giggles, progress and growth. I’ll get amnesia about all of the intensity and hoop-jumping, and then we’ll do it all over again.
So, will you take the plunge with me?
The need for foster parents is huge, especially in Texas, and especially in the Rio Grande Valley. We’ve never waited more than a few weeks for a call once we were ready to welcome a new child into our home. There are kids sleeping in offices because there are no placement options for them. So, would you consider stepping into the crazy that is foster parenting? It will be quite a ride, I promise!
Foster Care Resources: Jason Johnson Blog | The Forgotten Initiative | Circles of Care | Texas Department of Family Services