Friday, July 14, 2017

Every Day is Hard

Have you ever lived through a season and when you looked back at it, you wondered how you even got out of bed in the morning?

I have.

A season where every day is hard. Every hour is hard. Every minute is hard.

All you want to do is go back. The past looks so much better than the future.

Welcome to foster care.

But here's the question: Who has it the hardest?

As foster and/or adoptive parents, we could jump in here and describe the inconveniences and the disruptions and the difficulties we experience.

However, are we the ones who have it the hardest?

I mean, I get it. I really do. These kids add a level of chaos those outside the system will never experience or understand. It's tough. It's loud. It's all day, every day. I've been there. Multiple times.

But aren't we still living in our own houses, surrounded by our people, looking at our stuff?

When the days are long and hard, isn't that still my cat lounging on my living room chair?  Isn't that still my car in the driveway?  Didn't I just respond to a text from my closest friend?

And that answers our question. Who has it the hardest? The kids stuck in the system. Hands down. No contest.

Be sure to remember that, especially on the hardest days.

It's hard for us, there's no denying that, but don't forget that it's hardest for them.

Make sure you view every day with eyes of compassion.  They need you to.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

100% Parent

I'm sure I've told this story here before, but I'll tell it again because it is worth repeating.

We met Ashley four days before Christmas.  We picked her up from a children's home in a town nine hours away from ours.  We stayed in a Holiday Inn.  We celebrated Christmas in a hotel room with a 12 inch tree.  We opened presents on Christmas Eve morning because on Christmas Day, Hannah and I would be making the nine hour trip home.  It was not a Norman Rockwell Christmas.

She was hard to handle from the start, easily angered, difficult to understand, and very loud.  There was lice involved.  It was not the most wonderful time of the year.

We trudged through those four days until, finally, Christmas morning arrived.  Hannah and I were excited.  It was time!  In a few short hours we would drop Ashley back off at the children's home and for 36 hours we would be Ashley-free - until they flew her to us on the 27th.

We checked out of the hotel and headed to the only restaurant we could find open on Christmas morning, IHOP.  It was packed.  We slid into our booth and ordered.  The girls went to wash their hands. The waitress brought our drinks and napkins and silverware.  We sat chatting, mostly Hannah.  Something had made Ashley mad.  I don't remember what.  Suddenly, without warning, Ashley threw her arms across the table and everything on it went flying.

What would you do?  What would you say?

The place grew deathly quiet.  Every eye was on us.

There was so much I wanted to say, so much I wanted these folks to know.

I knew what they were thinking.  I would have been thinking it, too.

They saw me as a mom who couldn't handle her own kid.

I wanted to stand up and explain.  I wanted to tell them that I had only met her four days ago.  I wanted them to know that I picked her up from their children's home down the street.  I wanted them to know that this was not my kid.  I had not created this mess.

Instead, I apologized a million times to a waitress that was not amused.  I offered to clean up the mess, but she refused. I offered to pay for the damage, but she didn't take me up on that either.

So we sat as they cleaned up around us and brought us new drinks and napkins and silverware.  Our breakfast arrived and we ate it in silence.

Then we left.

The folks in that restaurant never understood, and that's okay.  They can think that I'm the worst parent in the world. They can think that I have no business raising children.  They can think all kinds of things.  None of that matters.

You know what matters?  Ashley.  She matters.

From the moment I picked her up on December 21st, 2008, I signed up to be her 100% mom.  From the moment I met her, I committed myself to be 100% in her corner.

Even at IHOP on Christmas morning.

It doesn't matter if your home is her forever home or a temporary one.  As soon as she is placed in your care and for as long as that placement lasts, you are her 100% parent.  Everyday.  Not just the easy ones.  Not just when you feel like it.  Everyday. Everyday. Everyday.

Fight the urge to explain her mess to others, especially strangers.  Keep her confidences, protect her reputation, show her that you'll take what comes and won't spread it around.

Be 100% on her side.  Even if it makes you look like a fool in IHOP on Christmas morning.

You'll be in good company.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Somebody to Somebody

Hannah has been talking, but not just her usual chatting around the house.  She's been traveling across Texas speaking to folks who are considering foster care and adoption. Big groups, small groups, individuals - it doesn't matter to her.  If you're willing to listen, she's willing to talk.

This morning we were in Waco. I listened as she shared her story.  I've heard it a hundred times, but this morning she said something she had never said before.

"I just wanted to be somebody to somebody."

I immediately teared up. Isn't this the ache in every heart? Don't we all long to matter to someone?

Thankfully, most of us are surrounded by our people. We have family.  We have friends.  We don't feel alone or unimportant.  Especially at nine years old.

But Hannah didn't have that. She wasn't somebody to somebody.  She felt like a nobody.

I watched a lady on the back row dap her eyes.  I did the same. Hannah never stopped. She moved forward with her story, pleading with these would-be foster or adoptive parents to hang in there when the going got tough. Asking them to be the somebody who made a child in foster care feel like somebody.

I'm in love with this journey - even the parts that make me cry.

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