Last night Mike and I met friends for dinner. We share the common bond of parenthood, marriage, church, hometown community and foster parenting. During the first course, we talked about the stupid thing we did as young adults. By the main course, we lamented the ever growing need to monitor our students’ technology and the ins and outs of teen dating. By dessert, our conversation turned to foster care. We shared stories about little ones who haven’t slept in months as well as enthusiastically long prayers given by pre-schoolers at dinner time. We shook our heads at the hard parts and belly laughed at the funny bits.
Finally, the question, “Do you ever regret this?” All four of us collectively sighed, shaking our heads.
“I don’t regret it, even the hard things.”
“Well, I regret it when I want a brown sugar and cinnamon pop-tart and they’re all gone!” We laughed.
“I regret it when there’s no more hot water and I haven’t showered in a week.” We laughed harder.
“I regret it when my 9 year old crawls into my bed and shoves his extra long toe nail/claws into my back.”
Our laughter roared.
That’s when I launched into a particularly theatrical retelling of the first time I had a foster child with medical special needs. I found out I would need to place an NG (nasogastric tube) to feed her every two hours. I took a crash course in tube feedings just in time to take the child home. Her constant feedings and seizure disorder often led to her subsequent vomiting of Pedia-sure all over my hair, clothes and shoes.
“I regret the vomit.”
We laughed until we cried.
That’s when the woman at the next table stood and walked toward us. She leaned close to our table, just inches from my husband’s chair, with a plastic smile across her face and steel eyes, “Thank you for sharing all of that stuff. You reminded me of why I’m glad I made the decision NOT to foster.” With the smile still plastered, she turned toward the door. We were in shock.
“Thank you for not fostering.” My friend said under her breath.
For a moment the mood was dampened. Was she insulting us? We wondered at her motive. We questioned ourselves. Had we given the impression that fostering is bad? We wondered out loud what had we done wrong?
Then we remembered, if it weren’t for this life, these challenges, joys, sorrows, failures and successes, we wouldn’t have the families we have. We remembered that the hard stories are the ones worth telling. It’s the uniqueness of this life that wakes us up each day wondering, what will happen next? Daily, we come face to face with our own shortcomings. We stand in awe as our children defy the odds and rise toward success. We have a front row seat to the blossoming of children who have faced hardship most of us can only imagine. We have the privilege of kissing our children goodbye as they return home to parents who have clawed their way through adversity to mend a broken family. We do our best each day to navigate a broken system with our own tattered spirit. We make mistakes and we fail, sometimes publicly. In the humiliation we have learned humility. Our character strengthens and grows as we have learned to see people for who they are and not for their circumstances.
Our character strengthens and grows as we have learned to see people for who they are and not for their circumstances.
I guess foster parenting isn’t the right fit for the lady who was eavesdropping on our conversation last night. Fostering isn’t for everyone. For me, it is everything. It has taught me to lay down my pride and arrogance. It has caused me to come face to face with deep brokenness, especially my own. Fostering has challenged me to rise above the hard things in life and celebrate the beauty of my children, of their birth families and even myself.
Have you ever encountered an odd or offensive situation like ours? Share your story with us in the comment section below.