There was a joke a few weeks ago, that this period of time was going to give me a lot of material to work with.
We’ve worn our respite family hats high. Short term help for foster parents that have a trip or training. We’ve done a lot for single foster parents with work-related conflicts. We love the fit, some new kids, some kids we know well. I’ve gotten to visit a lot of schools in the area and worked with a lot of different caseworkers and families. Meeting birth parents as the not bad guy is always unique as well. We can always say no if it doesn’t work and the emotional toll on everyone is minimal. We are the Sometimes House. and I love it.
Most of the time.
We had a request to take a little one for a few weeks in January. At first, it seemed to fit and when Joe rolled his eyes, I stood firm. I feel really good about this! We’ve been doing so many older kids a younger one is great! We can manage, it’s *just* logistics.
As if logistics can be qualified with a *just.*
You guys, this is our 4th anniversary. I think. I know better. *Just* doesn’t exist in Foster Care. And yet, the “we can do hard things” is there on the wall, staring me down when I’m on the phone, when I’m yelling at my kids, when I’m drinking my third french press of coffee, when life is happening, which why I said, “yes, of course.”
Fast forward a great introduction to her new place for a bit, a lovely dinner, and a generally hard Saturday and you have me, hiding, migraine and anxiety attack hitting at the same time, after a craptastic Sunday.
3-year-olds are tough. 3-year-olds that have had their lives turned around and around and around again are something else. Our file says we are “highly skilled.” Which I find funny. I think it just means we’ve seen a lot and we’re still here. What I wasn’t ready for was how quickly some behaviors would send my body right back. Would send my brain right back. Back to the time, we had 5 kids under 8. The screaming about seatbelts. The throwing of themselves on the floor. The hitting other kids in the home. The smiling about it. Almost a “what, exactly, strange lady, are you going to do about it?” The embarrassment in public places. It all took me back. From the behavior to the attachment to strangers to the look that you give foster kids when you see them and you know they are in care. There’s a look. We all do it.
Obviously, this is a different kid and a different time and we have all done the hard work in therapy to heal, but my brain, my brain didn’t necessarily know that quick enough.
So, there we are, two days into a 14-day respite, crumbling.
I’ve processed and healed and thought a lot about whether to share or not. It’s not a big thing, but it kinda is. They call it caregiver trauma or secondary trauma. It comes after taking care of people that have experienced trauma. It sounds fancy and tough but I think any of us working with humans with special requirements and iffy backgrounds have it. Maybe we’ll have a generic “parenting induced trauma” to cover all of us.
I reached out and found support- a lot. I talked behaviors through with the county. I talked candidly to ladies that I’ve given special clearance to my soul. School and routine and space was good for everyone and- before you know it- we made it.
I used my “highly skilled” phone call making skills when we needed to get to a doctor quick and the general “toss the county under the bus rule” for the daycare when they weren’t happy with the speed of care. I made sure to keep foster mom in the loop when I knew she was worried. And I asked for help when we really actually did need it- everyone down and out with the flu.
From where we were 3 years ago, growth is the first word that comes to mind. Painful, heart-stretching, totally worth it, growth.
Which is why I wanted to write today. To soothe that part of my brain that needs to remember it’s ok. And to remind you, dear friends, what it’s like on this side. What the days look like for people that say yes to hard. For the single foster parents that are way braver than I ever will be. To remind that there is a need and we need the help. The driving around to appointments and the help with our other kids and the late night chocolate drop-offs. We need the people to listen to our venting text messages and just well- listen. We need all of it for this to work- the brave hearts and the support hearts and the always there no matter what hearts.
We’re not done with respite. We’ve got some more kiddos coming through before the end of the month. Shorter, though. I would not have said that we were in the trenches- we haven’t been for a while- since a few months post-JJ- really. But the more we say yes and the more hearts we love and the more kids we know- I’m realizing that trench life is kinda our thing.
And that’s ok. It’s kinda awesome down here.
This week was so very hard but it was also so very good. I watched a 3yo pack her backpack so full of books to show her teacher at school that she couldn’t stand up. I had to take them out and promise she could read them when she got back. I watched my daughter, one who has always loved fiercely, love fiercely still. I watched my husband stand firm, so incredibly firm in the beauty of the hard. I saw the speed at which we can move priorities around. And I saw that I can go somewhere hard, somewhere dark, and have a team pull me up, having them knowing full well it’s only a matter of time before I’m going back down again.
So friends, wherever you are in this, if you are watching from the sidelines, not sure if you want to jump in. If you are crumbling alongside us praying for relief. If you are the middle of the night chocolate person or the staring in the store person, or the random person called “mommy,” know that hard is never, ever, the wrong thing.