After months of praying, assessing our mental health, taking classes, consenting to home studies and fire marshal inspections, and then finally (FINALLY!) getting the necessary and proper license, Jonathan and I (and the kids) entered the world of foster care this year.
We’re total newbies here in this strange and different world. So far we’ve had a grand total of 3 foster kids in and out of our home. First a sibling group, and currently a 1 year old little boy. In this adventure, we’ve met other families who have been fostering for longer than we’ve been alive, and who’ve welcomed literally hundreds of children into their homes and hearts. So to think that I could offer up any kind of real “wisdom” on what it means to be a foster parent, or what it means to take care of foster children, is laughable. I don’t have enough experience under my belt for that kind of conversation. I’m still just figuring out how to keep my head above water. But I have learned some things about myself (and re-learned some things about toddlers) in this short time that I thought I’d share:
1. My own kids are now 8, 7, and 5. In a few short years, I had totally forgotten how useful baby wipes can be! Not only do they efficiently clean dirty butts, but they wipe down dirty faces as well. (Be sure to use a new wipe.) In a pinch they can be used as a hair product, calming unruly toddler bed head. Beyond use on the actual child, they are handy around the house: Wipe down counters. Dust the TV stand. Take stains out of clothing. Clean the high chair. You get the idea. WHY did I ever stop buying those things?!? ALL HAIL THE POWER OF THE BABY WIPE!
2. I had also managed to forget what toddlers eat. That information flew from my brain as soon as my kids’ could feed themselves table food. Our first placement was a 2 year old girl and 1 year old boy. I was completely flummoxed as to what to feed them that first day. (I may have been slightly overwhelmed with the fact they were here; my brain, therefore, not functioning at full capacity.) Luckily some very kind friends came to my aid, bringing me toddler friendly food as well as an appliance to grind up my own. I got the groove back now, people. I’m pureeing squash like nobodies business.
3. Two-year-olds may not be physically large. They may look cute. Steal your heart with their giggles. But they can inflict bodily harm when they feel it’s needed. A kicking, thrashing, screaming, biting, clawing 2 year old will surprise you with their hulk-like transformation and strength.
4. With a bad diaper, a 12 month old can nearly bring a 35 year old man to tears with the stench. And the smell lingers regardless of how fast you get the dirty diaper out of the house. (If you only THINK you got it out of the house, but in reality you got distracted and left it in a Wal-Mart bag on the bathroom counter, it will take a while for your family to forgive you. I speak from experience.)
5. Bibs protect the kid’s shirt but not much else. There is no bib that helps when a 12 month old decides to rub peas in his hair.
6. Allow extra time in your schedule for hair-washing/pea removal.
7. There is nothing like finding the routine that makes a baby laugh. I mean really laugh – that wonderful, hearty, belly laugh that makes the whole room join in. Will it be peek-a-boo? Pretending their feet stink? Getting their belly? Making funny faces? Blowing raspberries? Tickling their toes? You sometimes have to make a fool of yourself before you stumble on the right routine, but it’s so worth it. So worth it when you find it. That my kids have now discovered the pleasure of making babies laugh brings me infinite joy.
Check back for “Part two” , wherein I will try to answer the question I’m asked nearly daily: “How will you ever handle it when you have to give the kids back?”