This is the longest we have ever gone without blogging since we began. The hiatus stemmed from a few causes, all related to our fostering experience:
- a lack of freedom to share openly, since C is not our own;
- a lack of bandwidth and energy, since C was absorbing it all; and
- a lack of anything positive to say because we were really struggling to love C sacrificially and were realizing we were not going to be able to sustain fostering him long term.
Boom, there it is: I no longer think of myself as a Super Parent (if you know me, you already knew that, but in my prideful heart I thought I was pretty good). I really, really struggled to love an adorable, neglected child who needed lots of help, lots of time, lots of patience, lots of discipline, and lots of attention. I signed up to do it, and just…miserably failed to emotionally connect with him.
Our love for C took the form of rationally trying to do what was best for him, even though we didn’t feel motivated by our emotions. I think C did learn and grow and become less anxious and enjoy himself during his six months with us. He learned his colors, the alphabet and most of its sounds, how to count to 12, his last name, and hundreds of new words. He learned to use “please” and “thank you,” and that Mr. John and Ms. Abby were in charge, not him. He learned some of the catechism and songs like “This is the Day” and that God made him and loves him very much. He started taking great naps and was improving on controlling his tantrums and eating some healthy foods.
I was helped a lot by this sermon our pastor (also a foster parent) preached that loving like Jesus should cost you; it should be sacrificial. And it did cost the rest of us a whole lot. I put homeschooling on hold. The screens (iPad, TV, etc.) were taking over my kids’ brains. I didn’t get a lot of extra time with Mystery, who fortunately was an incredibly easy baby (God knew that I needed her to be). We went nowhere (John did all the shopping for me), saw no one (C not behaving well enough for playdates), and did nothing fun (except when C was asleep). Personally, I felt totally submerged in survival mode. I felt like I was running a daycare center where the kid never went home. We knew we could not sustain this pattern and stay healthy.
So, in spite of the fact that it can be traumatic for the child, we asked Social Services to find C a new foster home. We had several playdates with the new family—who seem great—and transferred him there after Labor Day weekend. We have heard he is doing well and hasn’t asked about us since his first night there. I wonder what, if anything, he will remember about the House of Gjertsen during the year he turned 3.
Since C moved, my heart—which felt hardened and brittle from meting out tough love constantly—has relaxed and softened again. I spend “foolish” time playing with my baby girl. I read Greek mythology to the boys and watch them build spaceships and program robots. My stress level has dissolved, and I feel like I enjoy being around myself again. There is still that nagging sense of failure, and with it, the questions—why was fostering so hard for me? Did God not give me the strength I needed, or did I not receive it somehow? Did fostering just take every last drop I was given? Am I not cut out to care for foster kids, or was it an anomaly, a personality conflict, or caused by the new baby?
We signed up for this difficult assignment because we wanted to imitate God’s love, especially how He seeks out the fatherless and unloved. We don’t know if we conveyed any of that to C, but our admiration of God’s limitless love for the unworthy has been renewed as our own limits were tested. The experience was humbling, for sure.
Now I get to tell you about my little Mystery!
What a great joy she is! She is fat (wearing 9- and 12-mo. clothes at almost 5 mo.), and healthy, and happy—and to me, perfectly beautiful. She started off looking like Percy, but now looks more like Valor when he was her age. My heart just squeezes with love for her when I see her!
She smiles frequently and sometimes laughs a James-laugh, a “hmmmm!” that only rarely gurgles up into a belly laugh (when Percy dances or Valor raspberries at her). She sucks on two of her fingers to go to sleep and likes to finger a soft blanket while she dozes off. She sleeps through the night from 9 pm to 7 or 8 am and takes 3 naps (about 10-12, 2-3, and 7-8).
She still fits into the Bumbo if I shove her thighs into it, but I have to pry her out with my foot against the chair.
I am having an inordinate amount of fun getting her dressed every day, and I think more about her outfits (which she outgrows quickly) than I think about my own. My occupational therapist friend Kelly says she is a genius because she weight-shifted and unilaterally reached for a toy. But I will say that she is getting good at grabbing and seems close to sitting up by herself. She loves to bounce in her bouncer, and she can really get it jumping.
Baby Maybe: Before you came into my life, I missed you so bad(ly). For a while I felt guilty that I loved her so instantly and so immensely, and felt so little towards C in comparison. I guess sometimes love is hard, and sometimes it is easy. May God reshape and enlarge our hearts to be more like His.