11 things I’ve learned as a foster parent…
Don’t worry about the things that are out of your control. Like hair cuts. Because those are still controlled by birth parents. And if anything can possibly go wrong, it will happen in the five minutes before the social worker knocks on your door.
Don’t worry about what other people think. As a foster mom, I’ve been accused of a lot. Like that time when the perfect stranger was convinced I had an affair and asked me. In front of my husband. Or the random church member who called me a bad parent for reasons I am totally unaware of. Or the acquaintance who was pretty sure I was getting a substantial and undeserved payload for these children. And I had to learn to let it go, let it go, and stop worrying about what others think. Except your social worker. You should probably always worry about what she thinks.
Ride the rails. It didn’t take long to learn what an emotional roller coaster the foster care journey is. And while training helps you prepare for the worst and the best, there really is nothing quite like going through it for real. So you learn to ride the rails, hang on tight, scream a little bit here and there when you get scared, and laugh when it’s fun, and dig your very fingernails into the arms of the person next to you as you cling to them for your ever loving life, but just know that no matter what happens in the ups and downs, it’s not over until it’s over and anything can happen at anytime.
Take it one day at a time. As a foster parent, you become acutely aware that you don’t know what tomorrow will bring. So you take it just one day at a time, one hour at a time, or a minute at a time if need be. Enjoy each moment while you can because you just don’t know what’s coming next. And sometimes, that’s a good thing.
Get help when you need it. It’s not always all roses, all the time being a foster parent, and sometimes, you just need help. Maybe you need to hire someone to help with the laundry or the cleaning. Or maybe your child needs some help from a therapist. You social worker is always there to assist and will point you in the right direction (and will make sure you get the court’s permission when you need it).
Laugh. “They” say that laughter is the best medicine. I don’t know who ‘they’ are, but experts do agree that laughter increases feel good endorphins and other hormones that help your children feel better, cope better, grow better. So get out those corny jokes, ridiculous charades, and pillow fights and tickle fests and just laugh long and hard.
Rest. When my oldest was born, everyone told me to sleep when the baby slept. The joke was on me because he barely slept! Take it from me, if you get an opportunity for a nap, take it! While you’re at it, eat right, exercise, spend time with your spouse, and do something fun for you. Go ahead. You’ll thank me.
Give grace. And give it freely. To your biological children. To your adopted children. To your children in care. To the birth parents. To your spouse. And especially, to yourself.
Let it go. Make it your mantra. When the potted plant gets dumped for the 3rd time in the last five minutes, let it go. When the window gets broken, let it go. When your child writes his name for the very first time on your favorite Bible in sharpie, just let it go. You’ll be happier for it. And if you need help remembering to let it go, just watch, “Frozen.” It doesn’t disappoint and you’ll never forget to Let it go again.
Pray hard. Prayer works. Prayer is powerful. Stop reading this and go do it.
Love hard. ‘Nough said.