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I want to live There, in That Place

2014 November 13
by Kent

What if we could change our culture?

What if children were valued and wanted? Like they used to be. Then we could say, “Remember when people didn’t want children?” and roll our eyes and make a face, because it would sound so Crazy. It would sound like an Anachronism, like, “Remember when men wore suits and neck ties to a picnic?” Yeah, like That, the face you’re making now.

What if we didn’t have play-dates because we didn’t need them because Your kid and My kid and Their kid would just go outside and bump into one another? Why can’t we live in That Place?

What if we didn’t say, “I’m too Old” and instead say, “I’m still Alive”? What could we do then if we lived in That Place?

What if the Right Time was Right Now in That Place?

What if at Family gatherings we viewed stepping over Kids, Dogs, Toys and Lego sets as just the way you get from the living room to the kitchen? Couldn’t we live in That Place?

What if every Child who wasn’t wanted over There could live over Here because the People over Here are waiting for Her? I could live in That Place.

What if you didn’t need a place for your ‘home office’ and your ‘work out room’ with your clothes hanging on the equipment and that guest room No One Ever Sleeps in? Imagine what That Place would look like Then!

What if the phrase “we just don’t have any room” wasn’t used anymore? What if we said things like, “we’ll manage” and “we’ll have to get rid of some Stuff” and “we never used that Thing anyway” and “it’s going to be a Little Tight but we’ll just have to get Used to It”? That Place would be Here.

What if we missed our favorite TV shows so many times because of baseball games, dance, school concerts, band festivals and things that we no longer Missed Them? No matter Where you are you’d be in That Place.

What if people with a lot kids were Normal, and everyone else who didn’t have kids were Weird? That Place would be Here and There.

That Place could be everywhere. That Place would be better, and we’d wonder why we hadn’t been living There all along. Every now and then someone would bring up the Old Place and we’d all roll our eyes and make faces and wonder how people lived Back Then.

I think we can change our culture.

Slow Burn

2013 December 20

Since adopting all three of our foster children I let this blog go. At its inception it was meant to chronicle our experiences in foster parenting, but as we came closer to dropping the prefix “foster” with our first placements I began asking myself what would our kids think about me writing about them?

So I stopped. I hadn’t considered a new format. Perhaps this will serve as a nice kick off.

Conversation by IkerI had an experience this summer that has given me a slow burn ever since. Of course, it wanes and I forget about it for a time (I have other things to occupy my mind) but then it will come back through a comment or question or remark from someone else and I’m right back there.

Let me set the scene. A men’s dinner, outside, cooking with fire, all church guys in various stages of life. There are conversations going on in twos an threes, inside by the soft drinks, around the grill, on the back porch at the table, down the lawn.

Got it?

So inevitably my conversation turns to how my kids are doing. (Hey, I didn’t bring them up this time, but would have if I hadn’t been asked.)

This is important to note, because it sets up what really burned me later.

These guys know me. They know our family’s story. Our kids came out of another foster home, so they were in “the system” fourteen months and eighteen months, for the boys and girl, respectively. We adopted all three on the same day eleven and seven months, respectively, after that.

Everyone knows that.

Here’s where the conversation turned when we got the dinner table, and I found myself defending on two fronts at the same time.

The first front, as a Dad who is proud of his kids and feels blessed every day at my age to have this chance at a family, irritated me to no end.

“That’s just taking on other people’s problems,” one of the men said. “These kids in foster, they’re messed up.”

“So are a lot of people I know,” was my clenched teeth reply.

I mean really. I get the fear of bringing other people into our home, not knowing what they’re going to do and what we’re going to be dealing with. Every day a little more of the onion of their emotional lives gets peeled back.

But many of these guys have seen our kids. They’ve heard me brag about them, for heaven’s sake. They’re supposed to believe in redemption!

Yeah, we’ve got problems. Our kids were taken from their mother. They felt rejected and unwanted by other family. They were rejected by another foster family; a family they thought they were going to stay with.

But kids are resilient. If you love them, and convince them of that love, they’ll blossom. It takes time to earn their belief in you, but once that’s done they begin becoming who they really are. And that is an awesome thing to see unfold.

Just a little a shot over the bow: I’ll put my family up against yours any day of the week for strength. Furthermore, I’m betting we have less problems, fewer quarrels, and likely not as many outbursts as the average dysfunctional American family.

The second front attacked my ongoing mission to get other people thinking about and getting into foster parenting and adoption. Admittedly, this is what got me in the mess in the first place as far as the conversation went. Though I’ve had zero success at inspiring anyone I’m just stubborn enough to keep at it.

“I knew a couple who were fostering a little boy and girl,” one of the men told me, “They had them for a few years and wanted to adopt them. Then after almost four years the parents showed up and the kids were taken away. It devastated them.” Clearly, it would. There are foster parents today who see kids they’ve grown attached to after only a few months go back to their parent or parents. It happens all the time and the foster parents who keep doing it are real heroes. They bravely jump back in.

“How long ago was this?” I asked.

Turns out the story he told me took place sometime in the 1980s.

This is a problem. It’s bad enough that so many good ideas are met with negativity, but add bad and outdated information to the mix and you’ve got an uphill battle.

Naively, I began explaining the 1997 federal law that, in short, places a limit on how long a child can be in foster care before the state steps in and legally frees the child for adoption.

Take 22 consecutive months: If the child is in foster care for 15 months inside that twenty-two month period, then the state is obliged to bring suit against the bio-parent to terminate parental rights.

During the time the child first enters the court will mandate certain things the parent has to do, such as getting treatment for addiction and regular drug testing. The initial goal is reunification.

Failing that, as time gets closer to the fifteen month period the focus begins to shift toward getting the child ready for adoption ahead of the TPR (termination of parental rights) hearing.

By the time of the hearing a lot is accomplished toward that goal. Once the judgment to terminate is made, the bio parent has thirty days to appeal. If it’s gone this far it is very likely that child will not be leaving your home.

Here’s the thing. We adopted three kids from foster. They are ours and we are theirs. We like talking about them and our adoption as parents. We are blessed and we continue to experience a joy that we’d like to see others experience as well.

When people give outdated information and voice really negative attitudes about fostering to adopt it can discourage those considering a journey that, for us and many people we know, has been a life changing joyful experience. We are so thankful that when we started on this road none of friends or family voiced a single reservation about what we were doing; rather they encouraged us to follow God’s calling. As a result we’ve been living in God’s will.

And it hurts when someone who knows my kids tells me, “You’re just taking on other people’s problem,” because now they’re talking about my sons, my daughter.

I can tell you something else. They were taking on my problems too. I’m not the perfect dad. Most of the time I have no idea what I’m doing, I feel every minute of my 51 plus years, and I mess up all the time.

Who doesn’t?

Trust me, Jennifer and I were just as selfish as any other middle aged couple who have never had children. There is absolutely nothing different, more magnanimous, saintly or angelic about us. We listened to a call, a call we ran away from for several years.

If you haven’t experienced it then you have no idea how much better our lives have become because of these kids. We want everyone to have this joy.

So, I’ll keep telling others and I’ll keep writing.

Everyone Has At Least One of These Friends

2013 June 4
by Kent

“Hey! did you get foster kids yet?!?”

Carol (not her real name) yelled this question over the heads of fellow parishioners as we were leaving worship. I was heading out with my then foster daughter to Children’s Ministry where we both volunteer.

"Man with Megaphone 1" by Bartek Ambrozik

“Man with Megaphone 1” by Bartek Ambrozik

I looked back, waved, and quickly ushered my daughter into the crowd and out of the building.

I’ve read quite a few “Do’s and Don’t” lists on the Internet, like this one (which is excellent), but have yet to see this one, so I’ll add it now:
Don’t holler across a room when you see a friend with a teenage girl you’ve never seen before ask them if they’ve gotten foster children yet.

 

First, foster children aren’t things one picks up at the Kid Place. Second, foster children really don’t care for the designation foster children.

The next time I saw Carol I explained why I rushed off; that foster children don’t care for the designation; and finished with how happy we are that she lives with us and that we already think of her as our daughter. You have to do this with friends; especially the friend that is prone to speaking off the top of their head without thinking. We all have at least one of these.

Look at it as a teaching moment.

What About the Children?

2013 May 29
"Hey" by Hector Landaeta

“Hey” by Hector Landaeta

For as long as he’s been on the radio Rush Limbaugh has been a target of those who would like nothing better than to get him off the air. The effort has been re-doubled in the last couple of years, spurred on by organizations such as Media Matters.

It would be a waste of time and effort, as well as outside the scope of this blog, to attempt a defense of Rush Limbaugh. Not because I agree with what his critics have to say, because I don’t. Nor do I agree with everything he has to say; because I don’t do that with anybody outside of God. I will only add that having listened to him over the years, albeit not faithfully, I come away with the feeling that I am not listening to the same broadcast as these critics.

At the end of the day, when anger driven by ideology takes over, one cannot convince a person committed to a specific cause that the sky is blue or that the sun will rise tomorrow. It would be silly to attempt.

What is not outside the scope of this blog is the care for and love of children; and the campaign against Rush Limbaugh has, sadly, targeted the most vulnerable of these.

One of the show’s “sponsors” is AdoptUsKids. I think everyone has heard these ads telling the listener (and potential foster parent) that “you don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent; there are thousands of kids in foster care who will take you just as you are”.

Limbaugh’s audience is enormous; just by probability alone it is reaching the ears of untold numbers of potential foster and prospective adoptive parents.

I’ve taken great comfort in those spots. I was forty-nine years old when our first pair of foster kids came to live with us, seven and eight year old brothers. While we were in the process I often thought, “Our first kids are going to see two people that could be their grandparents! Doesn’t a kid that age want younger, more active parents?” Top that off with all the things I don’t know how to do!

The ad spots are managed by the Ad Council and the time for the spots is donated by the media outlets. The stations that donate the time slip the ads in during various shows. AdoptUsKids has nothing to do with when and where the ads are run.

But AdoptUsKids is on the The List of Limbaugh sponsors targeted by various left-wing groups. Look at two posts made on their Facebook page:

“Did you realize that you advertise on the Rush Limbaugh show? He is a hateful racist and I’m sure not at all what this organization stands for. Please consider pulling your ads from his show. He would not support your company [sic] and you should not support him.”

Notice the use of the alternate use of the words “organization” and (laughably) “company” in this post. This is astro-turf (AdoptUsKids is not a company); but it gets “better:

“Perhaps you were not aware that your advertisements were being run during a decidedly not family program. They are. They are being used during the Rush Limbaugh program, so in a sense you are supporting his words. He spouts hate, racism, gender bashing, etc. for a program such as yours, there must be other shows your ads can run that are family friendly, his certainly isn’t. I will be sharing this with family and friends so the voice of one becomes many. I will be asking them to share on Facebook and twitter” (emphases mine).

Both posts attempt to tie the perceived values of the radio show (as defined by these groups) with that of AdoptUsKids. It’s a threat really; particularly in the second. The implication is: “If you keep advertising on Rush Limbaugh we’re going to smear you in every other available social media available.”

Neither poster lists AdoptUsKids Facebook as one of their “likes”. You don’t have to like a page to post on it, but it seems odd to me that someone who doesn’t have this page as one of their likes, and therefore not on their news feed, would suddenly show up to express concern.

Instead, the posters (or posers) like dozens of leftwing political pages, many of them cannot be characterized any other way than hate pages focused on specific individuals. Ironic, isn’t it?

On one of many pages dedicated to this current cause there is a quote from MsNBC’s Rachel Maddow: “The biggest divide in this country is not between Democrats and Republicans, it’s between people who care and people who don’t care.”

Indeed.

So what about the children? Wouldn’t concern for foster kids finding homes where they are loved and respected place one under the category of someone who cares?

As a couple apparently categorized as right-wing conservative Christian haters Jennifer and I are the proud parents of two young boys and a young lady, all adopted from foster care. At the beginning our agency wanted to know if we had any racial preference. Though we understand there are reasons why some prospective foster/adoptive parents would, we didn’t have any. Our boys, who are Hispanic (although our oldest son insists they are more Polish than Mexican) came to us as pre-adopt. Their sister, at sixteen, fell into that population of kids who often do not get adopted because of her age.

I’m not saying any of this to brag or pat myself on the back. I’m not a perfect parent, just as I am not a perfect person. What I am saying is that it takes all kinds.

Believe it or not, there are teens out there who don’t want to be adopted by atheists, but desire to be adopted by a mom and a dad who share their Christian faith. At the movies last weekend we were treated to a preview of ABC Family’s new show The Fosters, featuring a female “married” couple. Our daughter didn’t like it at all.

By the same token, a very accomplished teen featured on the AdoptUsKids Facebook page a few months ago wanted to be adopted by parents who would accept his chosen lifestyle as a homosexual.

For a good part of my life I have seen all kinds of plans and schemes, some with merit but many more ineffective, that were put forth with the appeal, “What about the children?”

Yeah, what about them? Do we just pretend we care about them until something else comes along that gets our ideological ire up and our blinders on?

To quote a popular song from the late seventies: “Leave them kids alone.”

“Open Sesame!” It Never Gets Old

2013 May 21

Adoption Day Jan 22 2013“Open Sesame!” I exclaimed, and the doors to Target obeyed my command, magically opening to let me, my wife, and our two (then) foster sons inside.

That’s a “Dad joke” that every father should indulge in. Little kids, particularly boys I think, think these things are funny, if not outright hilarious. It’s not until their teenage years that we may expect them to roll their eyes and sigh at the tiresome humor of the old man. (Which, incidentally, is a good case for continuing foster care: you don’t have the pressure of constantly developing new material).

It’s just funny; and it gets better.

I remember the first time Xavier, now our oldest son, purposely ran ahead of me to the door and, arms spread wide, gave the incantation: “Open Sesame!” timing his steps, the gesture and command just right so that the automatic doors parted at the exact right moment to allow us entre!

Max, ran to get to the inner door to imitate his older brother who was, in fact, imitating me!

And that’s the first sign that you are becoming a Dad with a capital D; that you are becoming a family. Your kids are picking up your phrases, mannerisms, and inside jokes that resurface time and time again.

I often come into the house, or a room or an elevator, from outside still wearing my sunglasses. Invariably, I make the comment: “It’s dark in here!”

Recently, Xavier has taken to coming downstairs in the morning wearing his sunglasses and commenting, you guessed it: “It’s dark in here!”

On a family trip, now with our daughter Savannah included, we visited a historic village in Kansas that had informational plaques with Braille to the left of the writing. I told my daughter I could read Braille and in response to her, “No, you can’t” I moved my fingers over the raised dots, careful not to obscure the printing, which I read aloud.

So it was not too surprising, yet fulfilling just the same, when Savannah told me while on a group college tour she told one of her fellow students she could read Braille and proceeded to run her fingers over the dots of a room number which was prominently displayed above them, and proclaimed: “403!”

“She thought I was hilarious!” Savannah reported.

So do I. That stuff never gets old.

Charles Caleb Colton is credited with the much used line: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

No, it never gets old.

Stop Being Afraid and Put Your Toes in the Water

2013 February 21
"Feet" by Jesse Therrien

“What if we get someone with anger issues? What if I get attached and they have to go back to their parents? Our house isn’t set up right. The rooms are too small. There are so many things to do.”

Aside from her describing my house, these words coming out of my friend’s mouth can be summed up in one word: Fear!

In our conversations over the course of a year, there is no doubt my friend is being called to foster parenting.

She loves babies and toddlers. Coincidentally, there are often babies – sometimes newborns – who need loving parents to take care of them because their parent or parents can’t.

Two of the most recent e-mail blasts we’ve received from out agency concerned children that would be right up her alley.

"Feet" by Jesse Therrien

“Feet” by Jesse Therrien

One was a four day old infant. The agency needed to have a home lined up in time for the baby to be released from the hospital.

The other was a three year old who needed a place right away.

Typically the agency will have a short amount of time, driven by a court appearance, to name a foster family.

A contributing factor to her fear was a discouraging and perhaps jaded social worker who told her it was difficult to adopt out of foster care and if the reason she was getting into fostering children was to adopt she should give that up.

Apparently this person did not know what she was talking about.  The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997.

It is a reality that you don’t know what will happen. One of the things the social worker told my friend accurately was that a relative could step up and adopt them; this was something we had hanging over us with our boys; until, of course, we adopted them.

It is not, nor should it be, easy for the government to step in and take children permanently away from their parents. Thank God we don’t live in a country like that!

But, the bio parent will be required to do certain things by the court to clean up their act. Where is the kid supposed to go while this is happening?

And when the kid or kids become legally free for adoption, where will you be?

How We Had 3 Kids in Our 50s and So Can You!

2013 January 5

Reading comments on AdoptUsKids Facebook page about subscribers’ plans for 2013 in foster care and adoption I was saddened but not all that surprised to see how many were negative.

They generally fell in the category of being unhappy and frustrated with their Children and Youth Services or a particular agency. Most seemed to be interested in only direct adoption, and they’ve waited sometimes years for a match.

Quite a few have opted to only look at foreign adoptions. This has the added benefit, for the adoptive parent at least, of adopting a child with no local family entanglements.

When adopting a child in the United States, whether through the foster care system or straight adoption, there are likely to be other family members, including siblings, who are still going to be in their lives in some way.

As far as our journey goes, our kids waited for us. We spent several years and a few false starts in exploring adoption only. Our call to foster parenting was something we resisted and even ran away from; but God is very persistent.

“Giving” by David Hartman

Ironically, our first placements, which occurred within a month and a half of our licensing, were pre-adopt placements. These guys had been in another foster home long enough for reunification to become in doubt and the other foster parents chose not to adopt them.

Not having waited I don’t feel like I can speak directly to the frustration of those who posted on the Facebook page.

But I can speak to two things:

First, we had plenty of opportunities to give up, though they had nothing to do with foster agencies and social workers. I’ve written about this elsewhere. Nothing we do that is worthwhile is going to be located down a smooth road with no hills, potholes, detours and ditches.

Once you decide to do something because God called you to do it and would not let you go your own way, Satan is going to be there; and so is God. Ask yourself: Who always wins?

Second, we’re imperfect parents with family connections of our own and we’re not getting perfect kids unfettered by family history, good and bad. They are not coming to you well adjusted with no emotional issues, if only stemming from abandonment the disruption of their lives from being moved and changing schools.

You’ll be stretched, tested, frustrated and made regularly to feel like a failure. Parents of their own bio-children will tell you the same thing.

I am speaking humbly here as someone who is far from the best and most experienced parent, and who counts myself blessed, along with my wife, that things worked out so well and quickly for us.

If you are thinking of or in the process of becoming foster parents with the goal of adoption, here are some things I think will help you:

Be prepared to have kids in your home that may not stay. This is foster care, and you need to consider it. Even though we are keeping ours, for most of the time the boys have been with us there was the very real possibility that one of their parents would get them back. We were also faced with waiting for the resolution of a possible adoption by a relative. These things can hang very heavy over your head as you become more and more attached to the children, but you have to endure it.

Be open to sibling groups. This is very important. If you can make room in your home and heart for more than one child you’ll increase your chances of finding a placement. If you can make room for three the balance tilts more in your favor. Social services often have to separate siblings for various reasons, but it’s not done lightly, and it’s really sad when it’s done because there’s no room or, worse, there’s an older kid that no one wants.

When we were licensed we had several opportunities before two brothers moved in with us. But each one was a child that couldn’t, at least for the time being, be placed in a home with other children. We were told that even though they would consider us our agency was holding out because we had made room for three and that they didn’t have many homes like ours to go to.

It didn’t take long. In less than a month and a half we had our fist placement, which brings up my next point:

Be flexible on age. Our boys came to us at seven and eight, which was within the age group (6 – 10) we had identified as our preference. Jennifer described this as akin to the old car commercials that promised zero to sixty in less than 2.6 seconds!

Several months later their sister, with whom they’d lived in another foster home and still had visitation, needed a place to live. Even though at 16 she was out of our preferred age range we immediately said yes.

That brings me to another very important point:

Be willing to take other people’s “cast offs”. Just because a child or children didn’t “work out” in another home doesn’t mean he, she, or they won’t work out in yours. Different parents have different styles and kids respond differently. Also, there is the very real possibility that it was the foster parents who didn’t “work out”.

Finally, pray. Pray a lot. Use that time between you and God and pray about why you are doing this. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a parent; I think that’s hardwired into us and not having children has often come up over the years with a feeling of regret. But, using the luxury we all have of the privacy of our own thoughts, be honest with yourself about what is motivating you. Your answer should make sense, and it should involve more than just you.

God has a heart for children, especially the fatherless, and if you are doing His will in this He will make it happen that you get the kids who need you; and who you need. He will also give you the strength and the wisdom you need to carry it through.

In less than three weeks, on January 22, 2013, we will become the proud parents of three kids. If it can happen for us, it can happen for you.

Advice: Nobody Can Tell Me Nothin’

2012 December 18

Everyone has an almost equal measure of their own advice to give and an aversion to taking it from others. Advice can often be thinly disguised bragging, or delivered in such an overbearing manner without consideration of your particular circumstance that it rightly goes unheeded.

I experienced the latter at a business lunch several months ago when I was deluged with parenting advice from a father of two young boys. They are three and six, I think; I wasn’t really listening.

 

“Never Alone” by Emiliano Spada

I remember thinking, “He has no idea what I’m dealing with or how much of what he’s saying simply wouldn’t work in our situation.”

That doesn’t mean I don’t take advice, or criticism for that matter; I just don’t take it randomly.

But there are sources that work!

Our parenting classes, on the other hand, were packed with advice and instruction on what we could expect and actual case studies of what other foster parents did that worked.

People you know who have or still do foster parenting are a great source of information and advice. Once we committed to our call to foster parenting I interviewed several people who had already been there. If you don’t know anyone, ask at your place of employment and your church; somebody you know knows someone who is fostering and they (the foster parent) will be more than happy to speak with you.

Friends who have adopted kids are good people from whom to seek advice. I had occasion to seek out advice this last spring from my friend Curt when I was considering holding one of my boys out of baseball due to a behavioral issue.

My son had a great first year of baseball, gaining skill on top of his natural abilities. He even pitched. None of that would have happened had I not (1) gone to my friend and talked to him and (2) took his advice and let my son play.

If you have a foster child then you have a kid in therapy. Their therapist is also there for you and his or her advice can be depended on.

Your kid’s therapist can either affirm your approach to a particular problem or set of problems; or she can let you know that what you are doing isn’t going to work with this particular child.

The keys to all of this are being open to good advice from the right sources, and your willingness to listen to others who may, in fact, know better than you.

Criticism! Who Needs It?

2012 November 14

One of our favorite bands, King Crimson, has a song entitled “Elephant Talk”. The lyric is just words, each of the five verses being words that begin with A, B, etc. through E. In a live version when the singer gets to the word “criticism” he adds the question, “Who needs it?”

Well, for starters, you do. And that’s where it should begin.

“Mirror” by Maurizio Carta

Self criticism is different than being self-critical. The latter is an act of being down on you; dismissing your good qualities and victories as anomalies. People who do this are even unable to accept compliments and could benefit from some type of counseling or therapy. The former is an act of maturity and absolutely essential for success, particularly in foster parenting.

I’m sure this is important in parenting in general, but I don’t know anything about that. We have not had our kids from birth and so have no direct knowledge of how they were, as individuals, in their first seven, eight and sixteen years. Coming in cold, it takes a while to get to know them – how they interpret things, what they respond to and what they don’t, triggers they may have that you can’t predict – so finding what works takes some flexibility.

Practically speaking, this means shelving any “my way or the highway” predilections and resolving to help your kids, which is why you got into this in the first place.

If one way doesn’t work, whether in discipline or going over the math homework, and your response is, “That kid needs to straighten up and fly right,” then go ahead and give the standard thirty day notice now.

Paul exhorts fathers “do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instructions of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

That’s not your instructions, nor your discipline. It’s the Lord’s discipline and the Lord’s instruction. In other words, in a godly manner raising your kids (or someone else’s kids) doesn’t leave room for your ego to get in the way.

The wrong approach is the wrong approach.

The wrong approach leads to frustration and often to anger. The last emotion from you a child in foster care needs. They’ve already had enough of that, which is why they’re with you in the first place; and they have enough of their own without adding yours.

Take a look in the mirror. If that person doesn’t have the answer, then find someone who does. I write more about that next time.

How Hard Can It Be?

2012 November 10

When we accepted our call to foster parenting we sought prayer support from our growth group at church. If you don’t have such a group, get one. Gather some friends and ask them to commit with you to pray for the children yet unknown and to pray for you and your spouse.

Every now and then during our meetings, I would turn to our friend Colleen and ask:

3D Maze 2 by Svilen Milev

“How hard can it be?”

That always elicited a laugh.

Having three kids with her husband Keith she knew I had to be joking or totally insane. Because she knows me she couldn’t be blamed for making either determination.

Just to clarify: I was attempting to be funny.

Now that we have three kids living with us anytime I spot Colleen across the way as the worship crowds change over I holler to her, “Piece of cake, Colleen! Piece of cake!”

When I told our sixteen year old daughter this story she said, “But it’s not hard, is it?(

Isn’t she cute?

She went on to say that Jennifer and I didn’t seem like we were having a difficult time or visibly showing a lot of effort. That could be taken a number of ways. I’ sure you’ve heard the radio commercials that end with: “You don’t have to be a perfect parent to be a foster parent.” That always leaves me with a sensation of accomplishment. At least I got that part down pat. But it gave me some assurance that we’re not showing it and loading the kids down with additional pressures and concerns they don’t need. They don’t really need the ones they have already.

So she’s never observed me as I’ve found Jennifer crying for exhaustion or overheard me voicing my self doubts to Jennifer in our bedroom. Those moments are fewer and far between as we progress; their absence would concern me more than their frequency.

The act of parenting is hard, and foster parenting is, I contend, harder. All the lives in the household, including your own, have been turned upside down and in the midst of a major change for everyone you all have to get to know each other and deal with the hurt and anger these kids are experiencing.

I can say that into our nine month with our sons and five with our daughter, it’s working. Our marriage is stronger and we lean on God more as we work and live in His will. And we have three wonderful kids who have enriched our lives beyond all imagining.

How hard can it be? Not hard enough for Him.