I’m a self-admitted control freak. I have routines and when they get thrown off….if I come home and the dog has gotten into the trash, or if I forget to thaw the chicken for dinner….it can send me right into a rather grumpy orbit. It’s the perfect trait to have if you’re a foster parent, if you ask me, because foster life is certainly NEVER going to throw off your routines. It’s not like living in a state of flux is your new normal or anything.
Note: Hi, I'm Sarah and I can get rather sarcastic sometimes. I should probably highlight my sarcasm in a different color or a cynical-looking font to note my intentions, but if you're wondering if something is sarcastic or not, with me, it probably is.
But really, learning how to adapt has been something I have struggled with since the beginning of this journey (and for the past 34 years of my life, recognizing that the first year I didn’t have much control over anything, right down to my bladder). Whenever a new child has joined our home, and as their plans change over time, I’ve had to adjust everything. I live off of schedules, so that means that transportation schedules, morning dressing routine schedules, laundry schedules, sleep schedules, social worker visit and bio parent visit schedules, all of that changes, and then comes the stress from trying to develop new routines and keep up with them. Each time, my husband has had to remind me: “You’ve GOT this.”
But….what happens when you DON’T “got this?” What happens when things start to change in one of your kiddos lives that you worry about or someone else makes a decision for the child you are caring for that you disagree with? I’m going to be completely honest here: it happens a lot. It happens, and when it does, it’s a quick reminder that you are NOT in control, no matter how hard you want to fight it. To be fair, we were warned of this in our MAPPS classes. Our instructors tried their best to prepare us for it while using their professional language all at the same time but what they couldn’t tell us, and what I can tell you is this: sometimes, you’ll feel like you’re standing in the middle of Times Square on New Year’s Eve, screaming to be heard. It’s just the nature of the situation, folks. It can be frustrating beyond belief, and you will try to rationalize with yourself: “But I know ________ better than anyone, I know what’s best for him!” “I’ve had ________ for the majority of her life, how could they (the elusive “they”…..more on that later) decide this without my input?!” Easy. “They” will decide what needs to be done because of laws that exist, and because it’s their job to be as neutral as possible and try to first and foremost reunify a family (“they” is an all-encompassing group of those who work for the agency you are with who have to follow these laws and guidelines because, well, they are laws and guidelines).
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I ever want to sabotage reunification for any of our kids. I also can’t assume that I’m a child and family expert. But I’m a parent. Biological parent or foster parent, we have a natural inclination to want to protect our kids and prevent any trauma, or any more trauma for these kids, from harming them. This is where I struggle; this is when it becomes out of my control. Having to throw your hands in the air and say ‘I tried my best’ is something I’ve had to learn to do, and I’m here to tell you: I still hate it every time. I hate the idea of there being nothing left that I can do, but as the foster parent, it’s not your job to “do” more than love the kid as your own, keep them safe and teach them what you can while they are with you. We DON’T know what’s best for these kids. We CAN’T predict the future.
Sometimes, it’s going to feel like everything is moving too fast, and that’s because we find our comfort levels in the stagnant times. Foster families are going to change. We’re meant to change. We’re meant to ebb and flow and be there for whoever needs us. Is it frustrating? Absolutely. I’m feeling it today. It’ll hit you out of nowhere sometimes, or it’ll smack you in the face when a decision is made that you don’t agree with. I guess, at the end of the day, remind yourself of this: your kiddo needs you. And so do “they.” It just won’t always be easy, but then again…..what matters of the heart are?