Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Foster Caring…

Tabitha and I welcomed a foster child into our home for the first time last Friday. He’s five, energetic, fun, and apparently, I’m older than I once was. My upper lip is scratched from an accidental elbow during an enjoyable game of “Let’s Flip onto the Couch!” My knuckle is scuffed, my wrist a bit prickly (though that one’s from our other post-toddler, Fawkes the Dog). Crawling around the basement floor didn’t use to light up my knee’s nerves. In short, I’m becoming my father, which- all things considered- would be a blessing. But it may mean I have hip surgery in my future. Ugh.

But so goes life, from generation to generation, right? Passing on the torch, creaky joints, and with them, (hopefully) some wisdom. It’s suddenly my turn to play a part in that drama, however small and temporary as a foster care dad. Thankfully, we’re not alone on the journey. We have community around to help solve problems, discover unknown options. Family and friends, neighbors and church, people like you- generous, compassionate, empathetic (if it sounds like I’m sucking up, well…a little pre-emptive goodwill never hurts).

Besides, one funky thing about church is we don’t always choose our “family.” When the Isners (Johnson’s, etc.) welcome another, in some way, you do too. Perhaps some heads up, then, about several things would help our mutual transition go smoothly. Before you ask, please know I can’t tell you the backstory of why he’s in our home. For starters, I don’t know it all. Besides, as I told a dear friend last week, “I’m not allowed to divulge. His story is his story; he gets control over when it’s told and to whom.” Such a standard is basic respect, I feel. Particularly when the topic involves something so vulnerable as what trauma disrupted a child’s family. Similarly, it’s probably helpful to know he calls us “Tabitha and Shane.” We’re not Mom and Dad, after all, just temporary guardians; opening up our family, but not replacing his. Indeed, our main goal is to love on this little rascal, keep him healthy and growing, until he can rejoin his family, if that’s possible. We’re not sure how long those determinations will take. 6 months?...8? That’s ultimately controlled by the parents, courts and social workers.

In the meantime, we’ll be playing together, dancing goofy, reading books, eating macaroni and cheeses, and learning about life- him and us! For example, already in the past few days I’ve discovered something you parents (or adult caregivers) likely figured out long ago. Namely, that caring for another can lead to the caregiver experiencing a perpetual state of catch up. I noticed this while taking a brief break after Tabitha got home from work. I opened my email, twitter feed, etc., and all had backlogged more than usual. And I knew there were dishes undone, laundry loads to attend, a dog walk I should’ve gotten to, a filling TV show watch-list (anyone else love Sleepy Hollow?!?), plus games to play and play with the youngster. I’ve been stressed about to-do lists before. This weekend felt different. Perhaps because another relied on my ability to get things done. Perhaps because my priorities were shifting real time; those ‘tasks’ that just last week were about personal enjoyment seemed less critical.

I didn’t even watch the Broncos game. Calm down. I listened some on the radio. Which leads to Obvious Observation about Parenting #1: Caring for another makes what you care about less important, but shouldn’t eliminate it entirely. I mean, if I don’t read every tweet I’m accustomed to, I’ll be fine. If, however, I never watch the Broncos play, I’m doing something wrong. That’s the wisdom embedded in Jesus’ commandment- Love your neighbor as yourself- i.e. be less selfish, life will improve, but don’t neglect yourself entirely. Or thus I’m thinking during week one of foster parenting. If that conclusion seems rushed, well, so does my life these days!

In anticipation, then, thanks for your patience. And for foster caring with Tabitha and I. You’ll enjoy the young man; we certainly do. If we do it together, we may even keep up!

Grace and Peace,
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