a girl! two BOYS!
In the past month our lives have been turned upside down. Yes, my last post was about our journey and hopes in becoming a foster family. That has happened. More accurately, that bomb exploded (haha). Instead of receiving one child under the age of five as anticipated we received a heartbreaking call and situation to take in two children seven and twelve leaving a severe setting. Knowing we had an empty room, without hesitation, we prayed and said yes. The boys were supposed to be coming a week out from the call but an emergency caused them to come within three days with only the clothes on their backs.
My heart has broken and healed, torn and mended, been both helpless and helpful every single day since they have arrived here. I have wondered if maybe in praying I did not clearly hear God, and I have fiercely advocated for these children so they can have a chance in life that they would not otherwise have. Thinking that this would be a few hours a week of paperwork I have found no less than 4 hours on average a day of appointments, phone calls, paperwork, and advocating for them. It has been so much more than anticipated but I am used to hard work. I am disabled and an amputee. Life has not been easy for me. The difference here is that this work produces the fruit of knowing you are investing in a child’s future. It seems like a lot of my own personal life journey through trauma, disability, and education of those things has prepared me for “such a time as this”.
The first night that they arrived as they stepped out of the car into my driveway I knelt down to their level, extended my hand and said, “Hello, my name is Ashly but you can call me TT if you like.” They shoved my hand out of the way and jumped into my arms saying, “No, you will be MOM to us.” And that started my life as a parent. No hospital, no pregnancy, no baby pictures or even knowledge of who the parents are. No joy or smiles all around; just pain and separation, heartache and wounds both visible and invisible. I became a mother in my driveway at 8pm on a school night when two little boys that hadn’t been fed dinner and had heads full of lice jumped in my arms.
Since then life has progressed here as the world turns. I am starting to think foster parenting would make a much better soap opera than any “World Turns” episodes. Not that I am a soap opera fan by any stretch of imagination. I am learning that most people do NOT understand the effects of trauma, abuse, and dysregulation, but that is a topic for another time. For now I will just say that there are a lot of frequent and extreme mood changes in (and out of) our home and lots of exaggerated emotions. We have meltdowns when we can’t peel a banana and we curse at truck drivers that won’t honk their horn when we play with sidewalk chalk. We are taking two completely different lifestyle environments and merging them into one that contains stability and love and boundaries and it is a beautiful thing…but not always pretty.
We do not know the future of these boys or for sure how long they will remain with us but while they are with us they are our family and we are blessed to have them. Our community has stepped up in unexpected ways through all of this. We have had meals delivered, gift cards to help us supply these boys with clothes and educational tools/games to promote a normal life, prayers and cards and messages from far and near, and friends that have listened to me vent and cry when I needed it. I can honestly say that no matter what the future holds for these boys they will be forever touched and changed by the normalcy of our simple life and loving people.
A lot of people ask me over and over if I am attached to them and tell me how much I will hurt when/if they leave here. Sure, it will be hard to have them move on when the time comes. But what will happen to them if I don’t attach? What will their future be like if they are never shown healthy attachments and love? I trust that as hard as it will be that God will see me through my own grief and heal my heart as well as theirs when the time comes.
As I type this I am waiting for them to come home from a hard visit with their mom. A scary visit, one they were forced to. And as I see these difficult words in black and white I remind myself how blessed I am to be a part of their journey here. How precious their hearts are and how big of a responsibility God has placed in my hands to care for the ones that are rejected. There have been times when I haven’t felt like I had the capacity for another hard conversation, another meltdown, another episode of defiance but it isn’t about me now is it? I sit in my own home, having been raised to appreciate rules and boundaries, raised to trust that my parents would be there and come through, leaving school each day knowing there would be food on the table and a home to go to. I am ashamed to realize how easy it is to think that I am inconvenienced when their entire lives have been turned over and inside out. (Of course this does not mean self-care isn’t important and it doesn’t mean that we are the right people to be with them forever. We just know that God has them here, now, for a reason.)
So this Saturday will be a baseball game with a Foster Parent Association and we are all looking forward to the public space and networking that can happen there. We are excited to be in a place where everyone “gets it” and there is no judgment or expectations for normalcy. I have spent most of my life advocating and fighting for myself and the things I need as a disabled person. While that doesn’t change, advocating and investing in the lives of the helpless is a whole new focus. To me, that is a cause far more worthy than any other. I am not perfect and I fail each day. I have had to apologize more the past month than the previous seven years of marriage (maybe Rick just lets me off the hook more)! And still, in the midst of each tornado and in the middle of the innocent laughter I hear, our house is a refuge and a safe place for all of us. We never needed to go abroad for mission work…it was brought right to our doorstep.
So that is my introduction to life as a parent so far…but there are SO many funny moments that I have been saving to share with my readers here after painting the accurate picture of what life looks like for us! I am in the process of compiling them right now to post next time. Having been raised with four sisters I am in a bit of a culture shock having two boys and a husband running around the house! Tune in for some of those hilarious observations soon!