Today’s post is a continuation of yesterday’s story, This is Foster Care. Part One.
January 14, 2018
“Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy. Then after the battle you will be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.”
Confession: Since the day I had to say goodbye to Princess Pigtails, I’ve been afraid: afraid to open my home to another child. Because that means opening my heart, which still feels so broken. Because when I love, I am all in. I fall fast, and completely.
Every day still hurts. The house is too calm, too quiet.
But this morning, my women’s Bible study group watched a recent sermon by Priscilla Shirer. She focused on this passage in Ephesians, and tears fell down my cheeks as she talked about how weak we are on our own – without the armor. But WITH the armor, with the faith that our hearts are protected in Him, we can stand firm and strong.
Somewhere, the child who will be the next one to call my house home, is waiting. And I don’t know what the outcome will be. Because in foster care, it is all uncertainty. You can just be certain that it will be incredibly difficult. You can also be certain that it will be worth it.
I saw Princess Pigtails last weekend for her birthday. Seeing her in her new environment sunk my heart down to my knees – not because she doesn’t have her basic needs covered. She does. But the visit confirmed that she is not in a place that will nurture her to her fullest potential.
So I have to find peace in knowing that in her three months with me, I did my best to equip her with armor – my love, and the love of God.
That has to be enough. And the armor will be enough to make the next child possible. Even if it hurts again. Because healing their hurts is more important than worrying about my own. This is foster care.
April 22, 2018
I am getting a little boy. Age 5.
It’s been months since Princess Pigtails left, and I am nervous all over again. Nervous that there will be more heartbreak, nervous that I don’t know this little guy or his behaviors or needs. Nervous that I am once again juggling a full time job, a fitness studio, and single motherhood.
The caseworker brings him to the house, and the car has barely stopped before he opens the door and bounds out. He is built like a fire hydrant, small but mighty.
He is so handsome. A little man. Little Man.
April 25, 2018
Little Man had a big day of firsts again today, and I’m so proud of how he is doing. First day in aftercare, first night at JAM for kids at church. Amid all these firsts and others, he is such a grateful little boy.
“Thank you for bringing me here,” he keeps saying after this experience or that. “You’re pretty nice. I‘m glad you’re my foster mom.”
I’m pretty glad, too, Little Man. This is foster care. Day 3.
May 3, 2018
“I feel happy, but also I feel sad because I miss my family and I want to see my sister.” – Little Man
Tonight we talked about how it’s ok to feel more than one thing at a time. Even things that seem like opposites.
This is foster care. Day 11.
May 4, 2018
Last week I told Little Man that when he gets frustrated or is starting to talk in class, he should stop and close his eyes and “inhale, exhale.” This morning I scolded the dogs for fighting on our walk, and he said: “Before you yell at the dogs, you need to inhale exhale.”
And when I knocked a train track out of place on accident while getting his school clothes ready? “That’s ok. Just be more careful next time.” This one is 5 going on 50.
This is foster care. Day 12.
May 6, 2018
Little Man has such a big heart, and every day he steals mine a little more. Tonight as he fell asleep after stories , he rolled over and gave me a reminder about my dog, “Don’t forget to do the stuff for Burpee’s eyes. I love him.”
At children’s church this morning, he won over a sassy girl by offering to open her juice box for her. And as he said goodbye to his sister today during our play date, seeing how upset she was, Little Man wrapped her in his arms and just kept saying her name.
I was grateful that neither of them could see my tears through my sunglasses.
This is the tug of war of foster care. As bad as their home life was, their raw pain at losing that life makes you pray for reunification. It makes you pray that Mom or Grandma or whoever will get it together for these kids who love them no matter their flaws.
But every day, you also love them a little more. And when they are so special, like Little Man, you also wish they could be yours forever. But you’re not in control, so you just keep praying that God’s will be done. And that your heart can stay strong for theirs.
This is foster care. Day 14.
May 18, 2018
Morning talk with Little Man:
Him: “You know something I know about you? I-L-O-V-E-Y-O-U!”
Me: “Well I love you, too, buddy!”
Him: “I think you should get a reward for being the best foster mom!”
Me: “Oh yeah? What do you think it should be?”
Him: “100 smoothie bowls!”
He knows me well!
This is foster care. Day 26.
May 28, 2018
“Dear God, thank you for this food. Thank you for this day. Thank you for me being here. I love my mom, I love my grandma, I love Miss Shannon. I love the puppies. I love my sister. I love myself. I love Miss Amber and the rest of my sister’s foster family. I love you. Amen.”
Amen, Little Man. He’s been asking to eat on the porch together lately “because it’s so beautiful out here.”
He sends me little messages that say “I love you” and “God is Good.” He is my daily reminder to just slow down and be grateful for every moment.
This is foster care. Day 36.
May 31, 2018
Little Man walks into the “fanciest” hotel room he’s ever been in, opens every drawer and closet and jumps on the “softest” bed, and can’t stop smiling. He plops down on the couch in front of the big TV and jokes, ‘Can you please not disturb me while I’m watching TV?’
And then he gets up, wraps his arms around my neck and says, “Thank you for bringing me with you. This is so awesome. I’m going to love you in my heart forever. I mean, like really, forever.”
This is foster care. Day 39. A really good day.
June 3, 2018
We read this book called Maybe Days tonight, and after the part about how some foster kids and foster parents are a lot alike but some are not, Little Man said, “Are you and I alike?”
I said, “Well our skin looks different. Mine is sort of vanilla. But we both like exercise, and puppies, and having fun.”
And he said, “Well my skin is like chocolate. And you like chocolate. And that means we’re both ice cream. That’s the same.”
Little Man can teach us a lot about how we should see each other: Just different flavors of ice cream. But all ice cream.
This is foster care. Day 42.
June 17, 2018
He is on his bed, passed out after a day of big feelings. Little Man doesn’t have a father in his life – his dad is in prison. But he has a mother and grandmother he misses — no matter their shortcomings and inability to give him what he needs and deserves to thrive.
He has a foster Mom, me, that he keeps saying he doesn’t want to leave. And when it’s not the weekend, he misses his sister and her foster family – including her foster dad, Mr. Ryan.
We cried a lot together today after his sister left to go back to her foster family, where she lives during the week. “I wish I could be in three places at once,” he sobbed. “I miss everyone. This is so hard.”
I know, Little Man. I know.
This is foster care. Father’s Day. Day 56.
June 19, 2018
Me, after cleaning off the toilet seat AGAIN because someone keeps forgetting to lift the seat: “Hey, we have to talk about this. You need to lift the seat and aim for the center.”
Little Man, very serious: “Wellllllll, I’m sorry to say this but I’m not a very good aimer. I’m just not. It’s true. BUT I am really good at aiming my Nerf gun.”
This is foster care. Day 58.
June 26, 2018
Tonight, Little Man’s caseworker told me that she’s never had a foster parent give as much to a child as I have to him. “I can see how much he is thriving with you.” She said his great-grandmother, who wants him, and his sister “will not provide an environment like that.”
Great-grandma is in her late 60s, and lives in Midway with an aunt who is a convicted felon whose past crimes resulting in prison time were deemed “not that bad.” She raised a daughter who has a long rap sheet including an arrest just last week for burglary. Then she raised a daughter, Little Man’s mother, who has no GED and no job, and has a criminal history dating back to her early teens.
And yet, great grandma’s home study is close to being approved and she will soon get Little Man and his sister. Because in the child “welfare” system, blood is thicker than common sense.
This is foster care. Day 65.
June 27, 2018
Little Man’s Mom just canceled their visit again, with four hours notice. Something about being “on call” for work at McDonalds. So I’m grateful that a good friend made a great thing happen today.
She delivered the Vacation Bible School shirt he’s wanted all week, plus a super cool backpack filled with all kinds of things that will make him happy. God is good. Even amid the disappointments.
This is foster care. Day 66.
August 3, 2018
The Little Man with the big voice and quick smile came to me 102 days ago with few clothes, no toys, and a lot of hurts.
The pups and I fell so in love with this wise little person who is unlike any child we’d ever met. I loved him 1000 percent and tried to pack as many lessons as we could into each day – never knowing how many days would be left. I tried not to think about a lifetime with him, even though my heart wished for it because he’s just that amazing.
And today, as I put all of his new clothes and toys and books into his great-grandmother’s car, I tried to hide my tears behind big sunglasses. I prayed for his safety, that his family will heal enough to give him and his sister what they need and deserve.
I felt my heart break as he climbed into her car.
And as our cars drove off in separate directions, I prayed some more – that the letter I tucked into his bag will make sense some day. That if he reads it in a moment of struggle, he will remember that he is the best boy. The smartest boy. The Little Man who can do anything in this world, because God loves him and so do I.
This is foster care. The last day.
May 13, 2019
The Monday after Mother’s Day. Keeping it real.
I forgot I was supposed to sub a morning class today. I forgot about Lady Bear’s training walk with FidoFit this morning. I barely got the boys to school on time because everything with 2 boys (and 3 dogs) takes longer.
How is it possible to feel tired but joyous, drained but filled up, accomplished but inadequate – all at the same time?
It’s possible because that is motherhood. No matter what “kind” of mom you are.
I know I’m supposed to be a mom, and while not perfect, I’m pretty good at giving love to the ones who need it most.
My time with two boys in my temporary care these last several days showed me that. I rocked the 5 year-old’s first Tooth Fairy visit – including the Army crawl to the pillow after he falls asleep, and the slow tug of the tooth-filled plastic baggie from under his pillow, trying to get it out without waking him up.
We played. They loved bedtime stories. I even got them to eat fruit and a protein smoothie.
But I also feel – and mamas, I know I’m not alone – so inadequate in so many ways. Like I’m failing so many other foster children who need me. Who need SOMEONE.
Saturday was supposed to be my last day with these boys, brothers who are in respite care until their foster mom returns from out of the country. But when we rolled up to the group home where they were supposed to stay for the next week, the 5-year-old just cried and clung to me and begged me not to leave him there. The oldest looked so sad with his brown doe eyes.
It broke my heart.
But what ripped my heart out of my chest was seeing another little boy, the one with autism and severe neglect that I cared for briefly a few weeks ago.
Jamar is living in this group home because for now, the adults in charge feel it’s the best place for him and all of his needs. Or is it?
As soon as he saw me, he got tears in his eyes and looked at the House Mom and said, “I’m fixing to go!”
And Jamar came up to me, crying, and just kept saying, “I go house. I want go house. I want go house.” Except, I can’t bring him home.
I think he thinks I abandoned him, that that’s why he is here.
So I’m standing there, two big-hearted boys crying and clinging to me, and I just feel like I am failing them both. That there is no way to possibly do enough. Because there are so many children, with so many needs, and so many hurdles that seem impossible, and an overburdened system that tries to serve them but fails them every day in ways big and small.
The brothers end up coming back home with me – I decide all the errands I need to be doing for travel this week can wait. And we have an amazing Mother’s Day that fills me with so much gratitude.
I’m grateful for the friend who saw me juggling two rambunctious boys in the nail salon Sunday, and paid for my pedicure before she left.
I’m grateful for my class students not being angry that I totally forgot I was supposed to teach them today.
I’m grateful to my dog-walking, dog-whisperer friend who went to the house to get Lady Bear for her walk, after I forgot.
I’m grateful for every mom of every kind, who is kind and understanding to other moms. Like my friend, also a foster and adoptive mom, who is taking the boys the rest of this week so they don’t have to go to the group home.
I’m also, more than anything, grateful for the House Mom at Treehouse. She’s been there 25 years, sacrificing so much for hundreds if not thousands of children.
She told me has taken Jamar in as her own son, waking up early with him and hugging him lots. Comforting him when the other kids make fun of him because they don’t understand why he rocks back and forth or repeats himself or has the speech of someone half his age. They don’t know how neglected he has been for all of his 6 years.
I’m so glad he has her. And yet, I cry every time I think of Jamar, looking at me, his eyes full of tears: “I go house. I go house. Get me. Get me.”
This is foster care. The day after Mother’s Day.
Shannon Colavecchio is a licensed foster parent who juggles: she has a full-time job in public relations, she is an Arbonne Regional Vice President, fitness instructor, mom to three rescue pups and foster mom in search of her forever child. She lives in Tallahassee, Florida.
To learn more about foster care and adoption, go to onemorechild.org.