If any of you got the idea I have this grandiose image of myself as a parent, let me assure you I am kept well aware of my humanity.
I mentioned respite care in part 2, and that was the majority of the work we did the two years we were in the program. On alternating weekends we had (usually) the same child, providing consistency for him and us, and occasionally hosted a new or extra child on the off-weeks.
Short-term parenting like this was a fabulous way to feel competent.
We got to share fun-time with our fosters and learn the great stuff our community has to offer kids. Sure we had to deal with the occasional “issue” over a weekend, but nothing like a full-time home.
Then one of our respites needed a new home, and we were eager to take him, as it would be one less major transition in the midst of his current upheaval.
Knowing that this was temporary, and considering our ages (I was 24 at the time), I encouraged him to call me “Auntie Amy” rather than any variant on “Mom.” He seemed eager for a more familiar title now that he was living with us, but I felt playing at mom unfair and somewhat dishonest.
I looked recently at my journals from those months. They became a muddle of case-notes and my own observations.
The day the “honeymoon” was over is in the notes, but God answered my prayers even in that, and our boy didn’t crash too hard, grudgingly realizing that even the fun people have boundaries and expectations.
Over the next couple months I was blessed to watch “Brian’s” interaction with my infant daughter.
There were only one or two times when I even wondered if he might do something unkind, but he was consistently tender and loving. It was encouraging to see the nurturing heart of a boy with his background.
Mostly I enjoyed sharing the things I loved with him– books, stories and music.
It was awkward, sometimes, all the appointments and medications and teacher meetings I had to keep up with.
I was intensely aware of how little power I had, how young I was, and how much I (again) had no experience or frame of reference.
I was barely out of college, where the teacher is the authority figure. I was now suddenly the parent, to whom the teacher is (in the best situation) a partner.
At worst, I hoped the parent would have the largest vote if it came to a disagreement.
And that, I learned to my deep frustration, was not going to be true. To this day I wonder if my being so young lessened my credibility with the “review board” (or whatever the decision-making group called itself), but my wishes for the child were overruled by all the “professionals” in the room.
Brian had to change schools in the middle of the semester.
Shortly after Brian’s transfer to the new school, a pregnancy test confirmed we were expecting our second child, and my husband’s work sent Jay to Antarctica for a time.
Not feeling the fortitude to single-parent (especially while hiding a pregnancy), I moved with my crew back into my parents’ home.
We had decided to keep the pregnancy a secret because Brian’s future with us was uncertain at best, and we didn’t want him to have any worries that he was being displaced by this new baby.
While my dad and mom supported me through Jay’s absence, I was now the primary care-giver. It felt very different than the last time I lived at home.
Shortly before Christmas we received the anticipated news that a potentially adoptive home was wanting Brian to move in. We had an early Christmas before we took him, and were happy later to hear that he was adopted.
We continued to occasionally do respite care until I gave birth to my second daughter, and attended a few more meetings to maintain our current fostering license.
Basically, we did the minimum we had to to keep our inaction from making our final decision for us.
We were waiting while considering whether we’d return when Melody was bigger, but finally we decided what I mentioned at the beginning of part 2: with littles at home we needed to be done for now.
I was learning a whole new aspect of parenting.