Monday, February 20, 2017

On Foster Care And Bubbles

Early one morning, I was texting with a foster mom friend.  The conversation had begun the previous night but then I crashed at 9:00, which my husband and I are apt to do these days, and we picked it back up that morning before 6:00, before any of our cumulative six kids woke up, before our day took a turn for the crazy.  These were wacky days for her and for us, for very different reasons, so we took a moment to lean into a safe place of camaraderie and trust, compare notes, build up, say things that in a different context might sound selfish or absurd.

At one point in the conversation I thought "Maybe she is a crazy person for taking this on."  And then I remembered of course that I myself had done the exact same thing, just on a different timeline.  So I guess we can be loony together at least.  But seriously.  Foster parents or people who feel inclined to pursue foster care are pretty much crazy people.

To fling open your arms and your doors to welcome someone else's kids and care for them like, or alongside, your own.

To submit your schedule to a rigorous overhaul in order to accommodate the revolving door of people in your home, appointments to go to, services to set up.

To take on the condescending, or at best confused, looks of strangers who don't understand why your family looks like it does.

To lose a bit of sanity and a lot of sleep.

I proceeded to contemplate what might be a common tie between all the foster parents out there, or even just the ones I know.  A positive tie, not a sorta negative one like "we're all crazy".  Something came to mind.

Foster parents don't have bubbles. 

Well, I'm sure foster parents have lots of actual, physical bubbles.  In my experience, they always end up dumped out onto the driveway and the promise of a few minutes of engaged, happy children is found dripping slowly down the slight slope.

Not those kind of bubbles.  I mean the kind of bubble that ropes you in to a personal safe zone or comfort zone that you choose, consciously or unconsciously, not to venture out of.  Maybe it's a religion.  Maybe it's an area of town.  Maybe it's an area outside of town. Maybe it's a type of people.  Maybe it's an economic status or level of income.  Maybe it's independence, comfort, flexibility.

Name your bubble, the thing that ropes you in and limits the reach of what you can do for this world.  Foster parents don't have them, and if they do, they end up popped or dripping down the driveway pretty darn quick.  Foster parents open up their home, their income, their hearts and minds to who-in-the-heck-knows-what.  They welcome kids who don't look like them, act like them, live like them. They have to operate based on someone else's set of rules, not their own. They have to give up flexibility and predictability.  They have to extend themselves beyond the typical bubbles a lot of folks set up around themselves in our society today.

And yet, there is one type of bubble that nearly every foster parent out there will admit they've been stuck in.  It's not a fun bubble either.  It's a bubble of isolation and misunderstanding, where you feel like you're on an island, and where you wonder if you have made a lunatic decision that will distance you from all the people in your life not on the same path.  You find yourself scratching around for camaraderie and understanding.  When you find it, you hold onto it and hope it sticks. If you're lucky, you end up with a safe space where you can communicate openly and honestly.  Where you can be selfish if you need to and be consoling if you're asked to. Where you can let swear words fly because you know they'll just bounce off the inside of the bubble and not reach anyone but the person hanging out in there with you, who merely nods in agreement and may contribute a few themselves.

It's text conversations at a time of the morning when a lot of the world is still asleep.

It's "How are you holding up?" and "You'll never believe the latest court decision" and "What can I do for you in this moment?"  

It's "I'm here for you" and "Let's do this."

It's two steps forward, one step back.  It's daily struggle and success with lifelong impact.