by Kelly Hughes
We did it. We nailed the parenting thing. We had a beautiful little boy and a gorgeous little girl born 2 years and 7 days apart. Our happy American family was complete. But then it wasn’t.
We knew that God’s call on our heart to help children was clear and so we became certified for foster care. Our family went from 2 kids to 5 kids under 5 overnight. And thus began the journey that would change us forever.
During the 5 weeks that they were with us we changed 5 kids into 3 different rooms trying to see who would not keep each other up at night, who would not bounce everyone awake at 6am, and what would keep us the most sane in a small house. We fell in love quickly. We got a glimpse of families who loved their children and were heart broken to be parted from them. We learned that foster care did not just bring us new children, it brought an entire family dynamic to learn about and nurture. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins..…it affects so many. With breaking hearts, we said we don’t know if we can do it again, listening to their sobs as they got in the car and drove away for the last time.
Maybe it is too hard, maybe we’re too weak. It feels more comfortable to have smaller grocery bills, put on fewer shoes, and have less chaos. So we took a little while for our hearts to heal and our bodies to rest and we answered the call once again. “Yes,” you say? “In 45 minutes you will be receiving a 2 year old boy and his 4 day old brother who is still detoxing from drugs in his system.” Goodbye last night’s blissful sleep, hello newborn world.
We saw the bruises on his arms and the shaking of his hands. We knew he was child #9 and we prayed for his mother to be rescued from the addiction that held her so tight that she had to choose drugs over these precious lives. 3 short days and off to court they went, only to be sent to live with a relative. Barely time to blink and no time to say goodbye. We pray they are loved and cared for wherever they are.
A little more time to regroup and the call comes again. An 11 month old girl and her 23 month old brother. The most trauma affected little ones that we had encountered. We barely knew what raising trauma-based children looked like and we were in for a crash course. We decided right away that our girl was either going to be a tuba player or an Olympic swimmer. How else could she possibly have the capacity to scream at the top of her lungs for hours at a time? Hours upon hours the screaming went on. We had to introduce formula, then pureed foods, then solids. Her brother spoke and understood almost nothing although he was just shy of 2 years old. On the streets we heard the comments “you’re amazing, you’re wonderful, I could never do it” and my look became a blank stare as I thought I’m barely holding it together. I’m certainly less than amazing, and I don’t know how I’m going to make it through another day.
But 5 weeks went by and suddenly the screaming lessened. She began to smile. We began to breathe again. She figured out what being tickled was and we discovered the best giggle we have ever heard in our lives. It literally stops people in their tracks, it’s that good. Our little buddy began to talk and hug and sing. He knows the words to every song he listens to regularly. And by something completely unforeseen by us, 2 years went by and those precious lives were officially adopted into our family.
Foster care is hard, we would never try to cover that up. But do you know what foster care isn’t about? It’s not about us. It’s about children. Children who are in desperate need of love, patience and care during both their good and most unlovable moments. Are we special or significant? Not at all. We are simply evidence of people living one step at a time in grace and praying that others will take this step as well.