It occurred to me today our family has undergone some serious paradigm shifts in the last 6 months. For a year and half we have fostered. We have seen 17 children in and out of our home in that time. We have had great experiences. Most of the children left us quickly to go to family or were united with parents. And most of our placements were one maybe two children. But 6 months ago our world was rocked and out of necessity our habits evolved quickly.
6 months ago we said yes to a sibling group of four who did not have a plan of reunification.
We are licensed to take two children of the same sex.
We have requested to work with teens.
We are very comfortable with children who will be with us for a predetermined time frame, which is usually revolving around the details of getting these children placed with family members. So, when they called us to take two or three from this sibling group of FOUR children, 3 boys, 1 girl, ages 7,4,2,1, although we did not surprise God, we surprised ourselves when we said we would try to take them all.
Our family doubled in size over night. We now basically had two sets of twins (our bio children are 3 and 2), and our birth order was displaced. All that in perspective, these are the shifts that have happened so far:
We have moved to paper plates. I never thought I would be the mom who served her children food exclusively on paper plates, but out of necessity we started. In fact, when Brian and I first married, we refused to even buy paper napkins or paper towels. We recycled EVERYTHING! We are the type of people who care about our Earth and we try not to spend money on things that will end up in the trash can. But… then there were 8.
Laundry sits in baskets for days at a time. I am washing, and drying, 1-2 loads of laundry EVERY SINGLE DAY. It does not always get put directly away. In our house the term laundry has become synonymous with Satan. On several occasions I have threatened to take away all articles of clothing leaving only 7 of everything. My husband is still bucking this, but I am strategically breaking him down.
Bath time is no longer a leisurely activity for children to play and discover how water flies and what happens when you get bubbles in your nose. It more closely resembles a hosing down with some suds involved before I toss you out of the tub and over to dad as he hands me the next one to hose off while he dresses the previously bathed child.
Dinner time is a no sit assembly line. 8 plates out, check! 3 sippy cups with working lids, check! 3 small cups for children, check! 2 adult glasses, ummmm… honey? A spoon of each dish on each plate. Pray, because once the plates hit the table there is no going back to pray. Throw plates on the table and run to my plate. Quickly eat a few bites while standing because someone is going to want seconds in 3, 2, 1! Throw plates in trash. Done… whew!
I allow 3 and 4 year old children to clean the bathrooms. Why do for kids what they can do for themselves? Makes perfect sense, right? It may not be perfect, but it is done.
We have used respite care 4 times since May. In our first year, we did not use respite at all. We had it covered. Now with 6 kids to find a place to go, I have run out of options. Not to mention, I feel like I am constantly in need of revitalization.
I find that I am in contact with other foster parents almost every day. In fact, foster parents have quickly become our closest friends. I believe this is out of pure survival instinct. We survive better in herds than alone. These little children will not devour us as long as we stick together. However, I would dare to say that if it were not for our herd we would have quit, called in the troops, waved our white flag and had these kids sent elsewhere. Not because we do not love them, but because this is the hardest thing we have ever had to balance. We are daily grateful that the Lord has provided us so generously with a herd.
My house is never clean for longer than 20 minutes. And that 20 minutes only happens at the end of naptime, on the days I have spent the entire naptime cleaning house.
We have learned to die to ourselves in ways we did not know we were capable. Our hearts are being forever shaped and molded by the Spirit in us. We are no longer able to turn a blind eye to the broken world in which we live.
I assumed that the legal system would handle cases with importance. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG, WRONG, WRONG! I am learning the court system of foster care vigorously day in and day out. I am learning that though we long for justice, it does not always come swiftly.
I projected that I would have a hard time loving parents who would let their children go. I have learned how to have compassion for a young mama that cannot overcome her addiction to care for her children. I see the love she has for her children and bear her cross with her. I see that her addiction to sin is no different from my own addiction to sin, we just choose different sins. I am faced daily with the truth that I may be the only glimpse of Jesus she gets.
As a former educator who held education with high regard , I know there are more important things than grades and the public school’s way of classifying students. If our kiddos can learn to heal and love all the while learning about our Savior, VICTORY! Who cares about their grades (I still care, but not to the extent I once did)?
I once mediated all disagreements in our home. The fire extinguisher has been retired. My husband and I cannot possibly put out all the fires that happen in a house of 6 young children. We have stopped trying. There is usually a blanket “Be nice!” or “Be kind!” that is stated 4,781 each day. With 6 kids who has time for one-on-one lecture and intensive play therapy to figure out what the problem is? Be nice and get over it!
With only two little children and teens in the house, sleep was abundant. Now, with 6 little ones, sleep, that elusive devil, has hidden from me and I cannot find him. I am tired all the time and all the time I am tired!
For those of you who have, or know of someone who has, large families you could probably add to the list. I envision our family outgrowing our house before too long. Brian has put a cap of 12 on our family, but who knows but God? We know that these kids are not with us permanently but we also know that one day we will have kids who do stay with us permanently. And when that happens, I will have even more shifts to write about.