What’s Wrong?

Sometimes kids just need to be sad. It stinks and it goes against every fiber of my mom being. I want to be the fixer, the hero. I want to offer treats and trips and fun just to force a smile. I want to joke and tickle and “turn that frown upside down”. But I don’t.

Sometimes kids are legitimately pissed off. Like, legit. Not one of those “he’s looking at me” or “she’s breathing on me” but an actual injustice. Sometimes bad things happen and kids get mad. That’s ok too. Sure, I wanna go into momma-bear mode and right their wrongs for them. Sometimes I should (and do), sometimes I shouldn’t (so I try not to).

Occasionally they’re going to crawl into the crap and revel in the misery of it. Other times it’ll get dumped on them and they’ll have no choice. They can’t live in it forever but IT’S OKAY TO FEEL BAD SOMETIMES! In fact, I think it’s healthy. If they can learn to feel their feelings now and not push them away or ignore them or think there’s something “wrong” with them, I suspect they’ll be healthier adults than if I were to run to the rescue every time they hurt.

I’ll rub his back or brush her hair. I’ll pray with them. I’ll pray for them. I’ll sit in awkward silence or listen while they rant. I’ll (try really hard to) keep my advice and lectures to a minimum. I’ll reassure them of my love for them. I’ll try not to press too hard for a “why” because I know they don’t always know what it is. I’ll allow a safe space for them to feel what they need to feel. I’ll crawl into the crap with them if I need to so they don’t have to sit there alone.

Sometimes kids just need to be sad. And it’s ok. Sometimes I just need to be sad too.
 Sometimes (like the mighty hippo) you just need to wallow in the crap for a minute.

To my kid with perfectionist tendencies:

I get you. I’ve spent much of my life leaning toward the type A column. It has served me well for the most part, but I have a few words of wisdom for you. Lessons I’ve learned.

Here are the things I want for you:

DO HARD THINGS. You won’t want to. You like for things to be neat and tidy. You like to succeed when you try something. When you do hard things it’ll get messy. You’ll screw up. You’ll embarrass yourself. You’ll get mad. Do it anyway. It’s good for you. It’s humbling. It’s faith building.

KEEP YOUR HEART TENDER. This will be especially challenging when you do hard things, because hard things usually require you to be strong. You’ll be tempted to put on a tough exterior so people won’t know you’re struggling or hurting. Fight that urge. Let your heart be broken sometimes. That has to happen occasionally to keep it soft.

DON’T PUT YOUR VALUE IN YOUR SUCCESSES. You work hard and push yourself. That is fantastic! But sometimes you’re going to fail. You just will. That doesn’t mean that YOU are a failure. Your worth isn’t measured by your grades, your GPA, your weight, or your bank account. Deep in your very soul, know what really matters.

GIVE OTHERS A BREAK. You expect a lot of yourself and as a byproduct you will likely expect a lot of others. Don’t. They have their own stuff and their own strengths. Cut them some slack. One time I was trying to explain why I expected so much of others. I blamed it on my “type a-ness”. In print it’s pretty obvious what I mean but in the spoken word it sounded like “type anus”. A funny reminder that our tendencies can make us act like butts sometimes. Don’t be a butt.

AVOID COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS. It’s an exhausting game. I can (almost) promise that there will always be someone who is better or more spiritual or more patient or faster or richer than you. Learn to celebrate the accomplishments of others. Be inspired by them but never jealous. Jealousy is ugly.

BE YOU. You are weird sometimes. So am I. It’s ok. Be different because “same” is boring. You don’t have to parade your quirks but you don’t have to cover them up. YOU are such an amazingly magnificent person. Why on earth would you try to be anything else?

With all my love, Mom

How It Began

I’ve kept a journal since the beginning of our foster care journey. It’s fun to look back on. Sometimes I can’t help but think, “Oh Abbie, how sweet and naive you once were.” 🙂

I often go back to my very first entry. When I was very first figuring it out. I was learning how to foster. I was learning about Caleb. Most of all, though, I was learning about how God works.

August 26, 2012. Six weeks after meeting the sweet boy that was to become my son. I had no idea. Here’s a glimpse into the mind of me:

“Today during church I was admiring the blue corduroy Gap loafers of the sweet boy sitting in my lap. I was thinking about how those exact shoes have been worn by two not so different boys who have lived 2 very different lives…or have they?

Both boys have loving grandparents who have entertained them, fed them, clothed them, and taught them. Both boys have loved Spiderman, Batman, Iron Man, and Hot Wheels. Both boys have learned to ride a bike (although only one has mastered the art of riding without training wheels). Both love McDonald’s Happy Meals.

I know jut about all there is to know about the first owner of those blue shoes. I know his birth weight (6lb, 10oz). I know how he got that scar above his right eye (New Years Eve, 2 years ago, he met the corner of my parents’ entertainment center). I know this difference in his ‘whiney’ cry and his ‘hurt’ cry. I know that he likes to hide the last puzzle piece and the be the hero when he ‘finds’ it. I know that he loves me and I love him.

I know considerably less about the current owner of those very same navy blue shoes. I don’t know where he was born. I don’t know if he has ever seen a movie in a movie theater. I don’t know who taught him to ride a bike or if he’s ever been to the zoo or had a pet. But I’m learning. I’m learning that ‘rimmatoop’ means swimming suit. I’m learning that he loves our dog, Maggie. I’m learning that he wakes up early but is okay to play alone for awhile.

I’m learning to love him as he’s learning to love me.”

Sweet memories!

Apparently I didn’t feel like mentioning the part about how the little cutie had a habit of running (in those cute navy loafers, or any shoes he could put on, or BAREFOOT) out of any door that wasn’t locked. We live on 5 acres and he is/was FAST! It is/was an incredible journey but it also is/was hard.

I’ve learned so much since that journal entry 3 1/2 years ago. I’ve gotten answers to many of my questions about Caleb’s past. I still have so much to figure out about fostering. On the job training, so to speak. I’m so grateful for the opportunity.


The owners of those cute shoes. Bros.

 

Buckle up

I drive a 2011 Ford Focus. Boring white. It’s got just over 130,000 miles and (currently) low tire pressure. It has survived an encounter with a wayward deer. It has a dent and and a big ol’ scratch right on top where Evan tried to shimmy up the basketball goal and he (and said basketball goal) came crashing down on it. It has safely carried our family of 5 on trips to the mountains and trips to the beach (“I know it’s cramped, guys. It’s character building. And cheap gas.”). It doesn’t have a nickname. We don’t refer to it as “him” or “her”. Depending on the day it can be described as anywhere from clean(ish) to disgusting. Fancy? Nope. Glamorous? Not on your life. However, it has never stranded me. It’s reliable. It’s a vehicle, a way to get from point A to point B. It’s not perfect but it doesn’t need to be…we don’t LIVE in it. We just need it to get where we’re going.

I think foster care is kind of like my boring Ford Focus. It is certainly not glamorous. On any given day it could be described as anywhere from amazing to horrible. It’s a means to an end. It’s the way to get from point A to point B. It is not perfect but it doesn’t need to be. It just needs to be reliable and get these kids where they’re going.

We take short jaunts (like baby H that we had for 24 hours and Miss B that stayed with us for 10 weeks). We take long drives (like Sassy S that lived with us for 10 months). We settle in for the long haul with our Caleb. We never start a trip knowing where we will end up but we have learned to appreciate the meandering, scenic drive in our cramped, dented, boring, reliable, amazing way.

(This is Caleb. July 9,2012. The day we met. Riding in the Focus.)