Phew. What an afternoon. The day started off fairly average, nothing special. I was a bit grumpy, but no change there 😉 a few errands run, getting bits and pieces sorted, then heading off to walk the dog. I hadn’t eaten any lunch, which for me is quite something. In fact I made it to 5.15pm before having some toast but we’ll get to that.
It’s 3.30, I’m curled up on the sofa at my Mum’s cuddling the dog, when my phone rings. Our social worker’s name pops up. Oh no, I think. What’s gone wrong? (She’s writing up our report to go to panel in 3 1/2 weeks…!). I answer.
“Hi Alice, don’t worry, have you got a minute to chat? I’m just calling about a sibling group…”
And that’s how it began. The call that has set my brain whirring about a zillion times faster than normal and has opened my eyes to the reality of fostering and what we’re doing.
Let’s get one things straight: we aren’t yet approved. We’ve not even been to panel (where they decide if you’ll be approved or not). So getting calls about potential kids is NOT what we’ve been anticipating. This has thrown a cat amongst the pigeons, you might say.
In my head, we’d end up with young kids. You know, a nice sibling group of under 3s, maybe a baby and a toddler? That’s what I’ve been mentally preparing myself and, dare I say it, hoping for. Right in my comfort zone, easier to bond and cuddle with, going to toddler groups and walks to the park. That sort of thing (even now, a mere 6 hours later, I’m thinking, ‘So naive’).
“…they’re 5, 6 and 7, two boys and a girl…”
Yup. Right at the top end of the age group we’d set for ourselves, 3 kids (THREE KIDS), living the wrong side of the neighbouring local authority, and most definitely not small people that I can put in a baby carrier and dress in cute outfits.
And that’s where the emotional rollercoaster began. My initial reaction was, “They’re too old for us”, but hearing that they have nowhere else (except a whole county away) to go and actually thinking thinking thinking it through, I can feel my heart softening. Cue the hearing their names: that changes things. You start imagining putting them on the bedroom doors with those wooden letters you get. Ohhh man.
I had the briefest of phone calls with my hubby, then off out with the dog. Get a call again 10 mins later from our social worker again – she’s spoken to the foster carer that the kids are with currently and has only good things to say.
What’s going through my mind? Swinging between thinking that this really isn’t what I had in mind, but should that matter? I think this is the heart of the matter, what has been gnawing at me since we got the call.
Fostering isn’t about what we want, what I want. Obviously, we need to be aware of our limits, but is this beyond that? We may be a last resort, but we also seem to be a match. Are these kids ‘too much’? How do we actually know what our limits are?
There it is again, it’s about us us us, me me me. Being aware of our limits doesn’t mean that we neglect to think of the children themselves. There are three children who need a home. A home that we can give them. They need to be together. They need care, love and attention. And yes, that may be hard to provide at times. We will need our support network to do just that – support us. Life will become VERY BUSY. Our life will be structured around school days and contact visits and appointments. Social workers will frequent our house often. These kids will need intense, structured, nurturing parenting. They will be given opportunities that wouldn’t be possible otherwise; from the making attachments and having positive role models to having swimming lessons and brushing their teeth (yes, that is an opportunity that we take for granted). They may try to push us away and they will want to go home.
Here we are with a house big enough to house them, and my life at least is free enough to welcome them. On a deeper and more pertinent level, we are loved so dearly by our Heavenly Father, and He knows and loves them too…how striking is that? He loves them deeply and knows them and their struggles and joys, and here is a chance for us to show them that love.
Yes, we need to be aware of our limits. Going from zero to three kids will be huge and challenging and wonderful and terrifying and exhausting. Does that mean we shouldn’t do it? I don’t know. I have butterflies and cannot figure out what we should do. We’ve got a list of questions to ask tomorrow, but none of them will make or break it. I can really, really sense God gently opening my eyes to my own selfishness. This is not about us. This is about children that need a loving home. Will we (and by that, I mostly/entirely mean ‘I’) sacrifice our own hopes and desires for the their good?