Some days end and I am filled with so much joy and contentment. I pray over this precious child in our home and feel so blessed to know her and to get to pour into her life. I spend the day watching her dance as she interprets the music better than any child I’ve ever seen. I am filled with so much pride as she reads simple books to me when only a few short months ago she couldn’t recognize a single letter. She does the silliest things and makes me laugh until I cry. I praise God that He has so perfectly planned our family. These are the days I share heartfelt moments on social media, and post about how blessed we are.
But some days end with me crying myself to sleep. I spend the day trying to redirect her as she is completely defiant in every single thing. I drive her home from school when she is throwing fits. I keep her safe as she is screaming that she hates me and that I’m not in charge of her. I continue to buy new clothes and toys for her even as she pees on them and destroys them just to show that she is in control. I have to stay home from church and parties because she decides in an instant that she wants to act like a toddler throwing uncontrollable tantrums. I pray over her as she is relentlessly kicking and spitting on me.
This week has been filled with many of the latter. Some months we have more bad days than good days. I decided to share this because most people see the child with big smiles, and the “we’re so blessed” posts, but we don’t often share what life is really like to be 25 and raising a 6 year old with the emotional baggage of a 16 year old.
The truth is that it is the hardest challenge I have ever experienced, and ever expect to experience. She is not “just a kid being a kid.” She is a child who has suffered extreme trauma and frequently relives this trauma and might not ever feel security in our family. She needs structure and constant reassurance that she will not be hurt again. She has had to fight to protect herself, and might always switch into this fighting mode.
She is not an animal that we are going to return to the pound. When we are feeling defeated, we do not need to hear “Are you going to keep her?” or “Are you sure you want to take on her problems for the rest of your life?” Because to be honest, no, we are not sure. But we have surrounded her in prayer, and we truly believe God has placed her in our home because she needs us. Would you ask a mother who is struggling to potty train her toddler if she was going to “keep him?” Or would you ask the father who is battling with a rebellious teenager if he is going to “keep her?”
Instead of asking if she is too much to handle, or if we are going to get rid of her like an untrainable animal, offer to help. Offer encouragement. Offer prayers. As hard as our days get, and as many times I turn to Will and say “I don’t think I can do this anymore,” a part of me still knows that God has created this child with a unique purpose in this world. As hard as this path is, it is the one we are on and the one we intend to stay on.
Shew. I know this is a lot heavier than my usual posts, but I just wanted to share what has been on my heart. And I wanted to give a few ideas of ways to help fostering + adopting families that you know.
- Pray. Pray for the foster/adoption parents, that they will have strength and patience. Pray for the children as they try to cope with their trauma and find their place in the world.
- Understand. Be understanding when they can’t always participate in typical kid activities, because their children need a lot more structure in their schedules and consistency.
- Offer rest. It is so hard to ask for help, but foster parents need date nights, or just a few hours to rest, too. If you have a relationship with the child, then offer to help. It doesn’t have to be for a week… simple things like taking them to the park for a couple hours is SO helpful!
- Support. When they tell you they are struggling, the story you are hearing is most likely the short version because they don’t want to share explicit details. Don’t minimize or dismiss their struggles by saying they are just like other kids; if they tell you they are struggling, support them instead of blowing it off. And just because the child has been in their home for a year, or even five, doesn’t mean that their lives are simple and carefree. Many children who have experienced abuse suffer from lifelong developmental delays and mental health issues.
- Encourage. Instead of asking about the child’s history and asking if the foster/adoptive parents can handle it, speak encouraging words. Even if you don’t think they can handle it- tell them they can!
Obviously, I cannot speak from every foster parents perspective. Each child is uniquely created and will struggle differently, with different issues and varying degrees in these issues. While I only know what this journey has been like in our life, I do know that praying, offering rest, supporting, and encouraging can help ANY family, and especially unconventional families like ours. I hope this does not offend, but offers insight to help others!