On days when I feel particularly crazy and overwhelmed, I sit and think about how we got to where we are today. When you make plans in the world of foster care, you soon find that they change. I have written before about planning not to plan. Foster family planning involves conversations about possibilities, “what-if’s” and a lot of “why-not’s.” We have had the pleasure of parenting 6 children in our lives, and 4 are still in our home. In the last 2 years or so, the number of children in our home has gone like this: 1 to 2 to 1 to 2 to 3 to 4 to 3 to 4. If this made your head spin, imagine living it! Our reasons all made sense at the time, and seemed relatively “likely,” which is the best you can hope for in this family planning world. Foster parents call this foster family planning.
One thing I’ve learned about fostering is you have to embrace creativity in pretty much every area of your life. Today we lived this by trying the 763rd arrangement of our living room, in the hopes of accomplishing many things but mostly to ensure baby proofing for two extremely resourceful toddlers and an infant. But we also hope to make it easier to reach diapers, medical equipment and the ever-present cup of coffee, reduce our overall blood pressure and try to maintain a nice-looking home. We also hope to make each day with a kindergartener, two 1-year-olds and an infant more fun than stressful, and hear more laughs than tears.
Another thing we found in this crazy beautiful life is how the people in your life change. When we went from 2 to 3 children, everyone started saying the phrase we now live by: “You’re crazy.” We took in a baby who was 6 weeks younger than the one we already had, essentially creating our own set of twins. But the people in our life didn’t really change all that much. Once we went to 4, there was a pretty significant shift. Our circle of friends changed, and our parents went from supportive, excited foster grandparents to still-supportive, slightly worried parents.
We had to be creative in how to be friends and how to be good members of a family. We often go out one at a time to gatherings, and the other one enjoys the peace and quiet of an after-bedtime house. We started using a babysitter more instead of family, as having four kids is tiring at any age. We are creative in our marriage. We do things like have coffee breaks during the day or go to movies alone, and we plan months ahead for multiple babysitters to have a night away.
But what we didn’t have to work hard at was being our own family. No matter what ages, what color, what gender, what trauma, what medical needs, or how long these kids are in our home, this is our family. This is just our family. And we have found blessings and lessons and creativity at every number. So if this living room arrangement doesn’t work out when it’s kid tested, then we at least have something to do next weekend.