We’ve had seventeen more kids since Dan the Man had a vasectomy. No joke. I remember so well our decision to have him fixed…how sure we were. To concrete the deal, I was fixed also about a year later. We weren’t messing around with the statistics on that one…double duty birth control is what I always say. I’ve been pregnant four times and three of those were while using some form of birth control. I can look at a naked man and get pregnant. SO suffice it to say, we were serious about it.
It’s not that we didn’t like kids; it was just that we didn’t like OUR kids. No, not really. Seriously, we just knew that we were supposed to do something different.
Sometimes life gives you signs…I really believe this…and tugs you in a certain direction. Ours started with a family of boys who lived down the street from us back when our girls were both small. Three boys lived there, three boys who sought us out. Who needed us to be there for them in their times of trial. We were there for them…and then life moved us on and we weren’t there anymore. Fifteen years later one has spent most of his adult years in prison. One died alone on a beach, beaten to death. And one tries desperately to make sense of his life and loss. Would it have been different if we’d stayed? What if we’d tried harder? What if…
So a few years later, the guilty memory of a crying boy who said, “I’ll never see you again,” and me saying, “Of course you will,” –led us into a class on foster parenting. We didn’t know what we were doing. We didn’t know what the outcome would be. But we knew we had to do something if we were ever going to assuage the guilty knowledge that the boy was right. We would never see him again.
I’m always surprised by people’s responses to the fact that we foster. Often we are praised and no matter how many times it happens, I’ll never get used to people saying, “Wow, that’s so great that you do that…” or some variation. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the praise. I do. It’s awkward, but appreciated when we are complimented on our commitment. But what I get most often is an incredulous, “How can you DO that?”
I want to say, “How can you NOT do that?”
Honestly, it just baffles me…and other foster parents will attest to this…how many kids are out there looking for stable homes when there are SO many wonderful parents out there who just don’t want to be bothered. Believe me, I’ve heard all the excuses.
“It wouldn’t be good for my own children…”
“We don’t really have room…”
“We’re super busy…”
The idea that it wouldn’t be good for their own children is my personal favorite, as if to imply I’m destroying my children by being a foster parent. Do my children have to learn to share? Yes. Do they sometimes get less attention than they would have, had they been only children? Sure. Are there sacrifices they must make? Absolutely.
But I’ll tell you what my kids have learned and it is a lesson more valuable than any taught outside of this home. My children have learned compassion. My children have learned selflessness. My children have learned appreciation and my children have learned to give…and ask for nothing in return. They know what’s out there, how fortunate they are to be here, and they have learned to love unconditionally anyone who walks in our door.
We once had a precious three month old baby girl…with Aids. Was the minimal danger of possible contraction to my kids worth the life lesson they learned when they held that sweet little victim to their chest and knew she would not likely live to remember them? Absolutely.
Yes, my kids are being irreversibly changed by our choice to foster. Thank God.
Then there’s the, “I have no room”, excuse. Do these people think I live in a mansion? Believe me, “there is NO room at the Inn” doesn’t go very far to a caseworker when there is a child in need. Yes, I have seven bedrooms now…but it’s not always been that way. We’ve fostered from a two bedroom house. My kids have slept in alcoves, in laundry rooms and stacked in rows like a military bunker. My kids have shared rooms, camped out on the floor when a new one comes in for the night and one even slept in a chair for three weeks…because that is where he felt most safe.
When the State wanted us to take in a teenage mom and I said, “But this house is a hazardous construction zone, completely under demolition, with no place for her to sleep…” The worker said, “Well, give her a hammer…she’ll help make it her own!” I even had one worker half-jokingly say, “Keri, I don’t care if you pitch him a tent in the middle of the living room…he needs a home.”
So when people say their four bedroom, two bath perfectly situated home just doesn’t have room for another because spoiled little Jonny doesn’t like to share…I give little sympathy to their plight.
And last but not least…”I’m too busy.”
Are they effin’ kidding me? Once in a while, to remind myself, I pull out the calendar we kept that last semester I was in college in 2004. I was taking a full load at two different colleges. That’s right, 24 senior level college credits to graduate on time. Our house was for sale, we were in the middle of two separate court battles for kids in our home AND we had eight kids living there…two severely special needs, two Fetal Alcohol, one Reactive Attachment Disorder, and three sexually abuse. Five bed-wetters, one fire-starter, and one who thought it perfectly acceptable to masturbate whenever the urge arrived.
Don’t ever tell me YOU are too busy to foster parent. I can shoot that one down with my eyes closed.
Yes, we’ve been doing this a long time and nothing much surprises us anymore. We’ve pretty much seen it all. And seventeen kids post-vasectomy we’ve never regretted the decision—to not have any more kids.