Tuesday, June 16, 2015

How Is It Really Going?

"So, how is it going?"

This question is asked with genuine interest and concern at cookouts, in Kroger and poolside this Summer. I want to answer authentically, but the truth is so multi-layered that a headline is impossible. 

Recently it was asked by a newlywed friend and I countered, "We'll get to that, but I want to hear about how marriage is going for you." Within seconds both of our eyes were filled with tears because in that moment we knew though our circumstances were different, our hearts were similarly tenderized. 

The newness & shine is wearing off. The hope-filled beginning is waking up to the unbrushed teeth and hair of reality. The challenges that everyone warned us we would face, but which we couldn't quite believe would actually apply to our love and our call, have started to rear their heads.

A little tired, a bit tender and deeply aware of the commitments we have made, this is the part of life where the rubber meets the road. 

So, how is it going?
Smoother overall than expected.
Sometimes hard.
Often sweet.
Absolutely faith building.
Frequently cringe inducing.
Mostly really good. 

My response depends on the minute and which short story or slice of family life my heart is focussing on. I haven't written in two weeks because each time I sit down to record my thoughts I can't settle on which direction to go.

Do I tell about the preciousness of our girls' overwhelming gratitude at getting lunch boxes... "We've asked Santa every year."  Or my feelings of doubt after buying them: Am I setting their forever family up for success or frustration? In my desire to 'treat' am I making things more complicated?  I want to expose them to new and exciting things but not ruin them for the reality in which they live.

Do I chronicle the struggle of choosing a school for them?
How do I explain what an issue food of all things can be...so deeply personal, emotional, frustrating?
The strange twisting of my heart when a child vacillates between calling me Jennifer and Mommy in the same sentence?
How I have truly loved them since the minute they walked up my front sidewalk in the dark that first night? 
How I wonder what role/relationship (if any) our family will have after they leave--or whether that will be in 6 days, 6 months or a year...
Can I be honest about how frustrating it is during such a season of change to not be able to have a child-free date night with my husband?
Is it possible to put into words the bittersweet feeling of watching your bio children learn what real sacrifice feels like? 
Do I attempt to explain the simultaneous desire to rescue them (bio AND foster kids) and the deep knowing that God is absolutely using this experience as a part of their growth and their story--not in spite of the fact that it is hard but because of it.

How do I record the realization that the hard moments my flesh would typically want rescue from are now the times when my Spirit rejoices as the strongest and truest my life has ever felt? 

Or the everyday choices we make to balance the life my family leads versus the one from which these girls have come and will likely return? How I am holding back on some of what I would buy/do/spend for my bio kids because I don't want to set unrealistic expectations for their future home life. (And the fact that this 'sacrifice'/change has been good for all of us!)

The fallacy is that a foster child's previous life was all bad and their new placement is in all ways superior. It is just not that simple. I am becoming a better parent to my own brood because of these girls.

We've had our 'little girls' for over a month. The honeymoon phase is ending. Rather than Summer fun cruise director, I must increasingly assume the role of foster Mom. This means boundaries, rules, structure. It also means sibling quarrels at a rate beyond what we normally experience in our home. 

My children have had 11 years of working out their roles. A unique facet of a home with only multiples is that we've never experienced the integration of a 'new baby.' Now we experience the introduction of new big kids with their own 7-8 years of personality, life experience and role in their family of origin. This brings some (dare I say healthy) struggle. I imagine it is similar to integrating stepchildren into a home, only with the knowledge that this is temporary and without a definitive end date.

Even though it is my heart's inclination, I don't buy the lie the world is selling that my role as Parent is to hover, protect, insulate. I think we often glamourize this protective instinct as good parenting, but the fact of the matter is protective parenting is easier than letting go of the reigns a bit and parenting through the messiness of the world. Despite this belief, I second guess myself and feel like a Bad Mom in the moments when my biological children take the backseat.

Like I said in the beginning of this post...messy, multi-layered, challenging...

I believe in loving fiercely...which means to pray hard, to teach, to coach, then to let my children get some real practice. The sin in this world--the sin in ME-- makes this terrifying. But this is the world we have been called to be in and not of. We must prepare our children to love through it even when, especially when, it is hard and we want to duck our heads in holes and pretend everything is hunky dory. 

God in His providence timed this all just right...each of my bio children have been rotating in and out of our home for 9-12 days at a time for Summer camp. Each 'big kid' is getting a break at camp to soak up individual adventure and fun. Meanwhile, a lighter kid population (and break up of my trio) has helped our little girls find their place...and K, P, R to rediscover theirs. Individual relationships are being built. I am reminded that God manages the details. He cares for all seven of the hearts in this home.

Hard and good coexisting, stretching, growing. This is the stuff of life.  


Gina Gray said...

So honestly relieved to see your comment about wanting to give so much but keeping the "real" reality in which foster kids actually live in your mind. As a public school teacher, I see a lot of children go to wonderful foster homes filled with love and having a positive experience only to find themselves back in their "real" home that's not so wonderful. It's like winning the giant mansion but then having to pay the taxes for it. You will no doubt tread carefully on that road. I think it's important to teach your foster kids things they can take back with them when they go home that will empower them to make positive changes in their "real" world. Bless you Jennifer. I know you are doing amazing. (:

Sarah said...

As always, your raw honestly is so endearing...thanks for being so real. Praying for you and your entire household in this new season of life. :)

Denise Ross said...

Loving your real honest heart here. Continuing to pray for you, your family, and the children who come into your home. God Bless