When my wife and I told each other way back on just our second date that having kids was a non-negotiable, that we both had to have them, we didn't know what the inability to have our own kids would be like- until we experienced it.
When my wife said she didn't want a dog because she never had one growing up and it only seemed like work, she never knew what the unconditional love of a dog was like- until we adopted our Eva.
When my wife and I decided that we could open up our hearts and homes to other people's children by becoming foster parents, we didn't know how much we could fall in love with these little ones, how much we would cherish each smile, giggle, and coo; how much our hearts would ache for these kids through any rough moments they dealt with in our care and how much our hearts would ache for ourselves- until we became foster parents.
We are 1 month into our second placement, this one coming after a month long hiatus to heal from our first placement that was in our care for 7 weeks. We went through our required pre-service classes to learn about caring for foster kids and the things they might feel and experience. However, we were ill-prepared for how the system actually works and the things that we would feel and experience. Truth be told, I'm not sure you can be prepared for this experience. Just as there's a lot of things in life that you won't really know the things you need to know- until you know them.
I gave a presentation on positivity in the workplace last week, and one of the points I hit on was the opposite of positivity- negativity. Or, depression, to be more exact. And I pointed out to these people that sometimes the people we are dealing with that are walking around in negative, grumpy or sad mindsets are probably carrying things with them that we know nothing about. Or sometimes they're not even showing those negative emotions, they look all good on the surface but dealing with something much deeper than we could imagine.
Think about it- the people you would least expect end up in the news for theft, violence, drugs or worse, death. You never expected them to get to that point- until they were there. All because they were acting out of desperation that they had been hiding from everyone else.
Now you may be wondering, "what do these things have to do with one another?"
These kids came to us with us not knowing a whole lot about their situations except for knowing these sweet, innocent kids were taken from places that were deemed "unsafe" for them. My wife and I went into this fostering life knowing the goal is reunification with family. But once we had these sweet kids in our care we didn't know how we would react. My wife and I have since been around the families of the children put in our care, and what have we seen? Love. We've seen these families aching hearts, not knowing how they got to where they are- but there they are. And we've seen gratitude. While frustrated with the system and that the kids were not home with them, they showed us gratitude for keeping their kids safe. For loving their kids as our own- what they're not able to do in this time. They didn't know what it would be like to be here- but here they are. They won't know what it'll be like to have the kids back- until they're there. But what matters in this time is that they have people there helping them.
There's a system in place, in some ways a broken system, but a system nonetheless, recommending the parents to take specific steps to help them to be able to do the parenting on their own in the future. A system where the kids are being loved and protected while the parents are getting that help. A system that people don't ever expect to go through- until they're there.
And unfortunately sometimes, that realization of being there is too much for the parents or family and they never see their way out of it. They end up the people repeating those acts of desperation until those acts can no longer be repeated.
And the kids? We hope they get the love, safety and protection they need until they no longer need it. But when do we ever not need love, safety and protection? The desperate ones would probably say they could've used it in their most fragile moments.
What I'm saying is this- there's a lot of things in this world that we never think we'll experience- until we're there. There's many kids, adults, parents, families that never think they'll end up in a state of need for help- until they're there.
Many people tell us, "I don't know how you two do it. It would be too hard. I'd get too attached." When have you seen or heard about someone's tragedy and thought they could've used help? Well, there's loads of families and kids out there in need. Maybe you're the help they don't know they need, and neither do you- until you're there.