It has been more than a month since our foster son arrived in our home. My partner noted the other day that T had already settled in to become another part of our family. It is as if he has always belonged here. He has bonded with us and we are hopelessly bonded to him. The dogs are in tune to him and our oldest has begun to show her protectiveness by sleeping in front of his crib and by carefully inspecting anyone who enters our home and decides to get near T. But as our connection grows with this little boy so does our apprehension that he is in foster care with us. He is not our child and his future is not at all certain.
Recently it has become clear that while it seems that he will be with us for a long time, there is a strong possibility that he could ultimately go back to live with his biological family. But this is how foster care works, right? We provide a safe, loving, caring haven for a child in distress until such time as his family can properly provide for him, and if not then he becomes available for adoption. I realize now that it was pretty easy to gloss over the beginning part of that statement when we decided to go down this path.
I wrote a rather somber e-mail to my partner the other day relaying much more of this kind of thing to him:
I didn’t want this kind of uncertainty and the pain I have already begun to feel in the possibility of losing T. I wasn’t prepared to handle all of this. I don’t feel like a wonderful person for doing the foster thing. I don’t like it when people compliment us because we have such big hearts. I didn’t sign up to be a hero. I signed up to be a father to a child who needs someone to care for him.
I think we were so wide open to beginning our journey into parenthood that we didn’t prepare ourselves for the tenuous nature of what we were doing. With that nature becoming more apparent I am already beginning to feel some pangs of grief and loss. I know it sounds silly: How could you be so attached? What did you think foster parenting was about? How could you not have understood that he is someone else’s son and the possibility that his stay would only be temporary? Sometimes even with everything staring you in the face, you just don’t realize what it all means. I feel like the guy who gets pulled over and claims that he didn’t know what the speed limit was and then summarily gets a ticket. Not knowing is not a good excuse.
So before anyone judges me for foolishly stumbling into this or faults me for silently hoping that his family fails miserably at their reunification plan, I am a human and a new Dad and love my son. Both my partner and I are hopelessly attached to this wonderful little boy. It’s what he needs and deserves–to have two grown men stumbling over each other to take care of him, help him get well, and love him without reserve. And when/if it comes time to give him back–well then, that is a consequence of foster parenting. We are learning to be foster Dads in the real sense–those who love and give and then are able to say goodbye when necessary. I can honestly say now that this is not for the faint of heart. I have nothing but admiration for foster parents. I wouldn’t trade this time with my partner and my foster son for anything. I just never realized how emotionally difficult this would be. I feel like I am absolutely a foster Dad in training.