I spent all day yesterday preparing to host today’s feast and getting our guest room ready for our friend who will be staying for three nights. We are hosting a Thanksgiving potluck, which means I only did a portion of the cooking. Friends are bringing side dishes, my husband is doing the turkey in his smoker and he baked two pies last night. I made a huge tray of corn bread and sausage stuffing and will whip up some mashed potatoes later on. The meal is going to be a beautiful collaborative effort.
As I have been preparing for this holiday, I have been thinking a lot about the things I am grateful for. I’ve shared plenty of times about how challenging and stressful foster parenting can be. But I also want to share about how wonderful it can be.
Here are some of the foster-related things I am particularly grateful for this year:
- A husband who is 100% on board with our lifestyle as a foster family. This simply wouldn’t work otherwise. While I am a full-time stay-at-home-mom, my husband is supportive and hands-on in the care of our children. From cleaning up accidents to getting down on the floor and building puzzles with our children (both those who share our last name and those who do not) as they climb all over him like he’s a jungle gym, my husband is a fun and present dad. He is also a considerate husband, making me coffee most mornings, sharing drop-off and pick-up duties, and taking the kids out periodically so I can get stuff done at home or handling bedtime routine for all four so I can go to bed early! I’m a lucky girl, and I am very, very grateful.
- Our children who share our last name. I was going to say, “our children,” but in this point, I specifically mean those children who are, for lack of a better descriptor, “ours.” We have three children who share our last name, and they did not choose to be part of a foster family. Yet they have embraced our lifestyle as a foster family with tremendous grace. When my daughter welcomes a new child to our home and takes her by the hand to show her around, my heart swells with pride. We have asked a lot of our children, and they have stepped up to the task admirably. While it is certainly not always easy, we could not (would not) continue doing it if the kids were not in favor. They are, and we are grateful.
- Our children who are in foster care. In the past year, seven children have come into our home. Six of them have moved on, going back to their parents or to live with relatives or to another foster home. One of them is still with us. Each of these children matters to me, and each of them has left an impression on my heart. I am grateful for the privilege of caring for them while they were in our home, and I pray for their well-being often.
- Other foster parents. I have gotten to know some of the finest examples of humanity to be found on planet earth – people who are advocates and champions for children in foster care. The friendship that is forged in the fires of foster care is a friendship that goes deep quickly. I am grateful for several new friendships that grew wings this year and are really flourishing.
- Good case managers. We have been really fortunate when it comes to case managers. With one exception in five years, they have been attentive, responsive, thorough and kind. I am grateful for them and for the hard, hard work they do on behalf of children in hard places.
- Birth parents and families of origin. This year, I’ve become intimately involved with the parent of one of our foster children and extended relatives of another. I am so grateful for the way we have all been able to work together to serve and care for the children we share in common.
- The benefit of time. Next month marks five years since we got our license. I am so grateful for everything I have learned over the past five years! I am no longer the shell-shocked new foster parent, taken completely by surprise by every twist and turn of the emotional roller coaster that is called “foster parenting.” I am grateful for the hours I’ve spent in training and reading books and listening to others and just doing the work of caring for children from hard places (and sometimes caring for their parents as well). Things that once sent me into an emotional tailspin are now things that I take in stride. This is only possible because of the benefit of time. I am grateful to not be a new foster parent anymore.
- Rediscovering delight in my children. I confess, I spent a large part of the first few years of foster parenting pretty stressed out. There are some good reasons for that, but this year I have been very intentional about rediscovering my own delight in my children. I’ve made a few changes that have helped this along — I cut alcohol out of my diet completely, I started going to bed earlier and getting a good night’s sleep most nights, I started reading for fun again (novels instead of parenting books!), and we have dramatically cut back on screen time in our home. We are playing together more (Hide and Seek! Candy Land! Go Fish! Memory!), creating together (painting, collage, play dough, baking), going outside for walks and playground time, reading books aloud (and not just at bedtime!), and I am involving the kids more in my day-to-day routines, such as house cleaning and cooking. Yes, this requires more patience on my part, but I am so enjoying stopping to really see them more often. This was the year I started to really feel like time is flying by. They are growing so fast — I don’t want to miss a thing.
- Support groups, conferences, and Facebook groups. All of the above are some of the ways I grow as a foster parent. I connect with others, learn from them, and learn I’m not alone in my struggles.
- Friends and family who are really with us in this journey. We are so very fortunate to have a solid group of friends and family who are in full support of our fostering efforts. My mom, who lives thousands of miles away, is my go-to phone call when I need to talk through something or just vent. Gail, Mike, Michael, Phil, Cherie, and many others are there in very practical ways, loving our foster children and helping us care for them. Friends have babysat so we could have a date night, helped with getting kids to and from extracurriculars, and more. I am so, so grateful.
- Good therapists, educators and wraparound services. I am so grateful for the excellent therapists who are in our life, from speech to mental health. I have learned so much from them. I am also grateful for the educators — school faculty and staff — who have walked us through some challenges with one of our children in particular. And we began using wraparound services this year, which has proven to be such a great source of support and advocacy.
- The community of people who engage with me via A Fostered Life! That’s you! I have been so blessed by your comments, questions and feedback over the past year. I honestly have no idea how many people are helped by my work here and on YouTube, but if I am helping to lighten even one person’s load, or if I am helping a new foster parent feel a bit more prepared, I am so happy! That’s what I’m doing this for!
I’d love to hear what you’re thankful for as it relates to foster care. Please share with me in the comments!
I hope you have a beautiful and blessed Thanksgiving!
Thank you for caring about foster care!