DISCLAIMER: This post contains elements of whining and venting. If you’re not in the mood I suggest you skip it.
Although foster parenting has given me opportunities to improve upon the qualities of compassion, patience, selflessness, and longsuffering, I would be lying if I said that my heart is a never-ending font of these qualities.
The truth is that doing foster care has made me realize that I’m not as patient or selfless as I’d like to be. The fact that the children who come into our home through foster care are not ours (even though we love them as if they were our own) can at times create some intense feelings of confusion, frustration, and resentment on my part. As hard as it is for me to admit, these feelings all basically stem from selfishness or impatience on my part.
Here are some examples of impatience and selfishness on my part with this particular placement:
All babies require a lot of work, but some babies have temperaments and conditions that are easier to deal with than others. Christian hasn’t been a particularly “easy” baby to care for considering his reflux, colic, inability to self-soothe and developmental delays in his motor skills (which is why I was so thrilled to announce that he had rolled over the day after he turned six months old!) The good news is that he has been receiving occupational therapy and is slowly but surely making progress. Just last month, at eight months old, he was able to hold his bottle by himself for the first time which was a big relief for me. I admit that I’ve had to be patient as I’ve waited for him to reach milestones that other babies his age have already reached and I’ve had to constantly remind myself to stop comparing him to other babies because all babies develop at their own pace. I think my biggest problem is that I’ve been comparing his development with my “preemie” and even she was doing things earlier than he was.
Christian’s father definitely has a great love for his son, but I do worry a little about his inexperience with parenting because playing with a child for a couple of hours a week at a weekly visit is certainly different than caring for a child 24/7.
On more than one occasion at visits Christian’s dad he has scooped his baby up in his arms and said, “Oh, I can’t wait to get him back!” with a great big smile on his face. Although I’ve thought, “That’s sweet” and I do want him to succeed one particular day after he said that I had the following imaginary scene playing out in my head:
CHRISTIAN'S FATHER: “I can’t wait to get him back!”
SSELFISH, BITTER ME: “You can’t wait to get him back, huh? Feel free to come over at three in the morning when he needs to be fed and why don’t you come over and change his outfit 3-4 times a day every time he spits up. You can also help with the laundry while you’re at it and you are more than welcome to change his poopy diapers which incidentally are made worse by the medicine which is supposed to help with this reflux. I’ll give you a call when his colic starts acting up or when he wakes in the middle of the night with teething pains.”
I think you get the picture.
“Why am I feeling so irate about things?” I asked myself when I felt the bitterness rising up inside of me. I think it’s because I had an attitude of “What’s in it for me?” and I was feeling sorry for myself that I am “just” the unappreciated foster mom who gets to do the dirty work of changing diapers and cleaning up spit-up or comforting a colicky baby but I will never get to see the fruits of my labors. I won’t be able to see Christian off to his first day of pre-school or kindergarten and I won’t be able to cheer him on when he learns to ride a bike for the first time. I’m just the one taking care of a baby who won’t even remember me a year from now.
Time to remember LESSON #10: Foster care is not about “US” and our needs- it’s about the children!
Incidentally, I was recently having some of those same feelings of resentment creep back up inside of me and as I was sitting in church the words to a song gently chastised me:
Go forth to serve and do your best with no thought of reward
Then you shall know the boundless joy of serving Christ our Lord.
(Isn’t it interesting how you come across a certain quote, lyrics, scripture, or something someone says at the exact time you need to hear it?)
True joy does not come from focusing on yourself, but in reaching out to others. This brings to mind two of my favorite scriptures about serving others:
“When ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God”
“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me”