Hope In That Moment

I blew it. For nine days I was calm. For nine days I spoke in a soothing and kind tone of voice. For nine days I faced the beast with compassion. Then on the tenth consecutive day of the screaming, flailing, kicking, shrieking, hours-long, full blown melting down tantrum, I finally succumbed to frustration. I may or may not have slammed a door. I may or may not have yelled something about being at the end of my rope. I may or may not have gushed ugly tears in a river of snot.

As I sat in my bathroom behind a locked door, I blew my nose. I shuddered and hiccupped in the aftermath of an intense cry. I frantically searched my mind for the trigger. Often I could pinpoint what triggered such an outburst and then take the necessary steps to head it off before it escalated. In fact I thought I had gotten pretty adept at de-escalating. But this time I was baffled and it scared me.

So I accused God. This is not what I wanted, I told Him emphatically. I want a butler and a nanny and a long vacation. I want a facial, a chocolate crème filled donut and an ice cold pepsi. I want family days at the pool, game nights, and birthday parties where everyone is actually smiling. I want peace and control in my own home. I want a child who can love me back.

I want a child I can fix.

There on the cold bathroom floor, I stared down the long dark road ahead. I wondered how in the world I could face endless days of just plain hard. I doubted my calling. Why did I ever think I was cut out to be a foster parent! I yelled at God. He did not yell back. When I finally got quiet, out of tears and too tired to argue, peace came. With peace came clarity.

I saw clearly that I was not called to be a foster mom for my own fulfillment or personal satisfaction. I saw clearly that maybe - just maybe - deep down, the painful truth about me is that I'm a hypocrite; that some days I like being called a hero and on other days, like this miserable day, I resent being dragged through the muck and trauma of fostering. Clearly, I wasn't called to be wonder woman. I was called for this desperate child on this difficult day.

Whatever I expected when I began my journey, I now understood that foster parenting is hard. Some days it feels like war. I've been kicked, slapped and bitten. Christ was pierced, nailed and beaten. Sometimes love hurts. Sometimes love bleeds. Sometimes love wins the victory through nearly unbearable pain. And sometimes love is just crazy enough to get up off the bathroom floor to open the door for the next desperate child.

I will never give up.

I collected myself. I unlocked the bathroom door. Ready or not, I opened it and stepped gingerly over the body of my child who was lying on the floor, rage spent, quietly weeping tears of exhaustion. 

I sat down close. I picked up one sweet foot and began to massage it. All the love I felt for that child and for that precious foot flooded through me. I looked down into the face of innocence; of a child who had to fight to survive, who has known more grief and trauma in a few short years than most will know in a lifetime. I looked into the eyes of a child whose brain has literally been changed, damaged by separation, by suffering, by exposure in utero to drugs and alcohol, and who will struggle and be stigmatized by it for life. I thought about birthmom, herself a victim of horrible abuse who finally landed in the foster system until she aged out already an addict. What a painful history. What a heavy cross to bear. What a reason to rage.

"I'm so sorry I yelled. I'm sorry I slammed the door. Please forgive me. I hope you know that I'll always love you," I said as I continued massaging and my child continued weeping.

After a moment and one deep breath, I heard, "I'm sorry too."

It was enough. I felt my body begin to relax as I let out a long sigh of my own, thanking God for the calm. Then ever so softly came, "Mommy, I love you too."

In that moment I dared to hope that maybe we're going to be alright.


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