One of the fun things about a baby's development is watching how their eyes learn to adjust to changes in light. Our second (and current) foster child, Amelia, is about 5 months-old. Ray was driving the other day and I was sitting in back with her. We drove under an overpass and her eyes went twice as wide as they normally are. And she already has big, bright, beautiful eyes! I love when they get so big because then they look animated. It is then that she reminds me of a cartoon character, and it is the cutest thing ever!
Amelia seems to also have perfected the art smiling. Sometimes, when I'm not looking at her, I will feel her eyes on me. When I turn to look she gives me the biggest smile, which of course is returned. She smiles at everyone and I have to keep reminding myself not to deflate other's bubbles by pointing that out. Being around Amelia fills me, and many others, with much joy!
So let's talk about "how can we do this (take in foster children), because you never could!" Well, first of all, never say never. We never thought we could be foster parents, but look at us now! I'm just saying, you never know what your future will hold for you. While foster parenting may not be for everybody, it is probably for a lot more than actually do it. (They aren't paying me to say this!) Its not as strange of an experience as it might seem to be.
One of the more interesting things is standing in line at the store. Fellow customers and/or the cashier always go googly over the baby, and then they start asking the questions: "How old is she?", "What is her name?", all of which I answer normally enough. Then, "Is she your first?", or "Wow, you look great!" (thinking I have just recently given birth), to which I reply, "We are foster parents and she is in foster care." Silence. Then, a slow "Oh" as it registers. Then they usually kind of look sad and seem unsure of what to say.
What I would like to say but usually don't is this: while it is sadder than I can express that these children are in foster care, there are a few really great things about this situation:
1. How wonderful it is that their birth parents chose to bring them into the world, imperfect lives and conditions though they may have. Think about the alternative! And I'm not referring to adoption!
2. How good it is that these children have been found somehow and removed from unhealthy and unsafe situations, despite the fact that they would rather stay with who and what they know--regardless of the poor or negative conditions.
3. Whether for days, weeks or months, what a wonderful thing that these children have the chance to enter a home and an environment that is loving, safe, and healthy. To be provided with that example and experience it first-hand. (Not that our home is perfect, of course. But still.) While it causes stress and unknown damage to be so abruptly removed from the familiar, isn't it better that they have the chance, however brief, to experience what life is supposed to be like?
My hope is that the seed of hope will be planted in the children who come into our home. And though they may only be infants while they are here, and may soon go back to a not-so-positive environment and quickly forget all the good they experienced here, can anyone doubt that a good seed has been planted? I really do think that it is something they will recognize if they are looking and happen upon it someday--the feeling of love, safety and goodness. Their spirits will remember what they once knew and lived and strive to break the cycle that they may have been born into.
Delusional? Maybe. My hope regardless? Definitely.