Last year, my partner and I finally took the plunge and became foster parents. This was monumental for us.
This would become our pandemic project. (So much for improving my German.)
We had been together for over 20 years, and after becoming dog dads — or more accurately, manservants to our canine masters, we felt that the natural next step would be to come to a decision on thinking about getting serious about possibly becoming parents — real parents — to little humans — ourselves.
Isn’t that what couples do?
“The Question” filled us with great anxiety, however. I’d see a parenting article online, and would, out of the blue, spring the topic on my unsuspecting partner, usually at dinner. “What are we going to do?” I’d ask. “About what,” he’d respond. “About kids!” I’d say, exasperated, as if he should have known. I had a knack for placing the entirety of the pressure on him. We would have a conversation, maybe pledge to do some further research on the topic, but soon enough we would get distracted by the here and now. And repeat.
We soon discounted the route of artificial insemination, deciding that it made more sense for us to adopt. There were always so many children of all ages waiting for a home. Even so, fear of the unknown kept us from going all-in on adoption.
My left-brained husband would write positives and negatives on a blank piece of paper under the word “adoption.” It was so easy to come up with negatives. What if the child has serious behavioral issues? - negative. What if we can’t handle it? - negative. What if the child is bullied because he has two dads? - negative. How would we be able to sensitively deal with being of a different race or ethnic background as the child? Not to mention no more hedonistic vacations abroad, ever again - big negative.
Combating all these what-ifs on the positive side of the ledger was “giving a child a loving home.”
The hand-wringing and uncertainty would continue.
Finally a move to South Florida and the passing of a milestone — turning 50 — became the impetus for us to actually put the ball into motion. We signed up for an adoption class. That lasted one day. We were new at this, adoption is forever; we didn’t want to screw up.
Yet our interest in making a difference in a child’s life remained. We were too freaked out about adoption at that point, but wasn’t there a third way? (Of course there was.) Enter foster parenting.
We switched courses, completing a foster parenting certification course in about a month. We sort of learned CPR. We got fingerprinted. We did the home study, and filled out lots and lots of forms. And… just like that, we became certified foster parents.
Every fostering experience is unique, so our experience may not resonate with what other foster parents live. But while it had its share of ups and downs, compounded by the constraints of the pandemic, it turned out to be one of the best experiences of our lives. We did it!
If I had to say one thing about my six months as a foster parent to a 4-and-half-year-old boy it would be that I laughed every day — and that would be added to the positive side of the ledger. We taught him to go from zipping around on a little scooter to riding a bike on his own in Holiday Park (a big feat!) We enrolled him in a swimming class so he’ll always be safe in the water. We practiced those letters and numbers. We looked up at the stars at night. We built Concorde jets with Legos, learned the names of dinosaurs and read bedtime stories almost every night.
He has since gone back to live with his mother, a decision made by a judge via Zoom. That’s where he is supposed to be, and is always the hoped-for outcome once a child enters the foster care system. While it’s not always the case, we are fortunate that we still have contact with the family, even though we are no longer involved in the boy’s day-to-day life.
It’s taken me a while to process what the experience has meant to me, and we both felt a sudden emptiness during the first few days he was no longer with us. Our fun-loving foster boy didn’t feel sad at all on that day, we were a little peeved to observe. He even told Alexa “I’m going back to my mommy’s!”
What I would like to share with others is that it turns out that you don’t have to be sure about bringing a child into your home. We never were. But just maybe the introspection and doubt you may feel may actually make you better suited to make a difference in a child’s life.
Maybe it’s worth giving it a go.