It seems fitting that my first blog post should be about my first encounter as a foster dad. I may, at some point, lose all my faculties. But, I don’t know that I will ever forget that day. Our home was opened on a Monday. Early Tuesday morning we received our first call. Wow! That fast, and we were in the mix. Some families have a much longer wait. So we were prepared to have to sit out for a bit. But, that’s not how this story went. I was at home that day, so I waited anxiously.
I learned more on my first day of middle dad duty than any day since. I suppose that’s par for the course with most new endeavors, though. I’m typically pretty laid back. But, understandably, I was a complete ball of anxiety that day. I really had no idea what to expect, except that this kid was a male human under two years old. Literally, that’s all I knew for certain. Of course, he wasn’t brought until sometime after lunch, so that gave my nerves more time than was needed to wear me out. My stomach still turns thinking about that anxiety.
They pulled up. Finally! I was going to meet my new foster son. I had rehearsed my happy face. I had some funny, age-appropriate quips worked up to break the ice. I was shadow practicing fist bumps, and everything! Ok, I really just did that last part in my mind. But, I was prepared. This was going to be the most positive, welcoming and warm encounter he had had in his last twenty-four hours! I was ready.
The intake worker (that may not be the technical name of the position) got out of the car. She walked around the car and opened the rear door. I still remember the feeling. It all seemed so surreal. It all seemed so overwhelming. I went out on the porch to welcome them. I was all smiles! I really, really wanted his first impression to be a good one. She pulled his car seat from the car and started toward my home. He was asleep. Really? Bummer.
The whole encounter undoubtedly felt much more awkward to me than to her. She was all business. Here’s the kid. Here is his paperwork. Sign that, please. You’ll need this. Here are his clothes (which turned out to be his brother’s clothes). The office will call you with his court date. Call if you need anything. Thank you. Goodbye. She left.
Wait, what? He’s still asleep. None of this has gone as I had imagined it. I understand that for her, this was easiest. She could pass him off asleep and wouldn’t have to deal with a screaming, confused kid. After all, it was now my duty to comfort him. And I was off my game. None of my prep had done any good. And, I had no idea what else to do, except wait. So, I sat there and watched over him as he slept.
I can only imaging what must’ve been going through his mind when he awoke. He went to sleep in a car with a woman who had dark skin like his (and most of the people he probably knew in life), and he woke up in my living room with a long-haired, long-bearded white guy. The only thing that was the same in his world from when he went to sleep was the car seat he was sitting in. The confusion…
Initially, he was curious. He took my hand and we walked around the house. Once he had seen most of what was to be seen, we made it to the kitchen. I thought things were going well. But, that’s when it happened. He lost it. He fell to the floor and began crying for mama. I had no words. I couldn’t fix this. And I wasn’t going to try. All I could do at that point was sit down with him and share his broken heart. He crawled into my lap. There we both sat, weeping and sobbing. All I could say was that I was sorry, over and over. I don’t know how long we sat there before it finally all stopped. But, I remember him relaxing. I don’t know what he was thinking. But, I remember thinking I was his dad, for however long this all took.
Dads fix. It’s what we’re known for. Sometimes we make things worse by trying to fix them, though. This is especially true in affairs of the heart. Sometimes people don’t need to be fixed. They just need someone to hold them and share their pain. We don’t even have to understand it. That was the biggest lesson I leanred from day one.