Of Fatherhood and Futility

I don’t know how to start this.

Well, there. At least that’s something written. Maybe the rest will get knocked loose now.

The problem I’m having is that sometimes I have so much to say I don’t know how to make my ideas into words. Oh for the days when the words dance in my mind for hours on end begging me to tweak them here, prune them back there. But sometimes my thoughts are too big and complicated and messy to fit together properly in words.

But maybe lets start with this: I’m going to be a dad and I’m mostly okay with that.

A few weeks back I made a post about how I was freaking out, scared out of my mind that I was going to somehow do something wrong, screw up my kid’s life, but now I feel like the freak-out phase is finally coming to a close. I’m not sure “confidence” would be the right word to describe my feelings about fatherhood. Probably “resignation” hits it on the head a little better. I’m realizing that whether I’m ready or not this is something that’s going to happen, so I’m resolved to be as ready as I can be and praying that God will take up the slack.

That is of course assuming this kid ever gets here. These last few weeks have been really rough on my wife, and by extension they’ve been rough on me because there’s nothing I can do to help her. Part of the problem is that for the longest time we weren’t sure when the baby was coming. Of course my wife has an official due date, but because of her diabetes the doctor has been planning on taking the baby early, and due to the high risk nature of her pregnancy for that last couple months we’ve been on tenterhooks thinking, “What if its this week? Or the next?” Which after while turns into, “Is this kid ever going to come?”

I have this vision of my wife in bed two years from now, her belly horribly distended, unable to move from her bed, and the doctors telling us, “We’re going to give it just one more week and see what happens.” There’s a story in there somewhere.

But now we’re locked in for a date early next week, so most of that anxiety has gone, and left me with the mental energy to worry about other Things. Thing One and Thing Two to be precise.

Those of you who read this blog regularly know that me and my wife were foster parents for nearly a year, and we had the great privilege to open our home to two wonderful kids who for the sake of anonymity (and let’s be honest here, also because it’s kinda cute) I have referred to as Thing One and Thing Two.

I haven’t written about them in a while, partly because I didn’t know what to write. See, a couple months back Things One and Two went back to live with their mom. Now you’d think that having two kids that have been in your life for the better part of a year would be an emotionally troubling experience, but the truth is that for a while I didn’t feel much of anything.  In a way I was happy for them. I saw how much they loved their mom, and what’s more I saw how much that she loved them. Truth be told I’ve never seen a woman more laser-focused on anything before in my life.

She got herself a job within a few weeks of being back on the streets (no easy feat in this economy) and worked really hard to find a place they could all live together. To tell you the truth, she almost put me to shame with her passion and focus. And I thought to myself, “If she can be so driven and work so hard for her kids what more could I hope for? Sure she’s made mistakes, but now that she’s got a chance to start over again she’s gonna make the most of it.”

Only from what I can tell, that isn’t what has happened. Once the kids were back with her things started to fall apart. First it was little stuff, stuff you could write off to her scattered brain or quirky personality. But then the problems escalated. She lost her job. She’s become more and more difficult to contact. And whenever Thing One’s friends from Boy Scouts go to visit they bring back reports of strange goings-on at the house.

And part of me just wants to scream, “What are you DOING? I know you love these kids. You had a choice and you chose to bend over backwards to prove you could be the right kind of mother and now you’re letting it all fall to pieces. Don’t you understand these kids need stability? Can’t you see that the road your on is eventually going to land you back in jail and them back in foster care again?”

And the thing is, I love these kids too. I wasn’t a perfect foster parent, but I did what I could to give them some semblance of stability. But I’m afraid it wasn’t enough. Nothing I tried to do for them is going to survive in the maelstrom of their mother’s collapse. Instead they’re going to be left to build a life on a foundation of shifting sand, led by the example of a mother who can’t maintain any semblance of consistency, tossed from home to home like unwanted baubles. And how are they supposed to grow up into proper young men with a life like that? HOW?

I’d better stop writing before I start crying. I just had to get some of that off my chest. I don’t know if it matters that I’ve written it down here, that I’ve sent it out into the world, this bundle of my thoughts, flickering and weak like the flame of a candle. But that’s what I do. I write. I share. And every day I face the fear that nothing I do will ever have made any difference at all.

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4 responses to “Of Fatherhood and Futility

  1. All the best to you and your wife. I’m sure its all going to be fine. And you will make a great dad for sure. Your post says it! 🙂

  2. I was a 10-month baby. I suppose that’s not encouraging. But at least you have a due date. Best wishes on the upcoming delivery.

    Awful about the Things. As I read your post, I thought it was going to be a happy ending. What a let-down.Those kids are in for another tough stretch. Who knows how long it will last. If their environment is as bad as I suspect it is, I hope they are permanently removed from their mother and placed into a permanent, stable home. I don’t believe in third chances in the case of abusive and neglectful parents and guardians. But you and your wife were good parents to them for as long as they were in your home. I’m sure that’s made some difference in their lives.

    I had an unstable childhood. Both my parent were drug users and had serious psychological illnesses. As a baby, I spent some time in an orphanage (my parents were charged with neglect). Then they fled the country (with me). Seven years and several countries later, my mother left my father, and we moved to another country (again). Throughout my middle school and high school years, I would periodically stay with my grandmother while my mother was in the psych ward having her medications adjusted. And honestly, my life didn’t magically turn around and become wonderful when I turned 18, became an adult, and went off to college. It took me a long time to work through some of the abuse issues. I’m still recovering today. But the point I’m trying to make is not “it’s gonna be gloom and doom for those kids,” but that it’s possible to have a rough start, yet end up happy. I’m happy. It took a while, but I made it.

    Sorry about the long reply. I hope it helped in some way.

  3. My sympathy to you!

    My in-laws have been foster parents for about 20 years now, and seen 70+ kids go through the system. Some with good results, some not so good. We’re starting on the same path; we’ve adopted one foster child already, and we’re going to be foster parents for others. It is definitely frustrating seeing people just not doing what needs to be done for these precious human beings in their care. I figure at the very least God may be using these small times of stability to plant seeds.

  4. Thank you, Albert, for sending all these thoughts out into the world. I appreciate reading them. It is so painful to care about people, children, especially, which we have little influence in the care of. I experienced this with my nieces, as I watched from nearby, helpless, except to pray. And don’t you know, God doesn’t usually have the same plans or thoughts of what is best as I have. Anyway, back to this blog. Thank you for writing and getting these thoughts down. Hoping for good for Thing One and THing Two.

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