Tag Archives: Foster Parenting

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.

The Trying of Your Faith

Over the few short years of my adult life the single most important thing I have learned is that there are only three ways to get good at something: practice, practice, and practice. Unfortunately, just knowing that you have to work hard to get good at something, doesn’t make the actual process of working and practicing any easier.

Which is why, not more than a few weeks ago I was pulling my hair out with frustration at not being the foster parent I really wanted to be. I was coming unglued inside, wondering if I had made the right decision, trying to figure out what had happened to my formerly tranquil life. In short I was in short supply of patience.

Probably my least favourite verse in the Bible is the one that says, “The trying of your faith worketh patience.” It basically means that if you want to have more patience you have to endure lots of things that make you impatient, which is why when I was coming up my dad always told me, “Son, never pray for patience.” And though there were plenty of things my dad told me that I might not have heeded as much as I should have, that one I followed.

And now I’m sorely in need of patience and I’m getting it the only way you can get patience. Practice, practice, practice.

But the good news is, the trying of your faith does work patience. Or, to put it differently, there’s only so much hair you can pull out before you go completely bald.

Which is why I’m happy to announce…drum roll please…the return of my sanity!

Okay, so maybe that’s just a bit more dramatic than necessary, but it’s true. Things have really been looking up over the last few weeks. My nerves haven’t been as frazzled, my patience has not been wearing as thin, and on the whole me and Ashley and the kids have just been happier.

I think it helps too that we’re all finally figuring out our roles in the household. For instance, I am figuring out that I can tell the kids what to do, and the kids are figuring out that it’s really a good idea to listen and obey.

There are still issues to work on, still things I need to strengthen in my life to become the man and the father I would like to be, but at least now I feel like I’m on the right track.

I still worry whether the things I have tried to teach Thing 1 and Thing 2 will have any real and lasting impact on their lives, but I can say without question that they have had an impact on mine. I feel surer of myself, more confident that I can be the father I need to be to nurture my own child into the person he ought to be when the time comes.

Because, like everything else worth having in life, being a good parent doesn’t come easy; it takes hard work and practice.

And thanks to Thing 1 and Thing 2 trying my faith, I’m that much closer to where I need to be.