Just as I was putting our freshly hole-punched foster care manual papers into a binder, my phone rang. Would we be willing to take a pair of tween sisters (way outside of our age range…)?? Scott and I deliberated for a couple of minutes and said YES! 30 minutes later, they were here.
I can’t quite describe the feeling. Here are these two girls. They are unsure of what to expect. They are being thrust into this new home, new people, new rules, new expectations. They are the only children in the house, because Alyssa is at her dad’s. The food is different than they are used to and they’re supposed to sit around the table and be polite as we eat dinner.
Meanwhile, I’m trying not to completely come unglued. I’m freaking out because I am TERRIFIED of taking older children. I’m scared of false accusations. I’m scared of RAD. I’m just so fearful in general. Add to all of those fears the fact that I have social anxiety. I’m looking at these two girls across the dinner table; complete strangers who look like young women, despite being still being children. And I’m trying to make small talk (I’m awful at small talk.) I know they had to feel how nervous I was and I think it made them more nervous.
They came with the clothes on their backs. This required us to run to Wal-Mart for things like socks, underwear, shirts, and pants. It’s really odd to be responsible for clothing two children when A) you have no idea what size they wear, but they are obviously bigger and more shapely than your own daughter and B) they actually have OPINIONS on what they want to wear – and their clothing standards match what society says teen girls should wear…
I struggled with how to treat them, how many choices to let them make. So I erred on the side of letting them choose everything (and we ended up with underwear that were WAY too big because although they buy pants in the juniors department, they still buy underwear in the girls department.) I think they were too scared to say anything as I let them get whichever package they wanted…
Got home, had them shower and go to bed. Laid down in my own bed – and my mind would not settle down. I was scared to death. Worried. A friend’s comment on Facebook had unnerved me and fed my biggest fear. I didn’t sleep all night. Questions bouncing around my mind – “What were you thinking?” “You can’t do this.” “You have made a huge mistake.” “Maybe they’ll get to go home this week after the hearing.” “You’re opening your family up to be ripped apart! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?”
We had them for just over two weeks. By about 3 days in, they knew what to expect from us and we were getting to know them. I was surprised to find myself attached after just a few days. We enjoyed kayaking on the lake, Bruster’s Ice Cream, roasting marshmallows over a bonfire in the backyard, and lots of church-going. We joked and teased and really enjoyed our time together. I attended my first and second awards ceremonies as a “parent” in public schools. I sat in the drop-off line in the morning and pick-up line in the afternoon. I learned to cook their favorite ethnic dish – one I had heard of, but never tried. Alyssa came home from her dad’s and adored having two big sisters. By the time they went home (to a good, safe situation), I was thrilled for them to be with their family, but I cried because our time together as a family was temporary and over so quickly… I was blessed to have these precious girls in my home for this time. Saying “goodbye” – possibly the hardest part of being a foster parent?