One of the more difficult facets of being a foster parent is the inability to make plans. I’m not much of a planner, but even I range from feeling inconvenienced to downright isolated from the very shortsighted nature of foster care.
My husband and I were talking the other day about how single people always talk about the importance of travel. It fosters connectedness, introduces culture, makes you sound pretty dope at parties. It’s a worthwhile aspiration. Yet its importance instantly vanishes when you become a parent, and for good reason. Raising living, breathing humans trumps filling your passport. There’s a new checklist for each season of life. During the parenting season, you get to make a check when you stub your toe on the corner of your luggage set on an expedition into your closet for green construction paper.
While travel plans are few and far between as a parent, as a foster parent, you can kiss your wanderlust goodbye. Fostering has rooted me to this place. I can’t move or spontaneously decide to spend the summer in Italy. I used to think we’d spend a fair chunk of our lives overseas, but those dreams don’t mesh with getting a child to weekly visitation. What’s more is I don’t know when it’ll be any different. With our own son, we can decide as a family that we want to wait until he’s five to travel overseas. Well, I know exactly how many months, days, and minutes it’ll be until his fifth birthday. It might take a while, but it’s something I can count on. With foster care, I don’t know when anyone is coming or going.
We have another wedding out of state in several months. Maybe I could start planning that… if I knew how many children would be in our home at that time. One? Two? Three? Will they come with us? Do I buy a plane ticket for a child that might not be with us in six months? Do I wait until the last minute to decide? Do I plan on respite? These are the times it’s an inconvenience.
Then there are the times it feels isolating. Can I sign up for this class in the fall? Can I be part of your group? Can I take this job? Without knowing who will be in my home, what their needs will be, what the visitation schedule will be like, what other therapies and appointments will fill my calendar, if I can find daycare, if daycare would be worth it, if I will be able to focus on small talk in several months from now.
This week I spent way too much time on one of those websites that exclusively sells cheap knockoffs and takes 6-8 weeks to ship. Obviously, there were several little girl headbands my foster daughter couldn’t live without. But 6-8 weeks? What if she’s not here in 8 weeks? What if she leaves and then I have a package of adorable headbands to contend with? My poor heart can’t withstand that… on the other hand, this is my headband addiction we’re talking about, and they’re insanely cheap.
I don’t know how people do it. If I had a split second to think of a synonym for fostering, it’d be uncertainty. My tranquility of mind in regard to the uncertainty goes in waves. Some weeks I’m in it for the ride and other weeks I feel like I’m being swallowed whole. Hopefully experience will place me more and more in the serenity camp as we get more and more used to this fostering thing.