Seven years, seven reflections on foster care and adoption

Dear 2012 me, congratulations! You are now the parent of two blonde hair blue-eyed boys. It’s July 24 — your first gotcha day (yeah, yeah, that’s a controversial phrase — but it works for us). Today is the first day of the most thrilling, exhausting, frustrating, scary yet incredibly rewarding adventure you could ever imagine. Here’s a few things you should know for the years ahead.

Expect the unexpected

This ride is going to take you places you never imagined. Watching your children find joy in life and smash milestones once thought impossible –you’re going to be on the frontline of an amazing heavenly work. You’re also going to descend into the deepest of trenches and become covered in the lasting remnants of their lives before.

Enjoy every high

The first time they call you dad. The first bicycle ride. Their joy when shouting “no cabaties” after the dentist. Trips to the zoo, the beach and Dollywood, you’re going to find just as much joy in those as in Saturday snuggles in the recliner or getting that first text from them while working away at your desk. Enjoy all of those highs, you’ll think of them often.

Lows won’t last

There will be painful times. Your lowest moments will be the aching helplessness that comes with not being able to fix the trauma that encases your children. There’s no two ways about it, that is pain beyond description. But joy will always come in the morning. At those hard moments, seek the One who gives life. He will be faithful to provide help and a way forward toward healing.

Listen and study

Get ready, school is about to begin. What the social worker told you today is just the tip of an iceberg the size of a mountain. As you plunge deep into the world of trauma, learning disabilities, psychology, psychiatry and all of the therapies, you’re going to gain insights and understanding unlike anything you thought possible. Listen to the boys, their words, their stories and most importantly their hearts and you’ll hear the clues to unwrapping healing.

Find your voice

At first, you’ll cling to every world from the social workers and all the other players. And there will be lots of players. Ask questions. Explain back what you heard. As the former life is unwrapped from these precious boys, the complexities of their experiences will unravel and you’ll find your voice. That voice will become their best advocate. Aside from your bride though, she’s going to be their biggest advocate and change maker, you’ll do good to listen to her more than yourself.

Trust your community

I get it (I’m you remember) you have your pride and your ego. You think you can do this on your own. You’ll be able to manage at first. But then you won’t. You’ll take your family and retreat to the island of isolation. Resist it. When someone offers help, suck it up and accept. You won’t listen to this and one day, you’ll accept it the hard way. Do yourself a favor and trust your community.

Embrace self-care

This is going to be the worst one. Ready? You have to take care of yourself. Seriously. A day will come when it all will be too much to handle. Take a break, go to sleep, let someone help, talk to someone and repeat. Once you start, it will become easier. No, no it won’t. It will be terrible and you’ll never like it. Doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary.

Oh yeah, in a few years, your family will grow. Two more beautiful children will join you. This will bring new lessons, like becoming a multi-racial family. By then, though, you’ll be ready. Na, that’s a lie too, but you’ll be able to handle all the new players and all the diagnoses and needs that come with each new child.

Today, you chose to love them from the moment you heard them today — way out in the lobby. Those two shaggy-haired little wonders will grow up faster than you realize. It will seem like just yesterday that he was playing Chutes-and-Ladders waiting for the social worker to finish up paperwork. Yesterday, he was arriving home from his first overnight camp bragging about learning how to prank people. Rest assured, you don’t got this, but you’ll do alright.

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