“mama…” she cried out over and over again. I wasn’t “mama.” She knew it. I knew it. I was a stranger. This was a strange house. She was sleeping in a strange bed.
I tried to fight back my own emotions of the situation as I stroked her bald head and sang her a favorite lullaby in our home. Lord, what does her mama sing to her at night? Does she even know this song?
“twinkle-twinkle, little star…”
“mama…” giant tears simultaneously formed in her eyes and mine.
Lord, have mercy.
I would come to discover in the next 24 hours that “mama” was the only word this five year old girl knew. A stranger in our home, she did come with her two siblings. But her cries for “mama” would pierce my heart time and time again in the short time she spent in our home.
It was a typical Thursday night. My husband was delivering pizzas as part of his second-job and I was rushing bedtime with my two little ones so I could get off my feet and seek some much needed rest for my pregnant body. Our last placement had just turned 18 and had moved out two weeks before. The call came (like so many times before). A home was needed. That night. Three kids. We had said no many times before, but that night—we felt compelled to say yes. My husband came home and we set up temporary beds in our already compact bedrooms. I had plenty of girl things—but a young boy? I posted an urgent post on facebook: “need bedding for an 8 year old boy.” Fifteen minutes later a friend was on my front porch with a Toy Story bedding set.
After 48 hours, I was in love with these kids. I was also in a position of knowing that we were not the people to help long-term. I was not prepared for the guilt that would come with that knowledge. I wanted to be the temporary mama who could cover these kids in love until they could return home, but with two little ones of our own & my 6-month pregnant belly staring at me—I had to push through the guilt. Lord, I cannot do everything. I can do something. Show me. Equip me.
We introduced them to go-gurt, Netflix cartoons & reading books in our laps. We played dress-up, did puzzles & set up tracks for hotwheels. We faced an uphill battle of learning what a timeout was and how to keep our hands to ourselves. There was no communication, but there were glimpses of joy. We shopped for new clothes and I wept when she twirled, literally twirled, in a dress I had found at Goodwill. There were no words, but she loved showing off that dress. Lord, let me delight in the small things. Push me away from excess.
All three of them moved into more permanent placements. I buckled the two youngest into their car seats before they departed from our home. We had known each other only a few weeks, and yet after their car pulled away, I wept. I assume it was a mixture of everything---quite the whirlwind it had been in our home for several months between a new pregnancy, our first placement being a 17 year old & then three children (two of whom had no way of communicating)—but several months removed I believe there was a bigger reason. I had to stare injustice in the face when those three kids showed up at our home shortly before midnight.
We certainly are very capable of seeing evidence of a fallen world in our own lives. We might even see glimpses of injustice in the lives of those around us, and at the very least, we can hear about it on the news whenever we would choose. The problem is, I think we so often choose not to. I am guilty of saying this same phrase, but I somewhat cringe when I hear “I don’t watch the news, it’s too depressing.” This statement is true. The news is depressing. But, I think if we were honest, what we would really say is “the news makes me uncomfortable.” It is painfully uncomfortable to hear about injustice. I also think it is necessary to be aware of injustice…in our own backyards, schools, cities & world. If I choose to be unaware, how then can I respond?
One of the biggest questions people have asked us when we chose to be foster parents was “aren’t you worried about your own children?” I feel we make as wise of choices as we can as to who we allow in our home…and yes, while I worry sometimes about my children, I worry more about them growing up too comfortable and unaware, or even worse, I worry about them choosing to remain that way. I want my children to be able to recognize injustice and be brave enough to respond in whatever way God would lead them.
We are trusting God as we respond in ways we tangibly can right now---and that might only mean sharing our home for a few days every few months. This temporary motherhood thing is rough. Parenting a teen when you aren’t much older was rough. (side note: you haven’t really lived until you are telling your husband that you just found out you are pregnant with your third baby…as you are walking out the door to pick up your first foster placement. True story) But, parenting three kids (even for a super short amount of time) broke my heart. Maybe it’s because our kids were similar ages…maybe it’s because I felt pain for the mother as well. But, I was not prepared for how much our hearts would hurt for the kids we welcomed into our home. My husband and I had worked in foster care, we knew the awful stories….on paper. But when you bring a child into your home, that story has a face. And that changes everything.