We offered respite, aka, temporary care for a kid in the foster system this weekend. We'll call him Sam for our purposes. He's about 5 years old.
Sam's Grandma drops him off and spends an hour. She explains Sam's wants and needs in a lot of detail. I am tired from work and smile and nod a lot. I am thinking, why is this woman going on and on? We've met Sam before and he's a good kid. He'll be fine, I think to myself.
I can tell she's nervous. She tells me she's been Sam's caretaker for a year now. Then it all makes sense. She is a nervous mom dropping off her kid. It'll be his first weekend away, with any sitter of any kind. I'm humbled that she trusts us so much.
We go to a festival. Lots of kiddy rides and ninety degree weather. I am nervous because we don't know Sam in public. Is he a runner? Does he listen when full of hot dogs? Will he throw up at random times?
Mr. Hall and I struggle with juggling three kids in public. Two is easy, three outnumbers us. I begin to groan under the workload. Three kids is a lot of work. Lots of shoes to tie, potty times to enforce, meltdowns to manage, pb and j sammiches to make. I realize how good I've had it.
My kids don't ask for sweets. My kids take direction and listen. They march off to a time out when told. Sam is now relaxed enough that he begins to test boundaries. We discover he listens to Mr. Hall more. Mr. Hall takes the reins.
Later we go for a swim. I am in super nervous mode. Sam doesn't know how to swim but we have a life jacket and I'm holding him. Mr. Hall let's Sam float and doggie paddle back to him. I freak out and shriek a little. I realize I need a cocktail. I realize I can't have one because I'm 7 months pregnant. I go inside and put myself on a time out.
After shower we put in a movie. For 30 minutes Sam snuggles on my lap, not moving. I breathe in his hair and little boy stillness. I realize he's like every kid. LOTS AND LOTS of work during the day, unbelievable sweetness when the storm settles. I have trouble not crying.
I wake and I fumble with my cell phone to check the time. 5.53 am. I realize Sam's awake but didn't make any noise. Didn't wake up my kids either. I know he's awake because a mother knows when children are not sleeping in her house. I find him in the sun room, looking at the pool. I give him a hug.
"I miss my Mommy cause she went to jail. She's out now. My Daddy's still in jail because he made naughty choices.", he says. Then, in the next breath, "Can I have mini wheats for breakfast?"
I give him another hug and make him mini wheats. I don't really say anything about what he said. I see he's focused on the cereal so I just let it be.
After cereal he sits on Mr. Hall's lap, watching Simon the cat videos. He relaxes and puts down his matchbox cars. The ones he's been clutching all weekend.
We drive to church and he's a chatterbug. Says more in those 15 minutes then he's said all weekend.
At church there is a sermon on how God gave us gifts for a reason. We are to share what we have. I am humbled.
We have this marriage, this parenting partnership, this house and these good kids so we need to share them with others. If not just for a weekend. I realize I have a lot of work to do too. I've been too short with Sam. I'm not a patient parent and while I'm getting better, I need to get a lot better. I'll pray about this.
I realize that without Mr. Hall, I couldn't do this. I love that when I get ideas (like becoming a foster parent) my husband is right there, encouraging me and giving of himself right beside me. I am humbled to have such a husband. I don't even try to hold back the tears.
When we get home, my son, Sam and I all lay on the grass in the front yard under a shady tree. I'm exhausted and know his Grandma will pick him up in an hour. We don't say much. After we're done we get up and go into the house.
When his Grandma comes I can see she's still tired. She wanted Sam's mom to come along for the pick up. I don't say much about that, just look kindly in her direction. Then, as Mr. Hall loads Sam into the car, I give her a big hug.