For those who have been tracking with our family for a while, you know that, as foster parents, we have ranged from 3-5 kids for the last 3 years. It is crazy to me that we have been on this journey that long. Our very first foster placement was a sibling set almost exactly 3 years ago, so we started our fostering journey with 5 kids. Since then, we have only had one at a time…until now. We are back to 5, having just added #5 a month ago.
Now, in Arizona, 5 was a lot. I remember getting a lot of comments like “Wow, you have your hands full,” when I had them all with me. Granted, they were all very close together in age, so that may have contributed to the sentiment too.
But in California, it seems, 5 is just crazy. A recent experience we had at our local Costco will illustrate. Jeremiah and I were walking towards the entrance, with the newest little one strapped to me in my carrier. I leaned over and kissed her forehead at that moment (notably, at this moment, the other 4 had run over to get a cart for us). A couple looked over at us and walked up—the man had a decidedly “Aww, so cute” kind of expression. He then said “Are you new parents? Is this your first?” Jeremiah responded with “No. She is our fifth.” The man looked like he was choking and let slip “You are S***** me,” as he quickly walked away. Jeremiah and I looked at each other, trying to stifle our laughter at the awkward moment.
I remember looking through a church directory one time many years ago, casually noting that families with 4 kids look big, but families with more than that just look huge. Yep, that is us—huge; very much outnumbered. When we first moved to Davis, I remember hearing about someone talking about a “HUGE” homeschooling family, and I was picturing families like some we knew in AZ and SD with 6-10 kids. Then I realized they were talking about a family with four kids. Haha. So 5 kids is just crazy, right? On the edge of acceptable…
The funny thing is that it is not unusual in foster families. Once you get a heart for these precious children, it is hard to stop at just one; it is hard to not want to do more. In fact, friends of ours just took on two babies at once. One baby at a time is enough for me (props to those of you with twins…).
And yet….I have to admit I am pretty much at my limit. Many people say I am “high capacity.” I don’t know about that, but I do know I usually have had the mentality that I will “figure it out” in order to fit in what I need to get done. I don’t feel that any more. No more room for “figuring…” It is harder to get work done at night when our older kids are staying up a bit later to read and then the baby is up for the late feeding because we haven’t quite figured out how to get her off of it since her hospital stay when she was used to it… Oh well. It is also harder to get the housework done when the new one is going through the “only Mommy” stage, and she won’t let anyone else hold her for long… Then there is the whole emotional reality of wanting to spend quality time with each kid, not to mention making sure I do a good job with teaching 5th grade to my one homeschooled kid…
Thankfully, I don’t have to be perfect. That is the good news of the gospel—Jesus was perfect, so I don’t have to be. I am accepted and I have an unending supply of grace from my heavenly Father. I can’t think of much better news than that. I don’t have to curl up in guilt when I have allowed my stress to build up and leak out into frustration-filled venting at my kids from time to time—I can apologize to them and rest in the fact that God’s mercies are new every morning. I can take a deep breath and ask God to give me more patience for the next time, and the next time, and the next. And he does. It gets easier. John 15 reminds me to “abide in Him…and I will bear much fruit.”
As I have reflected on having 5 kids, I often think about the statement I have repeatedly heard over the years that once you have 4, adding more is really no big deal. I am afraid I respectfully disagree. I think it is largely a personality thing though. I am not really a natural “manager.” I think if I was, it might be a more accurate statement. Logistically it is true that a little more food, a little more laundry, etc., when you are already doing a ton, is not that big of a deal. Adding one more kid to the chore list when you already know how to get kids to do chores…no problem (unfortunately, I can’t put myself in the expert category here either…). I will say, to be fair, however, that a baby is still a time drain, no matter how you shake it (haha). A joy-filled time drain, but a time drain nonetheless.
Anyway, since I am not really a managerial type, my main focus and my emotional energy is more centered on the emotional realities of nurturing 5 kids. In that sense, every additional child is a whole additional person that I am responsible to help guide towards growing in character, respect, love, compassion and maturity. I know I can’t make it happen—but I feel the weight of it. I feel the weight of my sin tendencies acting as barriers to them deeply comprehending the perfect love and balance of grace and truth that God gives. I am thankful that God has drilled some level of humility into me over the years and through numerous good friends speaking into my life, so that I can at least more freely admit my brokenness than I used to be willing to do. So that, for example, when I notice my son reflecting my overly-developed task orientation, I can share with him the reality that it is both a strength and a weakness, and encourage him with the idea that we can help each other value time with the Lord and relationships with people over “getting things done.”
I didn’t have to go on this path that led me to 5 kids. Some might say, in light of my desire to be efficient and my love of individual quality time, that I am in many ways the type of parent best suited to just a few kids. But I don’t regret this path. Doing Foster Care, and now becoming an adoptive mom, is changing me in profound ways that I believe are for the best. It has made me “less efficient” and “less successful” in my professional life, and yet I can’t really know or measure the positive impact that God is working in and through us because of these choices to open our hearts to these kids and to the societal/cultural realities that now weigh on us and matter to us so profoundly.
It is possible that many more foster kids in the future will be cared for well and will come to know Jesus because college students and other families see us doing this and might possibly think “maybe we could do it to…” I also believe I am closer to the heart of Jesus because he has moved our hearts with compassion and given us strength to respond. In addition, I more deeply understand that I am just as poor and needy as anyone; that me simply offering what help I am able to give is in fact helping me in ways I can’t even begin to quantify.
So pray for me…5 is a lot for me. But praise God with me as well, that he has graciously given me this privilege of loving such precious and amazing kids.