Foster Parenting, Day 5

For all the cute, cute, CUTE things he does, he’s still a little stinker sometimes. But is anyone surprised by that? He’s a 3yo boy, after all. And he’s been displaced multiple times. In fact, I was telling someone yesterday that it almost seemed as though the transition had gone too well. Too well, as in, he doesn’t really seem to care who is caring for him and while he definitely recognized the six of us at church last night, most likely would have gone home with anyone there and been just fine.

Today we were on our way to the library and we saw Craig at a nearby gas station (we got another car today: a 1990 Volvo which Volvo lovers say is still a good car and I say it’s a 23 year old car and…okay, it looks cool, but it’s super old. Here’s hoping it will be driveable for a few years at least…) and E3 called out, “There’s Daddy!” It’s been his choice to call us Mom and Dad and I’m sure he does it because that’s what the girls call us, though I’m equally sure that those names don’t mean the same thing to him that they mean to our girls – it’s just a title like doctor or teacher or, you get the idea, but at any rate, he has some connection with the titles and our roles as adult care givers. The girls in the van agreed, “Yep! There’s Daddy!” and when they did this he said, “NO! That’s MY DADDY!” They giggled and said, “He’s our daddy too. We can share him!” He said, “Okay, we can share him. I have three daddies.” And there it is. He’s only three, but he can name some of his dysfunction even though he can’t understand it. And it’s heartbreaking.

We had a little hiccup with bedtime last night as it’s just been a long time since I’ve parented a 3yo and kind of forgot about the whole “ease them into bedtime” thing. He was playing trains in his room and then it was bedtime so I asked him to help clean up the trains before bed. Upon hearing the word, “bed” he freaked out and started throwing a fit. And that’s how he went to bed last night – throwing a major fit. Tonight we decided to let him play with the trains, then give him a bath, then read a story, and then put him to bed. And I told him multiple times that that’s what we were going to do so that he knew it was coming. He still didn’t like going to bed. He still cried a little, but he went. And I came downstairs with the girls to read to them. And 30 minutes later we heard movement upstairs. I came up and saw he’d somehow managed to remove the gate from his door frame and was in the process of scattering these tiny little cars all over the hallway. It was funny, but I still had to be the bearer of bad news: he had to go back to bed. I put him there and he cried again. I came downstairs and ten minutes later we heard him moving again. I came back upstairs and he heard me coming this time because he crawled underneath the bed and was hiding there when I came in. I slid him out and put him to bed again. Again he got out. And again I put him back. And even now I can’t be exactly for sure he’s sleeping, but he isn’t crying and I don’t think he’s made another parking garage out of the hallway…yet.

And I just can’t help but remember that parenting a toddler/preschooler is perhaps the best picture of being parented by God. And maybe even more so in the case of foster parenting. Here’s a kid who doesn’t really know how to love us, yet we love him anyway. Here’s a kid who has no concept that what we’re doing for him is for his best good and he pushes against our parenting all the time. Here’s a kid who, at some deep level, desperately needs to know someone is providing for him: boundaries, shelter, food, protection, love and yet gets angry when we do those things on his behalf. Because he doesn’t understand. Because he’s 3. And I do the same thing with God, only my excuse isn’t so much my age as it is my heart. God sets me down in a soft, warm bed and I insist on scattering dozens of tiny cars in the hallway. Maybe to see what He will do. Maybe to see if He cares.