Thursday, December 6, 2012

Big Feelings

You can only get to the rainbow by going through the rain

Someone who follows this blog recently complimented me on being an example of humility and caring. I accepted the compliment gratefully because it was a beautiful thing to say and the person who said it meant it sincerely. Yet despite feeling humbled by her kindness, I also felt kind of guilty because usually the last thing I feel is either humble or caring.

So what do I feel on most days, doing this crazy thing we call foster care? Frustrated comes to mind first. I feel frustrated by the situation we're in, frustrated by challenging kid behavior, frustrated by all the demands on my time and energy. I also find it hugely frustrating that I can't seem to manage both personal grooming and childcare and always seem to look like I just got dragged through a hedge, backwards.

Trapped is another word that comes to mind. Some days are great and other days are simply spectacular, and it truly is humbling to witness the kids blossoming. But a lot of the time I feel trapped by the constant busywork of parenting, not to mention the endless red tape and procedural minutiae involved in fostering.

Other days I just feel defeated. Those are the days when somebody - usually a certain Princess - has gotten on my last nerve, pushed all my buttons and ignored every attempt at redirection until my head feels like it will explode. Although I do my best to remember that she's just acting like this because she's scared and angry and sad and doesn't know any better way to express it, dealing with her in that state is very draining and takes up all of my available resources. At the end of the day all I can do is go hide in my room because looking around me at all the household chores that never got done is just too depressing.

Shame makes a regular appearance, too. I feel like I'm constantly trying to manipulate friends, family, and the child welfare system into meeting our complicated and usually inconvenient needs somehow. I hate asking for anything, ever, but these days it feels like I'm always asking somebody for something, which is horribly uncomfortable. I will certainly never view charity in quite the same way again, having now had to be on the receiving end of it so often. It really is amazing how bad somebody can make you feel while helping you, and shocking how frequently they don't even know they're doing it.

Hopefully I'm not scaring anyone off from foster parenting with this post, because even on the worst days I still don't regret the decision to do this. It was the right thing to do and I did it for the right reasons and I find peace in that. There are also many, many days of pure joy, unbridled fun and the deep and abiding sense of satisfaction that comes only from making it through the difficult moments and finding ourselves a little better, a little stronger, than we were before. But let's just say that when the dog is pooping out guinea pig food for three days straight before I track down the perpetrator who's been feeding it to him (Princess Ariel), or when Baby Brother breaks out singing his favorite jam, "Baa Baa Black Sheep," at four o'clock on a Sunday morning like a drunken sailor, or when my last pair of fat pants no longer fits because of all my stress eating, well, I tend to lose my perspective just a tad.

Right now, in these final weeks before we get the answers that we're all waiting for every one of us is up to our necks in Big Feelings. Every day is a roller coaster, filled with lots of emotions, and many of them are not pretty. But I do take comfort in the fact that even when I'm not feeling like much of an example of anything other than bad grooming, others may look at me, at our little family, and see something else, a glimmer of grace in the midst of the chaos, that is only visible from a different perspective. So thank you, dear reader, for sharing your kind and generous compliment with me, and for helping me to see that there is light on the horizon, even if I can't always see if from where I stand.