It ended with me cussing and her crying.
That's our day in a nutshell. We're almost two whole weeks into this fostering deal. It has actually been pretty great.
Today? Something less than that.
It started with none of us sleeping well. There is this God-forsaken plague of pollen that has taken over Columbus. Shaina hasn't breathed through her nose in a week and has pulled out the Nettie Pot (she's a desperate hipster...where else could she turn?) to try and combat it. Meanwhile the two children are single-handedly keeping the Kleenex brand in business.
So we are under slept. M finds it beneficial to get up and scream like clockwork around 1 a.m. and then again at 5 a.m. The guy seems to be finding his way here, but he is not getting more than 9 hours of sleep in any 24 hour window (supposed to be more like 13 hours at his age.) We can't crack the code of how to get him the sleep he needs. It will come.
But it didn't come today. Today was something less than that.
So it was a perpetual whine and cry and sob and cling day. This is fine. The little guy has had his whole world flipped upside down in the past couple weeks. He's allowed to be sad and distraught. This isn't something we were surprised by. And we are optimistic that it will get better. But it didn't today. Today was something less than that.
And there are some major aversions to bonding. I'm not sure if anyone can fully understand this experience unless they've experienced it. But he will bond almost instantly to any male figures, including me, but also including complete strangers. He tried to climb up on a bench and into the lap of some random middle aged man at the playground yesterday. And on the flip side of this deal, he has a major aversion to women, especially women who have a role of nurture/authority in his life. Won't make eye contact. Won't show affection. Won't seek to be consoled. Again, we're new to this, but we're not naive. We knew that bringing a stranger into our home and inviting them into our concept and value of family would not just happen. We have to learn each other. The old adage that trust is gained in inches and lost in miles is something I believe strongly. So we are committed to taking this territory inch by inch by inch. It's going to happen. But it didn't happen today. Today was something less than that.
There is certainly some irony in that God has orchestrated our path to intersect this little guy's path and he will only bond and be nurtured and snuggled and show affection toward me and I have never once been mistaken for bonding-nurtury-snuggly-affectionate guy. God is shaping me to become something better as a dad and a husband and a pastor. But that shaping didn't happen today. Today was something less than that.
So basically we had a perpetual meltdown that would only subside if I could come up with some creative new engaging idea for him. Got a little backyard pool that would work wonders for keeping him occupied. But it rained and stormed through the day.
Chaia has had moments of absolute brilliance as a first time big sister. She often shares and is thoughtful and is genuinely excited about M being in our home. Today however was not that kind of day. Today was something less than that. Let's just say that she has learned what the word "Torment" means and has been warned to quit allowing it to be in her repertoire. And her ears got a bit of a pep talk to function a little better going forward.
So sprinkle in a bit of antagonism and torment with a whining/crying/sobbing clinging one, throw in an allergic reaction to life for an entire family, add a cup and a half of not sleeping for two weeks, and a day of rain and thunder and you've got a recipe for something less than a good day.
At bed time we pray together as a family and then I most often take M to snuggle him to bed and Shaina takes Chaia to do the same. For prayer time, Chaia was in my lap and M in Shaina's. Chaia needs time with her dad and M, whether he knows it or believes it needs time with his mom. That prayer and bonding time is important and a good note to end the day on. Except today. Today was something less than that.
Hysterics. Blood curdling screams because M not only had to watch me hold Chaia as we prayed, but he had to simultaneously be held by Shaina whom he is willfully refusing to have a bond with. Shaina took him out of the room to calm him and to allow me to have a minute with Chaia so that she knows her dad loves her deeply and when she came back, he was screaming but she was the only one with tears. That makes me feel awful. I get him to calm down and to fall asleep and I move him from my arms to his bed and he is out cold. The guy's gotta be exhausted between not sleeping and crying most the day. I do the slow exit to ensure is out for the count, then I go down stairs and pick up the toys and open the dishwasher and try to get things in a good place for when Shaina gets down the stairs from being with Chaia. I take the trash out and come back inside to hear M screaming at the top of his lungs again.
"Damn %&$#%#$!" is what I think I said. Not sure about it...but I'm confident I did not pray the Lord's prayer or a prayer of thanksgiving...and I went back up and started the whole thing over again.
And so here my point. It's simply to say that Fostering is not for the feint of heart. It is not some idealistic, over-romanticized version of heroism in which we come riding in on a noble steed and offer some unfortunate tiny human a chance at a better life and they immediately respond with gratitude and connection and love to that offer.
It's not that. It's actually something MORE than that. It's a long obedience in the same direction. It's a kid who had a day from hell knowing he's still safe and sound here in this home...our home...his home. It's him waking up at 1 a.m. 5 a.m. and any other time in the next few hours knowing that he's got a mom and dad who are still going to show up, punch in, and commit to love and support him no matter what. It's restoring the miles inch by inch by inch no matter how much it sucks.
Some days you're the windshield and some days you're the bug.
The windshield is awesome. It's on those days that you see momentum and breakthrough and your resolve is high and your tenacity fierce.
Today was something less than that. It wasn't a windshield.
It was a bug. We got splattered a bit, our guts scattered a bit, our souls smattered a bit and our hearts shattered a bit.
She cried. I cussed.
And we will get up and try again tomorrow.
Whatever you're going through, whatever demons of devastation and despair, however hopeless and heartbreaking it may happen to appear, I encourage you to do the same.
Because we should never count out the resilience of a tiny but fearless bug.