Fostering the Sultan of Swat

Babe_RuthI was an avid baseball fan as a kid.  I remember when I was about 10 or 11 years old, and my mom would leave my brothers and I in the public library while she ran errands.  I remember those times as formative years, where I would learn much of what I knew about the great baseball players in history.  I would immediately go to the section where I knew the baseball history books were.

That is where I learned about Babe Ruth.

Babe Ruth was a foster kid.  He was placed in foster care at age 7.  While in foster care, he learned to play baseball, and of course we know what happened next.  He grew up to be a legend, one of the greatest baseball players ever, hitting over 700 home runs and going down as the greatest Yankee.  Many will remember that Yankee stadium was called the house that Ruth built.

What is interesting is that in most books that tell his story, very little is told about those years.  What most books say was simply that he was a rough kid, and lived in a reformatory.  But I do wonder what allowed George Herman Ruth to survive those times, and what allowed him to succeed in life where others did not.  It seems to me that the Babe was able to succeed because of baseball.  I mean, he was able to find something he was good at, that lifted him out of his situation.  I suspect that those around him in his care recognized his potential, and encouraged it.  How different would his life had been if he had not had that encouragement, or if he had been placed in a reformatory where baseball was not played.

I guess my point is how fragile we really are as humans.  No matter how much talent we have buried deep inside of us, we just cannot do it alone.  We can all look back into our childhood and remember that one person, one event, one season in our lives where our abilities were brought out of us.  How different would our lives be if that didn’t happen, of if for some reason, we failed to take the opportunity when it was presented.

I see foster parents today as fulfilling that role.  We are the spark that can either ignite a child, or extinguish them.  It is a big responsibility that God has placed on us.  Don’t get me wrong.  A Babe Ruth may only come around once in a lifetime.  But maybe we have the next president, or singer, policemen or fireman in our home.  Whatever this child may become, it is us that can make the difference in their lives.

I pray that God gives us the time, strength, and wisdom to pour out His love and His plan for the life of this little child.

I also pray for those souls who don’t have someone in their lives to fulfill this role.  May His love and guidance bring them out of their present situation.

Play ball!

 

Honey please take that out of your pants

Fiestainfantil

Phrases heard in our home over the last few weeks:

Honey please take that out of your pants.

Don’t eat that.

Please use your fork.

No thank you, I dont like food from the floor.

Do you want to watch mit mouse again?

I want milk.

I want to eat.

I want juice.

I want yogurt.

I want my dolly!

I want my blankie!

Not nice!

Use your nice hands.

Bubble bath! Bubble bath!

No crayons are only for your coloring book.

There is no hitting in this house.

Ow? There’s no ow in bubble bath!

You are a wet baby!

Can you hold this for daddy?

Daddy needs your help.

Where is that wet toe?

A b c d e f g h i j k mmmop q r s t u v w x y z (unintelligible)  yaaaaay!

Taste it!

I like it!

Baby do you have a poopy in your pants?

Why are we failing our kids America?

This video is a couple of years old, but thank God ABC News did this special to draw attention to the over medication of foster kids.

I hope God gives us the strength and the wisdom to help our little one heal from the trauma of being pulled from her bio family, without the need for medications.

I hope He gives us the wisdom to know when drugs are necessary, and when they simply need us!

 

Mommy and Daddy…

daddy's_hand

 

So as foster parents there is the inevitable dilemma.

What should our foster child call us?

Mommy and Daddy?

Should they call us by our names?

Is it even up to us?

 

Our little one has called us mommy and daddy since she got here.  Honestly we have not discouraged her, as doing so I think would cause even more confusion.  She is not old enough to understand why we would be discouraging her.  But I have to tell you at first it seemed odd.  Obviously not odd to this little innocent child.  Odd to the adults who know the circumstances.  I mean, how will the bio mom feel about that?  How will our little one react when she sees her bio mom again?

Just last night at dinner, we were sitting around at the table, and our little one pointed at me, and told my wife “That’s daddy!”.  I pointed at my wife and asked “Who’s that?” to which she answered “Mommy!”

After some thought, I realized the sense of comfort and safety those words must mean for her.  She is with mommy and daddy.  Mommy and daddy represent family to her.  They represent normalcy.  They represent love.  Isn’t that, in the end, what we are called to do for this little girl?  Aren’t we charged with bringing the joy and love of Christ to one who needs it the most?

Of course the answer is yes.  So for now, we will be her mommy and daddy.  One day, when she is older, she will understand the difference between our kind of mommy and daddy, and the bio mommy and daddy.  But this child has already experienced a trauma in her life  no child should ever experience.  Adding more trauma by trying to take away the only mommy and daddy she knows right now would not be in her best interests.

Besides, I can’t tell you it doesn’t feel good to be called daddy.  Sure, I know one day, she will be mad at me, and as most do, she will angrily take that title away from me as revenge.  It is part of growing up and for foster kids part of dealing with their circumstances.  And I will have to understand.

But right now, I am daddy.

And as George Strait says in his song, a dad’s love is “A love without end, Amen!”

Look who’s Talking…

We have had playingour little one for about a month now.  When we picked her up, we knew very little about why she was being placed in foster care.  What we did know is that this 2 1/2 year old little girl should be talking and walking by now.  Yet here she was in front us, crawling and making gurgling sounds like a much younger child.

 

We were taking a leap of faith.  It did not matter to us if she was delayed.  We would take her home, nurture her and get her through this period of her life.

After a few days, we noticed something.

She was not delayed.

She started talking – a lot.

Looks like the crawling and gurgling sounds were a defense mechanism of some kind.  As this little girl progressed in our home, we noticed that whenever she felt afraid, or felt she needed more attention, she would drop to the floor and crawl.  Ok, we would deal with this.  We will provide that love, that nurturing, that attention you need, while still letting you know it is ok to be you, the 2 year old who knows how to walk, how to talk, how to do the things a 2 year old does.

And now, I am amazed at how our little one has progressed.

Yesterday, on the ride home from day care, I noticed she was staring out into space.  She looked a little out of it, maybe a little down.  So I tried something.  I turned around while at a stop light, blew her a kiss and said “Love you baby!”

Immediately, she responded.

“Love you baby!”

Her response was preceded with a kids and followed with a giant grin, knowing she had just said something really cool.

Since that ride home, we can’t stop her from repeating everything we say.  Of course, that could be dangerous.

We will have to be very careful what we say.

Goes to show you what can happen when we let God be in control.  All we can hope for is that Jesus will let His love to continue to flow through us onto this little precious girl for as long as possible.

Either way, we are confident He will prevail.

Look who’s talking now!

 

Two Children, same result…

slide

Yesterday was our first “play date” with my wife’s friend and her son.

So we had an outing at Chik-fi-la, which has a playground.   Our little one apparently had never been to Chik-fi-la.  She was a little shy at first.  She ate all of her chicken, most of her fries, and about a quarter of a chocolate chip cookie.  She ate more than her play date partner, who was more interested in going to the playground.  Our child was not really aware yet there was such a thing waiting for her.

When we got to the playground, again there was some hesitation.  However, her new found friend was eager to “help”.

“C’mon!  Let’s climb up!”

It took all of two minutes for both children to be in playground heaven.  I loved watching their pure joy as they climbed up, then down the slide over and over.

Then it came.

It was time to go.

First our play date partner’s turn.

“C”mon, just once more!”, mommy ordered.

“No mommy, two more!”

He got his two more, then the bad news  that it was time to go, and the tears started.  He was devastated, and mommy was there to console him. Our bundle of joy saw what was coming, and quickly escaped to climb some more.  Daddy was going to have to be smart about this one. I waited for her to go down the slide again, and was waiting to pick her up at the bottom.  This was not going to be pretty, and sure enough, the complaints came.  With tears running down her face, she yelled “NO!!!!!!!” Our mistake was to not have a sippy cup of milk for the ride home, which would have eased the heartache and suffering.

We learned some things about this adventure.  First, our little one needs more play dates.  She needs to continue to learn to associate with others her age.  We also learned that her behavior closely resembles however her play date partner is behaving.  When he was ok, she was ok.  When he blew up, she did too. The most interesting thing was learned was this.  Here we had two children with completely different backgrounds, life experiences, family lives, but in the end – the same result.

In the end, they are kids, and will behave as such.

God Set Me Up

1978.

I am walking through the aisles at Kmart.  My grandparents are around somewhere, but I have wandered off, growing bored following them around.

There was a time I was deathly afraid of being alone in a store, but that was at least two years ago.  I am older now.  I am not afraid – sort of.

Hmmm….candy.

I don’t have any money.  In my family, kids don’t have money.  If we want something, we have to ask our parents or grandparents.  Then, if the stars and planets are aligned just right, they may buy what we want.  It is a pretty lousy system I think.  I mean they have tons of that stuff.  They are always buying stuff – clothes, books, magazines, food.  It kinda stinks that they are so stingy with it all the time.  It seems like every time I ask for something, I get the same answers.

“Money doesn’t grow on trees…”

“Well, if you are good this week…”

“As soon as you get your grades up…”

I would like to see their report card for a change.  Don’t they know how hard school is?  No of course they don’t.  They don’t go to school.  They go away in the morning, to some building they call “work”, then come home with a bunch of money they won’t share with me.  Again, a pretty lousy system.  I have been to that building Dad goes to a couple of times.  It didn’t seem like his job was all that hard – shuffling papers around from one place to another.  I mean, how hard is it really to do what he does all day?

I see all the cool candy now.  Maybe I will ask my grandmother to get me some candy.  She is usually pretty good about that stuff, except this week I  got into a fight with my brother so I am not sure.

Wait.

One of the bags is open.

Before I can think too hard about it, I am reaching for some of the candy in the open bag.  Tootsie Rolls are my favorite. I grab a few, sticking them in my pocket….

“Hey!  What are you doing?!”

I freeze.  The manager comes around the corner, and he catches me with Tootsie Rolls in hand.  How stupid could I be?

“They were…were… open…I just…”

I am shaking now as he approaches…

“Come with me!  Right now!”

I follow him as he approaches the front of the store, and leads me out of the store.  I tell him my grandparents are with me, and he tells me I can wait for them outside.  He tells me not to go back into the store.

I am terrified, shaking like a leaf.  I am a thief.  I am a criminal.  My short life of freedom is over.  Once my grandparents find out, they will tell my parents, and the whole city will find out.  Before you know it, I will be shamed.  They will affix a big “L” on my forehead that stands for “LOSER”.  I will never get a job.  This will definitely go on my permanent record, the one they talk about in school that determines everything.

I am doomed.

After a few minutes, my grandparents find me outside.  They were worried and were looking all over the store for me.  They ask me what I was doing outside.  During my long wait, I had devised a scheme, I had determined to tell them something other than what had really happened, in the hopes of salvaging my future hopes, my future dreams.

What did I tell them?

The truth.

I spilled my guts.  I started crying, telling them I saw the open bag of candy, and I just wanted to try them.  I told them I was sorry a million times.  I guess they saw my pitiful look and realized I had already punished myself enough.  They lectured me all they way home in the car, telling me how wrong it was to steal, the consequences if I did it again.  They told me that if I really wanted something, I should ask them and they would buy it if they could.  I did not go to jail that day.  As far as I know, nothing was entered into my permanent record at school or anywhere else.  I was able to land a job with no problem when the time came.

I am convinced the open candy was placed there on purpose.  It was a setup, placed there to lure unsuspecting children with low morals.  Or maybe it was just my rotten timing.  A few minutes earlier or later, and that manager would not have seen me. I am glad he caught me.  The embarrassment served as a lesson for me, one I carried for the rest of my childhood.  I won’t tell you that I was never tempted to shop lift again. Of course I was. But I always thought, in the back of my mind, that the manager was just around the corner.

I think it is interesting how moments like that can shape our lives.  Sometimes our entire future can be influenced by moments that seem so small.  I have come to believe that God chooses to make an impact in our lives in ways we simply don’t realize until much later.  How many times have we sat back and thought that God simply doesn’t answer our prayers, doesn’t show up, when in reality, He shows up in ways we simply miss?

I know God was there that day.  And I know He has been there in many ways throughout my life, slowly nudging me here or there.  Sometimes I have made the right decisions.  Sometimes, even though he has knocked on my door or tapped me on the shoulder, I have chosen to ignore it.  Such is the case with free will.  We have a choice in which direction we take with our lives, but God will be there for us regardless of our choices.  He loves us that much.

God set me up that day.

Has God ever set you up?