It always comes down to time and space. The arguments, the frustration, the short-tempered snaps and quick tick of the clock working against us. I want a night out. My husband has a hockey game. The sink is full of dishes. Our oldest has homework. Need to put the laundry away. Parents are coming to visit. The storage room is a mess. Husband is traveling again. I’m sick of stepping on Hot Wheels. The littlest needs to be potty-trained. Let’s throw a Christmas party. Somebody has got to clean the bathroom. I want to take a nap. Wait…we should be foster parents!
“How will you ever make time?” people like to ask. “Aren’t you already living in chaos?”
Why, yes. Yes, we are. But we have started to wear chaos like a broke-in coat that feels warm and familiar. Time moves too quickly some days, much too slowly others, so we’ve chosen to make those hours that slip by or drag on for days, worth just a little bit more. We’ve chosen to open up our time and our space to someone new.
So I started nesting. I started making lists and, slowly but surely, as the hours allowed, crossed things off.
Foster care training
Weed through baby items
Organize storage space
Move and stock baby dresser
We reserved chunks of time over the past year for trainings and meetings, lengthy applications and essays, background checks and fingerprinting in preparation for this new endeavor. We rearranged furniture and rethought rooms to make space for another child to enter our already full world. By intentionally clearing space, purging and organizing, I was left with feelings of freedom and regret – regret for the wasted time and space the irrelevant items had been sucking, and freedom in knowing that as we emptied our home of these things, we were opening a door for something new.
After the birth of our third child, we were faced with a decision – to snip or not to snip. Given the “love baby” that had just been born to us, we knew we weren’t great at family planning. I’d be waddling around pregnant again by the end of the month if we didn’t take action. Thus, after much ado about what I would describe as nothing but my husband would vehemently disagree, there was a snip, a “pool of blood,” and a level of trauma that, next to childbirth is the equivalent of a paper cut, but for my husband was more like losing an appendage (even though I assured him it was still there).
We ended our options for biological babies to allow an opening for other children that might need a family like ours, for a few weeks or forever. We didn’t know which way it would go. We still don’t. Frankly, we know very little about what’s to come, so I have busied myself with trying to prepare.
With the help of Chaos & Bloom, I sorted through our vast accumulation of stuff – the brightly colored toys, cozy animals and motion-sensored musical trinkets that, six years after the birth of our first child, still play a constant song in my brain. These things began to pour in when that first baby arrived, and the onslaught of gifts and gotta-haves grew with each child. On a Saturday afternoon, I waded through heaping piles of stuff, realizing along the way that these things had very little to do with what our kids ever needed. An outfit worn once. A toy rarely touched. A coat that I remembered buying but couldn’t recall ever actually putting on a child.
After thorough examination and a mountain set aside for donation, the items I decided to save in the nicely organized, color-coded totes came in handy once and would come in handy again to clothe a child, to feed a child, to provide me a 15-minute breather while this child jumped around in an illuminated walker-on-wheels, and I recomposed myself in the kitchen. Called a friend. Cried a little. Cried a lot. Wondered why I thought we had room for anything else in this overflowing life we live.
But we can make room and I feel that in such a profound way that to do anything else, to not at least try would be a lie. Even if it leaves us heartbroken. Even if we fail and retreat, deeply bruised, to the life we knew before. Judging from the first two weeks with our newest addition, a baby boy who could not be more beautiful or bubbling over with joy, I have determined we will undoubtedly be wrecked by this new adventure, but I have trust that we will also be rebuilt.
A few days before this sweet boy arrived, I sat in the quiet storage space, tucked away in the back of our basement, and stared at boxes holding tiny items waiting to be used again. I wondered whose little hands would grip the blankets, whose toes would fill the shoes walking in and out of our lives. How would our family handle these gains and losses? We couldn’t know, but we could try. We could open our world to someone new for a little while or for the long haul, making room in this big house with all the things that don’t mean much of anything until they are shared. At this season in our lives, we could do that, so we did.
My hope for our family as we wander into this new adventure is that it helps to refocus us on what actually matters, what drives us to work all day, to care for babies all night, to laugh and cry and worry and love unconditionally, fearlessly as we are made to do, as we feel driven to do when we peel back the layers of stuff that gets piled on when we aren’t watching, when we are distracted by the story that we need it all. We need very little of it.
I write this in complete realization that tonight, once again, I will splurge on the “stuff,” spending three hours’ worth of my freelance salary and an hour of my time shopping for coordinating holiday pajamas for this brood of kids, a wardrobe to stitch us together as a family, knowing full-well that matching outfits are not glue…knowing that next year, I will likely sit over one of these totes, sobbing into the tiny jammies our first foster child wore on his first Christmas.
But I will buy them anyways. I will love him anyways in the time and the space we are given with him. I am growing and I am scared and I am heart open and eyes closed and I am crossing things off my list.
Organize storage room
Move and stock baby dresser
Make room for what’s next