We just got back from a reunion/campout with my family. Caterpillar got to come along, and he is seriously the happiest camping baby of all. He had maybe two really sad moments the whole four days. If I forget about all the work of packing and unpacking for camping, and the long drive there and back, it was a blissful time.
We went on a hike that led to a cave. I've never gone through a cave without a guide on an official tour, and this one just had a sign that you could go through if you wanted to. I thought B had gone through the day before (later I found out they went in a ways then turned back), so I went ahead with my sister and Dinosaur, others following behind us. It was narrow and cramped. We had one flashlight, but it wasn't enough. It went on much longer than I anticipated. I may have said, "I think I'm freaking out a bit" to my sister in front of the kids. I just had no idea how much further it would be and couldn't deal with that thought, so I turned around, scrunching ourselves past the line of people who had gone in the cave after us. I breathed a deep breath of relief as I stepped into the light, right back where we started.
On the way to the cave, we crossed two streams several times, picking out stepping stones. Some teetered, some were secure, and sometimes it was just best to step in the shallow water instead. I managed across without sending myself and Caterpillar (tied to me in a carrier) into the shallow stream. The first day Dinosaur did the hike, he boldly stepped from stone to stone. The second day, he was with my parents, who said something that made him sense a little more potential for failure. He asked to be carried, and did cross on his own with some convincing, but his steps were a little less sure. B or another relative carried Rhinoceros across.
We haven't seen the beginning, middle, and end of any story of our foster children. I've learned the beginning isn't removal of the child, and we jump in halfway through the book. Each of our foster children have older siblings. Even if they didn't, there are reasons from the past that brought the birth parents to the place of losing their children to foster care.
We haven't reached any endings, either. When we considered foster care and went through training, we mentally
prepared ourselves for two outcomes: reunification with birth parent(s)
or adoption (by us or others). What I didn't expect is the end of
our three placements so far: neither. Each foster child has gone on or
will go on to another home while still in foster care: Pterodactyl to
her grandma, Beetle to a foster family with his sister, Caterpillar soon
to his mom's cousin. Part of me wants to be a little insulted that we are babysitters in the meantime while they wait on an ideal placement. Another part of me knows that this is what obedience is: being available to meet the need even when it doesn't fit our expectations or what we would find most fulfilling personally.
I've been thinking for awhile about how our role has been like a stepping stone, just a sure place for a foot to rest for a moment. Then I found myself stepping across stones and being thankful that with God's help, we've been able to be a secure stone for these kids. I wish they could just be carried over the river, but instead we are the safest place for them they can be for the short time they're here. That's our role in the big picture so far.
But I also think of the cave. No idea when it will end. Having to trust that if there's a sign that says you can go through it, you can without terrible danger. Moments of panic. Moments of "I can't take it anymore." Our journey has not gotten to an agonizing point, but I think of so many foster care stories I've read, foster parent friends' experiences, and I know it's probably on its way. Heart-sinking, when-will-it-end moments. Will we have what it takes when we are truly tested? Will I take that deep breath of relief on the other side of the cave, or after I've retreated in fear?