Spider-Man, Bedtime Routines, and How Much Life Can Change With a Phone Call
A New Foster Dad’s Journal Entry after the First 48 Hours
Note: In this piece I may use the pronoun “they” when referring to our foster child. We only have one child in our home, and I am intentionally avoiding using gender pronouns for the sake of anonymity. This may or may not be legally necessary, but as a newbie foster parent I would much rather be on the safe side when it comes to revealing any identifying information about the child in our care.
We have waited months for our home to be opened for a foster child. We attended trainings, signed countless forms (and re-signed others), provided additional documentation, and waited.
So it only makes sense that after about six months of us shrugging our shoulders every time someone would ask how the fostering process was going, we would get a call on a Thursday afternoon in March asking if we could immediately sign the final paperwork to open our home and accept a placement that night.
I can’t really describe the hurricane of emotions I felt as I rushed home to meet the resource worker for final approval of our home. There was adrenaline, excitement, uncertainty, and of course my old pal anxiety who hangs around quite a bit. And yet, amidst all of those feelings cycling through my brain at once, there was also a strange calm. After six months of freaking the hell out and wondering if I’m even in the best mental state to be a foster dad (my therapist affirmed that I am), I felt weirdly at peace.
The case worker and the foster kiddo got to our house around 7:30 in the evening, just a couple hours after our case was signed off on and our home was officially opened. The kiddo was quiet and shy- for about the first half hour. It wasn’t long before they were giggling and rushing into the kitchen to hang a few of their drawings on our fridge.
Bedtime the first night went incredibly, much to our surprise and relief. Our kiddo got up a couple of times to use the bathroom and ask for water, but they quickly fell asleep, likely exhausted from what must have been a long and eventful day.
The first full day went wonderfully as well. We started out with an episode of Spider-Man and a big breakfast of eggs, bacon, and heart-shaped waffles (“tweet-tweets, as they are referred to in my family, but that’s another story for another time). Our kiddo put away the eggs and bacon like nobody’s business- something we knew to expect. Breakfast was followed by a long walk to the park at the other end of our neighborhood, our dog Rizzo in tow, for some exercise and outdoor playtime.
Once our kiddo and the dog had gotten enough energy out- also giving Jenni some time to make some calls to local voucher-accepting daycares- we trekked back to the house, loaded up in the car, said a few prayers and Hail Marys that I had installed the car seat correctly, and headed out to stock up on things that we would need for our kiddo: clothes, shoes, books, and of course plenty of toys.
Compared to the first night, bedtime of the second night was a disaster in many ways. Hindsight has revealed to us that we let naptime occur for too long and far too late in the afternoon. Jenni had a women’s conference to attend at church, which meant that I had the task of taking care of bath time and bed time solo. It did not go well. Our kiddo was outright defiant at times, and managed to talk me into letting them watch one extra episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and read one extra bedtime story. (I am quickly learning how to set structured routines and expectations vis a vis bedtime.) Once they finally got in bed, accompanied by a few of their prized new toys, our kiddo had no interest in sleep. It was only once Jenni- already an incredible foster mom- returned home that we were able to reset bedtime and get our kiddo to wind down and entertain the notion of sleep.
I didn’t have much of a problem maintaining my composure externally through the chaos of bedtime, but internally I was frustrated, discouraged, and feeling inadequate. But those feelings dissipated immediately as soon as we suddenly heard our kiddo crying loudly from the bathroom. We rushed to check on them, finding a suddenly-silent child with tears running down their face, responding to our questions and reassurances with only the shaking or nodding of their head.
I don’t think my heart has ever broken that way.
Today, the second full day, was great all around, with very few hiccups. We were able to attend the birthday of our kiddo’s older sibling who is in foster care not far from us, and our kiddo played and played until it was time to leave, eventually falling asleep in their car seat on the drive home. Nap time was shorter and earlier in the day, and we began setting the expectation of a much more structured bedtime routine. Our foster child was in high spirits all throughout the process, their infectious giggle occasionally reverberating through the house. Once bath time was over, teeth were brushed, an episode of The Mandalorian had been watched, and a bedtime story had been read, our precious kiddo climbed right into bed with no argument, said our prayers together with us, and that was that. By the time we got to our bedroom and turned on the child monitor that we have set up, our little trooper was fast asleep.
Were our journey with this foster child a road trip from East Coast to West, the Atlantic Ocean would still be in our rearview mirror. But we are quickly- by necessity- learning as we go. The first two days have already taught us so much about our child, about parenting, and about the foster care process. We are learning how important structure is. We are learning how to understand and communicate with our child through a speech impediment. But there is still so much we have to learn about our child’s story, none of which we will be able to share publicly anyway. What I do know for sure is that when I look at the face of our smiley, energetic, mischievous, polite, playful, and vulnerable foster child, I see the face of the Christ- imago dei- and I see an incredible opportunity to share the love and compassion of Christ with them.
Almighty Lord, bless this child in our care. Protect them, provide for them, and teach us through them. May we, with your help, be exactly what this child needs in this moment.
Divine Creator, be with this child’s family. I pray for healing for this family, and if it is your will and what is best for the child, as much as we are loving having them with us, I pray that they would soon be reunited with their family and that they would live a long, happy life.
Mother God, thank you for this child’s life. Thank you that they are safe. Thank you for all that we have learned and are going to learn from them. Thank you for the numerous people who have supported us and prayed to you for us in this situation. Finally, thank you for Christ’s example of how to treat the little children, how to care for those in need, and how to be like Him.