After finishing up our foster care classes, my husband and I began the long process of waiting for the phone call of a placement. One day in early November of 2015, we received a call asking us if we would take in 14-year-old boy who needed a temporary 30 day placement. We talked about it and thought it would be a good idea to just get a feel for what the foster system is like since we ultimately wanted to adopt. I had always heard that taking in a teenager is a whole new ballgame and is extremely challenging so I had no idea what to expect. Goodness…did I have no idea what to expect.
A few days later after the initial phone call, E came to live with us. I remember meeting him for the first time and wondering why they lied and said he was 14. Realistically, he was 14, but my goodness he was so tall! I was pushed right into a parental roll and honestly had no idea what I was doing. He made it easy, though…at first. I enrolled him into the local high school and got him involved with the youth group at our church. I remember making the rookie parent mistake in thinking that he was actually doing his homework when he told me he had done it. Man, I was so naive. I quickly learned his lying face so I would be able to pick up on when he was trying to play me. I kid you not, he would always make the same face when he lied and I just knew it. (If you are reading this E, the answer is still no… I will not tell you how I know your lying). E was, and is, so charismatic and thinks he is the cutest guy to ever grace the world with his presence. Seriously, I had never met anyone who spent more time in the mirror fixing their hair than this kid. He had your typical teenage attitude to go along with it which caused us to clash a lot. He taught me patience, that is for sure. I had to get creative with punishments since there are so many guidelines to follow. I learned that taking the phone and PS4 away were not always sufficient enough of punishments and often times had to change it up to utilize what I could. He was stubborn and had an eye roll that aggravated me to the core.
E had been through a lot in his life prior to coming to live with us and his story broke my heart. I remember the phone conferences with his team where we all learned that his temporary 30 day placement turned into 60 days, then 90 days, and then indefinitely. Over the course of those changes, I witnessed his spirit slowly change because the possibility of going home was getting slim by the minute. I could never even imagine how he felt on the inside. The “happy go lucky” kid that came to live with us was slowly becoming angry that his life had not panned out the way he thought. Who could blame him though. His grades began to drop and I was getting called to the school for meetings because of his behavior. It was all new territory for me and I had no idea what to do.
I always tried to be positive for him and always make him feel included and apart of our family. I fondly remember the day he started calling me “ma”. It was the day I felt like I really was making a difference in his life. Even though he would probably tell you that I am too strict and need to chill out, he loved me. I always called him “E” or “The Kid” just to annoy him. He would always say “I’m not a kid, I’m a grown little man”. (Insert face palm here). Speaking of him being a “grown little man”, let me tell you… that kid could eat you out of house and home. Whew, he could eat A LOT. Pizza was his favorite food on the planet, so we had him a giant pizza party for his birthday one year and got him an inflatable pizza float for his room. That pizza float quickly became a toy for him to use to slide down the stairs. He was also doing something to push the limits of my nerves and he thought it was hilarious.
We had a lot of great times, but we also had a lot of hard times. I loved that kid and only wanted the best for him. When the new kids came along I didn’t want him to feel any less than part of the family so I made sure to include him in everything. He was such a great help with them and they adored their bubba. Regardless of what he would ever say, he loved them too. The day my husband decided to walk out I remember feeling so sorry for E. Here I was trying to provide a safe and nurturing environment for all of my kids and show them a stable home, and now the “father” figure decided to walk out. I felt that I just shattered E’s life because he was finally in a stable place and now it was being ripped away. I felt the weight of the guilt of feeling as though I had ruined his happiness because the family was falling apart. It was a huge burden to carry. Through that whole process though, that’s when I learned that E was not only in my life for me to impact him, he was in my life to impact me too. I really would not have kept it together so well if it were not for him. He stepped in and helped me even more with the kids since I was alone and he never complained. He spent time encouraging me and offering support when he knew I was falling apart on the inside.
The situation with E was a lot different than the younger kids so he was able to stay a while longer than they were. He became my rock in that time and I kept it together for him. In July of 2017, E left. I was devastated. My biggest fear had come true and I knew he had been impacted by the break in the family. He began acting out and demanding to go home. He finally got his wish. He was being sent back to his family and I was so glad for him, but at that point I had really lost everyone that I thought was going to be there forever. No more husband and now no more kids. My entire identity as I knew it was gone.
I’m so thankful that E kept in touch and even came to visit a few times after he went back home. He’s now 18 and still thinks he’s a “grown little man”, but to me, he will always be “The Kid”. I am forever thankful and blessed to know him and have been able to impart into his life while I could. He did more for me though than I could ever explain and for that I will always love him.
So, why adoption and the foster care system? Well, that’s an emotional roller coaster ride into the world of infertility and a story to be told in another week! Stay tuned!
I love you, kid. I pray that as you are now an “adult” and facing this world that you know you are not alone. I’m here for you, rooting for you, and praying for you. The sky is the limit for all you can do in this world as long as you put your mind to it. You are more than an over-comer and the strength you have displayed is inspiring. Make smart choices and take advantage of a fresh start. Thank you for the impact you made on my life. I am eternally thankful for you and the time you were apart of my life.
*E gave permission for the use of this story and his photos in this blog.