Guest Author: Kevin Neubert
I’m Kevin. I was a foster parent. My husband, Jim, and I got ‘the call’ for a baby one December and sped to the hospital to pick him up. We were told he’d be a two-day placement. I figured, “Heck, I can skip the gym for two days and care for a baby.” That was 2,115 days ago. As we settled in to be parents of our little guy, we also learned he had four half-siblings placed in other foster homes. Our caseworker mentioned that it’d be great to have them all in the same home.
We said, “That WOULD be great… But no.”
Then, during a sibling visit, I briefly met the other kids. Our caseworker nudged us again, reminding us that it’d be great to have them all in the same home.
We talked and talked and talked and talked about it. And then we said, “Okay, let’s do this.”
After all, we thought, we’re both teachers. We’re organized. We’re patient. If anyone can do this for these kids, it’s us. So, we quickly became a family of seven with an 8, 6, 4, 3, and 1-year-old.
At this point in the story, things start to shift a little bit. So, before moving on, let’s be perfectly clear: We consider ourselves very lucky to have these kids in our lives.
But let’s also say this about parenting five kids: We. Are. Exhausted. I feel like the optimism I had and the calm that came when I was parenting (even in the difficult moments) are gone… and that the periodic weekend away, fleeting chances for sleeping in, and routines that we fall back on are not enough to ‘refill my tank.’ It’s definitely not always sunshine and rainbows. And it certainly isn’t what we had planned. We still manage to stay organized… but it’s sometimes a battle. And I’m a little less patient than I thought I was. And I do try to remind myself that we’ve done something good for these kids even though there have been tears and reflection and thoughts that we may have been crazy.
And then I look at the kids… their smiling faces and (mostly) good attitudes in the face of all they’ve been through and I think, “how could we not give them a forever place to stay?!”
So we persisted.
We became a ‘Forever Family’ on June 26, 2014. And, although adoption day did give us a moment to breathe a sigh of relief in a lot of ways, it did not permanently erase all of the doubts and fears about our family. However, in all honestly, the issues we face are not because we are a family led by two dads or because our kids spent some time in foster care. It is because parenting. Is. Hard. And the learning curve in which adoptive families find themselves can be pretty steep since the parents don’t always get to “grow up” with their little ones. And that some of those little ones may be relatively big when they came to your home. And those bigs already have personalities. And some of those personality traits are… not always awesome. For us, each day becomes easier. But, 5+ years in, I thought I’d feel more confident about it all.
As excited as I am to have family like I always wanted, I am also in a fairly constant state of worry and nervousness. I worry that I won’t be able to give them all the time and attention they each need or want. I worry that I sometimes feel like we’re running a breakfast-eating, getting-dressed, do-your-homework factory rather than a family. But I don’t want to let the worry consume me to the point where I can’t see the joy.
So I consciously make a note of the joyous moments. I watch my kids play together and genuinely enjoy one another, while I breathe a sigh of relief that bringing them back together was the right thing to do. I celebrate the partnership that I have with my husband that has led us to so many successes. I go to bed each night — on the bad days and the good ones — vowing to try to make tomorrow even better. I share stories from our daily life and feel better when other parents can relate.
There are days (fewer of them now than there used to be) where I still wonder: Were we crazy?!
And, yes, I have come to accept that we may have done something crazy. But we took the kids, we strive to be a big happy family, and we love them with all our heart. It was a shock; it was hard; and it may not have been the family we had planned-on. But, as a favorite song of my husband’s says, “sometimes the best thing you can do is change your plan.”
It turns out our caseworker was right, too: having all the kids together, in the same home, is pretty great. Crazy, yes. But great.