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Fostering first: Up early, and little time to spare since

POSTED: May 18, 2014 1:00 a.m.

It’s 5:30 a.m. on a Saturday, and my husband taps me.

“He’s moving around,” he whispers.

“He” is a little boy staying with us for the weekend, along with his sister.

I get out of bed, and sure enough, a shadowy little shape is in my bedroom.

“Hi!” he says, seemingly oblivious that it is pitch black outside and his foster parents told me he’d wake up closer to 7 a.m.

I take him back to his room and put him in bed. He grins at me and continues talking. Going back to sleep doesn’t seem likely.

It was our first weekend as foster parents, providing what’s called respite care for another foster family. The idea is to give the parents a much-needed break.

The only people who can watch the children overnight are those who have gone through the long process to become approved foster parents.

In fact, the only ones who can watch the children at all have to go through background checks and fingerprinting.

We picked up the two Friday night. They quietly ate their dinner at a hamburger place while my husband and I spoke with their foster parents.

We knew their schedule, and we had forms listing any issues they had, allergies and doctors’ phone numbers. The parents helped fasten their car seats into our SUV, and then the kids were loaded in.

We had never watched anyone’s children overnight. We’d both gotten advice from co-workers. I knew I could call family and friends with any immediate needs.

But it seemed strange to be driving away with two little ones. It seemed strange that they didn’t seem to think much of it, either, just going quietly along for the ride.

When we got home, we tried to follow their bedtime routine, brushing their teeth and reading a story. But when we put them in bed they cried, and we weren’t quite sure what the next step was. Finally, after rubbing their backs, rocking and singing lullabies, we got them to sleep.

Sleeping in a strange place with strangers probably isn’t comforting.

Then we had some time to ourselves. Only we were exhausted. Dinner, a half-hour of TV and it was lights out for us, too.

We expected to be exhausted. I’m not sure I quite realized how little time you have to yourself, though. They demand all of your attention all of the time.

Two hours for nap time on Saturday, allowing us some time to ourselves, seemed quite a luxury.

Of course anyone with children knows many of these things. But not many people go from zero to two toddlers in the course of a day.

We felt we did OK, though. But by 3 that afternoon, we were headed to meet the foster parents again. We were feeling a little less exhausted that day, maybe because they’d slept an extra half hour, until 6 a.m., or because they’d stayed in the nursery during church, giving us a brief break.

But it was a bit of a relief to hand them back, do some grocery shopping and go out to eat. Lounging at home without worrying about them felt pretty good.

Monday morning I was missing their little smiles. We set up another weekend to take care of them again, with plans to then take them full-time.


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