On saying no to a second foster child showed up on Offbeat Mama precisely as we were struggling to make a decision on taking an additional foster placement, and I am hoping that we will be able to say the same thing about our decision that I have to say about hers: “I’m glad you did what is right for y’all.”
Now that we have made a decision, I find this bit of the Offbeat Editors’ introduction particularly fascinating: “she still wanted to say yes — but ultimately had to say no,” because my process was precisely the opposite: I wanted to say no — but ultimately had to say yes.
Now, that sounds awful, like the “Ugh, the system is so terrible” stories you hear (if you, in fact, listen to foster parenting stories) about being pressured to take more placements than you can handle (note: We weren’t pressured. “The system” has been very good. They did ask on day one if we would take all three, but we were only certified for two and they’ve never mentioned it again. And every bad experience we’ve had with “the system” has been an obvious result of a drastic case of overworked/underfunded.). This is not that story.
This is the story about how three kids has always sounded my “Not me! Not never! Not no how!” alarm. I don’t use that alarm much, though, and even when I do there is usually a caveat. Only I had never thought enough about having kids to bother pushing past the alarm into the land of “but”. Especially since my wife, who has thought about having kids her whole life, felt similarly (though, as with all things to do with children, with notably less panic).
But with our two foster kids separated from their sibling, we couldn’t help but start thinking about the caveats. Notably, was the situation we found ourselves in the exact exception to something we had been so sure about? One day, on a rare occasion when all three kids were playing together we looked at each other and said, “So… this is crazy… but I’ve been thinking…” I’m not sure we managed to finish the sentence, but it clearly ended with whatifwehadallthree.
It was equivocal, it was terrifying even to say, and I think we were both certain there would be major hurdles so that it wasn’t truly an option — but it felt like a moral obligation to at least consider it. Not a moral obligation to do it — that’s more complicated — but we at least had to have the discussion. Then we could in good conscience say, “It’s a shame they aren’t together, but that is certainly not something we can do for them.” So we talked.
And we ran into a serious problem: there were no hurdles.
There were no logistical hurdles: our day care could handle it; we could get a waiver to be certified for three, since they are siblings; the other foster family, while sad to have a kid leave, thought it was a fabulous idea; and it turns out we can fit three car seats in our car (this was not something we had in mind when we bought it).
But then, even worse, there were no personal hurdles — if you discount the “Not me! Not never! Not no how!” alarm in my head. Sure, it would take a few minutes longer to get ready in the morning and get things done, but we’ve already had to adjust to the fact that you can’t really hurry with children; we can spare a few more minutes of our day. Sure, three kids throwing tantrums would be worse than two kids doing so, but the two we’ve got are pretty well-trained in time out, so it would mostly just be louder; louder is something I’ve simply had to learn to deal with. Sure, there will be an adjustment period, and it will be hard; then it will be better. In the end, there are a million difficulties, but most of them feel like the difference between kids and no kids, not the difference between two kids and three kids.
Which left us with only the alarm to excuse us: “Not me! Not never! Not no how!” A valid concern. After all, the kids are only better off together if we can still care for them well — and being knocked off our rockers would present a problem. Except that wasn’t what was sounding the alarm. In the end, what the alarm was trying to say was not actually “Not me! Not never! Not no how!” Once the alarm calmed down and had a cup of tea (or a bit of whiskey), what it actually said was “I would never choose this.” Because if this were family planning, we wouldn’t be having the conversation.
But this is not us choosing to have three children; three children are already there. Our choice was much simpler than that. Our choice was simply whether we can take care of three kids (well). And, oddly, we don’t have any reason to think we can’t. It was always obvious to us that if we can, we should.
So, one week after saying “Yes, that makes perfect sense,” to a story about saying no to a second foster placement, we are going to bring home a third foster placement we were sure we would say no to. Because it makes perfect sense — even if I didn’t want it to.