I Didn’t Know It Would Look Like This (Otherwise Entitled: When Fostering Makes You Sweat)

The fits. The tantrums. The meltdowns. Eardrum piercing screams…from rage…from fear…from




Little fists swinging. Marks from little teeth.

Which brings me to the sweat. Oh. Holy. Disgusting. The sweat. Rivulets racing down my face…my back…my knees. My knees, people. I know it’s summer, and I know I’m carrying around extra poundage. But oh. my. goodness. Hot sweats. Cold sweats. Each tantrum brings on the moisture. As if my body realizes how utterly helpless I feel so it decides to copiously produce gallons of sweat. As if that will calm me down.

The fear. Oh, the intensity of the fear of these broken littles. The way she sits outside the bathroom door and screams, sobbing that I’m leaving her. Her two year old limbs starting to lengthen…but with just enough baby dimples left to tear at the heart even more. The way he asks me if I’ll leave him at home alone…at six. The way she follows me from room to room, plaintively whining, “I hold you, Mommy.”

The stares. Six kids. SIX kids. At least one in meltdown mode. The grocery store. The dollar store. Walmart. And while one melts down, two others take advantage of the moment to act like acrobatic chimpanzees. I feel the judgment sitting on me, heavy. And then…I sweat. Big Mama, sweating, toting a kid on each hip while the others dangle from various appendages. Oh good grief, I’m starting to feel trickles of sweat just thinkin’ about it.

Shame from the quick flashes of jealousy I feel when I drop kids off for a visit with their birth mama. I fed these kids all week…bathed them…sat on the floor with them as they beat the furniture (or me) with their tiny fists. I held them in my arms as they sobbed…giggled…nodded off to sleep.

And then the whiplash of intense regret and heartbreak when they run to me after that visit, yelling “Mom! My mom’s back!”

Oh mercy, the feelings. The emotions. They are





Did I mention the fatigue? I feel as if I just gave birth to twins. Just as exhausted. Sleep deprivation bites, no matter what form it comes from. My hormones are a bit like new mama hormones too. I cry one moment…only to be laughing hyena-like through my tears the next.

And the red and blue lights in my rearview mirror because I’d been paying more attention to six little voices behind me than the speedometer in front of me.

The loneliness. When I don’t want to reach out because I can’t bear to see the look in your eyes that says “this was your choice” or “maybe you shouldn’t be doing this.” Because I know this is our calling right now…but that doesn’t make it easy. And sometimes I just want someone to hug me and say “it is going to be okay. You are doing just fine” … even if they think I am beyond crazy. (Spoiler alert: I am.)

That a two year old could drop the f-bomb with more clarity and vigor than me. And that word was one of her firsts. And that I would be called a b****h more often in a month of fostering than in my entire life…(well to my face anyway.)


And you know what?

I expected it to look like every bit of that. I’d read and trained and read some more and prepared my heart for every worse case scenario.

(Okay…not really getting pulled over. I didn’t prepare for that. And, Mr. Policeman? First of all, thank you for doing your duty. I am grateful to you for being on the road to protect us from harm…especially in the form of crazy, sleep deprived big mamas going a touch too fast on town roads. But second? I’d like to apologize for the tears. Sigh. I think maybe you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yes…I got the ticket but you got hormones and tears and sweat. I am so very sorry, sir.)

The point is: I knew this would be hard.

I was prepared for hard.

But there were things that blind sighted me in this new journey.

I didn’t realize that this would look like early morning cuddles with littles sneaking into my bed…overjoyed that I’m still there.

I didn’t know that I would soak in their scent and marvel that they even smell like they could be mine – and what a joy it is to provide clean clothes and bubble baths and fresh haircuts and trimmed fingernails.

I didn’t know that a simple question could rob you of all air until little eyes looked into mine, wide, wanting to trust as words lisped out of sweet rosebud mouths. “Can I call you Mommy?”

I wasn’t prepared for the fiery defensiveness that would arise when I see strangers looking askance at these children. Maybe they are wondering why a six year old sits snug on my hip, like a toddler. Or why I am not parenting defiance in a tougher way. I want to lecture, shake my finger and explain. But I’ve perfected looking the other way. Showing the other cheek.

I didn’t know I could love my biological children any more than I already do, until a foster child taught me about grace. And I learned to apply it a bit more liberally to those around me.

I wasn’t aware of how heart-swelling proud I could be of my children until I saw them take “the least of these” in under their wings. Until I saw my nine year old boy teach his six year old foster brother a “secret brother handshake.” Or until tears gather as my three year old asks every morning if her “best friend” is still here as she frantically searches for her two year old foster sister…and oh.heaven.help.me the grins as they find each other.

I didn’t anticipate the antics of these same sisters, who were quickly best friends. The bottle of black nail polish. (Oh my friends, that is a blog for another day. I don’t even have the energy.) Or the gymnastics that would ensue on my tired, sad furniture. And the deep belly giggles.

I didn’t know my heart could swell bigger and bigger and bigger as these children, with attachment issues, find me a dozen times a day…in between tantrums and play time and naps…just to tell me they love me. No, like they “really, really love me.”

I hadn’t planned on falling more in love with my husband as I saw him tenderly tend to broken littles with broken dreams and broken pasts. As he swooped in as my knight in shining armor (or polos and wrinkle-free khakis…because THIS mama doesn’t iron) to take over with a rage-filled child when I. am. simply. done. When I see his eyes pool with tears he refuses to shed when he thinks ahead to the uncertain future. When I see him kneel down and tell a little boy that he loves him…and wants to help him become a God-loving, honorable man.

I planned on the hard.

I planned on the hurt.

I planned on falling in love.

I planned on broken hearts.

But I was not prepared for it to look like this. A thousand beautiful moments in a day, captured in this super ordinary life. Amidst all the potty breaks and potty mouths and laundry and dishes, there is a beauty shining through this home because of two littles.

A little of the divine peeking into our ordinary.

I didn’t expect it to look like that.

joy dandilion



1 thought on “I Didn’t Know It Would Look Like This (Otherwise Entitled: When Fostering Makes You Sweat)”

  • Nicki,
    I admire you so much for fostering. It is so beautiful, selfless, and hugely important in those little lives. I read your blog intermittently, but I want you to know you have my love and support and e-hugs always!

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