Thank goodness four of us were feeling good about life at that moment. Today was a reasonably good day. I made it through the morning rush, school drop off, Tyler’s preschool Thanksgiving Feast, getting the older boys shuttled to a playdate, and packing up everything for the little boys’ first visit with their mom. Our two year old Athlete is getting needier and needier every day when it comes to attention from me. We’re having all kinds of discipline issues resulting from the fact that I do have to feed other people and change other diapers and even speak to someone else, child or adult, now and then. But the day was going by pretty quickly by the time I picked everyone up to drive them to the visitation.
We arrived a few minutes late because of parking so I assumed the little boys’ mom would be eagerly waiting for us. She wasn’t. The four boys all played with the toys at the visitation center while we waited. Jake had to go to the bathroom so I started to take him and Tyler while the supervisor watched the other two, but Athlete wanted to come with me. He gets clingy in public places…I think he’s afraid I’m going to leave him somewhere with a stranger. Poor boy. When we got back from the potty trip, still no Mom. Thirty minutes later (we’re required to wait twenty) the supervisor tells us we should go home. We had been expecting to have a little time with Jake and Tyler and I, then take Jake to our good friend’s bowling birthday party.
I load all four boys back into the car. By this time, Baby Billy Goat has missed his afternoon nap, and Athlete has taken one that I didn’t want him to take on the way over (he’s up super late when he naps). They’re cranky and I’m sad. What must Athlete think? Does he really understand what happened? He knew he was supposed to see his mom and he didn’t. I don’t know how much he comprehends, but as I call Greg on the way home we both express how mad and sad it makes us.
We get home later than expected and I have to call the social worker who was planning to bring them home for us. We talk for a minute and I feed Baby Billy Goat a little because his schedule’s all thrown off, and give the three bigger boys a big snack. Then the three oldest start running and playing and having a great time climbing into and out of the playpen and throwing Baby Billy Goat’s soft football and soccer ball around. I am thankful that Athlete at least has something fun to do. I wonder if it’s taking his mind off of wondering where his mommy is, or whether he remembers that he was supposed to see her at all. While they play and Baby crawls through it all, I clean up the mess of the day. With Tyler’s Thanksgiving feast I didn’t even get a chance to do any dishes or sweeping up, much less corral the toys or clear the island of Jake’s school stuff. I work and feel glad that the boys are at least all happy.
Baby Billy Goat melts down because he’s now been awake since 11 a.m. and I need to keep him up for another hour. I put him in the carrier on my back and bounce around as I work. I survive another half hour or so with him on my back before he needs to get down again. We take out the pots and pans because Jake wants to conduct a band of brothers. They all four play for maybe fifteen minutes, laughing and having a great time. I watch for a bit, get Baby back up on my back, and look at the clock. At which point I make the realization.
It is 5:40 and we forgot to take Jake to our good friend’s bowling birthday party, which is from 4:30-6:30. My thoughts rush past…if I pack everyone up in the car and drive the 15 minutes there, what time will we get there? That’s when I burst into tears. It’s too late. Jake didn’t even know it was today, so it would be worse for him to show up as all the festivities are winding down than to not show up at all. I’ve lost control of my life, I realize.
I am that mom who forgets to bring Tyler a white t-shirt to paint a turkey handprint for the Thanksgiving feast. I’m the mom who misses carpools and sends out cub scout emails late and has nappy hair. I am the friend who is so self-absorbed with her own issues that she has to make a concerted effort to ask about anyone else during a conversation, if she remembers at all. I am completely consumed with one thing and one thing only. To make it through the day with four boys intact and well loved is my only mission. There is no room for being a good friend, a good cook, a good housekeeper, a good neighbor, seamstress, or listener. I don’t like this.
So while the boys play in their band and Baby Billy Goat fusses on my back, I hide myself in the laundry room and cry. But only for a minute, because if I leave the others unattended for too long, there will be trouble. So I wipe the tears and go cheer on the band, sniffing back the knowledge that I’ve lost my grasp on life. When Greg walks in, I get the hug I need and I retreat to my office to write this post. He greets everyone and slips outside to get the burgers on the grill.
In that brief moment, we hear Baby Billy Goat’s screams of real pain…big brother has a way of surprising us with his aggression and has either blasted Baby on the head with a pot or poked him in the eye with his ‘drumstick’ or slammed him into the corner of the island. Those are our best guesses, because Baby is in pain. Having come out of hiding to rescue Greg from having to deal with this alone, I put Baby into the high chair to feed him and get him to bed. When I see the huge red blotch spreading from the eye to the hairline, with a white line in the middle. This is a real injury. Now I’m worried and mad and in this moment of crisis I actually catch myself thinking about the incident report I’m going to have to fill out. I take Baby out of the highchair and hold him in a deathgrip on the couch so I can ice his head for five minutes while he screams bloody murder. Poor baby. I’m sorry I didn’t protect you better from this.
Discipline, screaming, crying, dinner, cleanup, another session of forehead ice screaming, diaper change, teeth brushing for everyone, jammies and bed for Baby. Now everyone else is watching UP in the theater. But I need to process and write and vent and grieve. For the loss of control over my life, the inability to protect the little ones in our house, the missed birthday party and missed birthmom visitation…so many things. The house is covered with legos and the floor is sticky to the touch. But I’ll go upstairs and watch the movie and lean on Greg and hope that Athlete falls asleep as he watches, because I don’t want to deal with two hours of bedtime tonight as the aftermath of his snooze in the car on the way to the visit that didn’t happen.
Tomorrow we’ll get up and do it all over again. We’ll try for one more visitation and hope that mom can make it this time. I wonder if she has a car, a job, a home? I wonder whether she cried tonight, too, when she missed the chance to see her boys for the first time in a month. I’m glad that I took the boys’ Halloween pictures a day or two ago so she’d have them in the little album I’ve been keeping for her. I wonder why the world is so broken and why I couldn’t remember to take Jake to the bowling party at 4:30. I wonder if we’ll make it until Wednesday, when the boys are supposed to move to a long term foster home where they’ll be with their big sister.
God is teaching me humility in a big way. I asked for Him to break down my pride several years ago, and He’s been working on it ever since. But between my surgery and fostering, He’s saved the best for last. He’s showing me that I CAN’T do it on my own. And maybe I won’t even do it all perfectly with His strength. Maybe I need to drop the ball in a major way sometimes so that He can teach me humility, compassion, and empathy for others that do the same thing. I’m not sure what His plan is. But we’ll keep walking in it. Even though this work He has for us is dirty and not always fun. He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it. (Philippians 1:6) Let us not grow weary of doing good. In due season we shall reap if we don’t lose heart. (Galatians 6:9) I will remember that Those who sow in tears will reap a harvest of joy. (Psalm 126:5)