She walks into our home, peeks around the corner from our sunporch to our living room and says, “Wow, what a beautiful home.”
My shoulders slump with relief and my entire body relaxes as I fight back the urge to respond, “Is it really? Do you really think so? Is it … good enough?”
I’d been preparing for our first home study for days. I’d been filling out forms upon forms upon forms until my fingers ached and my head grew foggy. I’d been hunting down all sorts of random pieces of information – a marriage certificate, proof of life insurance, addresses for every place Mike and I have lived since we were born.
I had covered every open outlet, I’d moved cleaners from the bottom of the linen closet to the top shelf, I’d transferred alllll the liquor (three bottles of vodka?) from the floor-level liquor cabinet to a high pantry shelf, out of reach of little hands.
You’d think we didn’t already have a child in our home, but of course we do. The difference is that we know Ryan. We know that he has no interest in the liquor cabinet or the kitchen cabinets or the linen closet. He has his own brand of mischief, trust me, but these particular things? Simply not an issue with him.
But when you decide to take in a child who is not yet legally yours, a child you don’t yet know, you need to be prepared for everything. You start looking around your home and thinking, “Oh dear God, that’s not safe and that’s not safe and...”
You lock away your medications. You diagram your Fire Escape Plan, which up until this point had simply been, “hope we never have a fire.”
We understand the why of it all, of course. We know it needs to be done, and we think it should be done. It’s jarring, though, to open your door to a stranger and feel like you’ve got 90 minutes to prove your worth as a parent, a role you’ve already actually had for more than four years.
Still, I know — all of this is the easy part to the process. My discomfort with proving myself as a worthy parent, my exhaustion with the piles of paperwork, my anxiety over the endless “what-ifs” … this is our initiation.
The stuff coming up? That’s the stuff that will change us forever.
Our caseworker sits at our kitchen table, tucks her hair behind her ears and softly tells us stories. Stories that are not meant to scare us but to prepare us. Stories that naturally do a little bit of both.
She needs to know that we’ve considered it all: How our current discipline methods won’t work with a foster child, how we’ll need birth parent approval for every haircut we schedule, how we might (will likely?) deal with bed wetting and/or food hoarding and/or unknown emotional triggers of all kinds.
But somehow I’m just relieved that we’re having this conversation at all. That she has looked at our home, has looked into our eyes and has deemed us worthy enough to prepare.