Of course, I was aware of how much work babies and toddlers can be. I’d seen how, in dual-parent households, parents take turns watching the kids so that they each get a break from child wrangling. And here I was being asked if I could take two children under two, by myself. Since my twin, best friend and number one supporter, Patricia, was out of the country, she wasn't available to talk to about this big decision. But that evening I got in touch with my high-school classmate Craig who, together with his partner, have adopted a pair of twin girls from foster care and have a baby foster son as well. He was able to balance talk of normal parenthood with the real-life challenges of being a foster parent so I could get a sense of what I would be getting myself into. Some of my far-flung good friends were on Facebook that night as well, so I found plenty of people with whom to discuss the challenges and opportunities of foster parenting two little ones.
The next evening, I met D and J. Within fifteen minutes, I could tell they were happy, healthy little girls and though I knew it would be a challenge, I couldn't think of one good reason to not accept their placement. Thursday I told their social worker my decision and Friday the girls were brought to my house and we spent our first evening together, my first as a mom.
Since that night, I have learned why people suggested I not take on more than one child. It can be maddening to have two kids crying at once, but only be able to soothe one child at a time. It is hard to put one baby to sleep while the other jumps up and down yelling in her crib. And it is a challenge to build trust with two children who have been taken from their parents (whom they may or may not have trusted) when you have to balance bonding with one with bonding with the other.
But I have also seen how the two make each other laugh, even at their young age. D is happiest when she can make her sister laugh by tickling J with her stubby toddler hands. When I walk into daycare to pick them up, D runs to me and J grins from her highchair. On Fridays, since they are too young for pizza night, we have a dance party. I put in a CD and take turns swinging each girl around, or put them both on my hips while I dance across the floor. Eventually I put J down on the floor, supporting her while she sits up, put D’s hand in J’s, and then grab each of their little hands so we make a small circle. Then we dance and move to the music and all three of us end up with huge smiles on our faces. Joy flows right through me and I am nothing but grateful that I can be a part of their lives.
One of the reasons why I wanted to be a foster parent now and not wait for the perfect situation (marriage, larger income, freedom to stay home with kids) is because I wanted to be able to share parenthood with my mother. I think my mom and dad did a great job raising my four siblings and me, and I admired how my mom was strict, but fair. Not to mention that she never had to utter the line “Wait until your father gets home,” because she kept us in line herself. I’d seen her help my siblings with their kids and I wanted to have the opportunity to share in that too.
When I told my mom that I had been certified, my mom reminded me that any child I raised would automatically become her beloved grandchild. Before the girls were set to arrive that Friday, she and my brother-in-law whipped my place into child-happy shape, rearranging furniture and toys. My mom wanted to put blankets in the girl’s cribs, but I told her that per foster care rules, I wasn't allowed to give them blankets. The next time I saw her, she had purchased several soft, warm, footed pajamas, guaranteeing the girls would never get cold. So this is what it’s like, I thought to myself as she handed over the pajamas, to have mom as a grandmother. My heart smiled.
It has also been a blessing to see how becoming a parent has connected me even more to my family and friends. One sister put word out about the double blessing and donations of clothes, car seats and toys came pouring in. Her husband delivered the donations and set up a play gym in my back yard. My brother and his wife got to work installing baby gates, cleaning up my kitchen, even shoveling snow. My sister who lives out of state helpfully had parenting books and much-needed bottles sent to my house. My friends and even acquaintances, have messaged me with support, shared parenting advice and given my girls wonderful books for us to read at night. It has been a warm surprise to see how everyone’s love for me has seeped into giant love for my girls.
As for my twin, Patricia and I used to wonder what it would be like to marry identical twins and raise our kids together. In reality, there have been days when she has woken up at 5:00 am with her kids, right about the same time I was going to bed after a night out with friends. Now with my two girls, there have been several weekend days when we are both up at 7:00 am, texting or chatting back and forth. A few times when she has called, I have said the words she has often said to me, “Can I call you back? I’m giving the kids a bath.” Maybe that sounds boring to you, but for me, it is thrilling. I finally am living a life that, as hectic as it is, is the life I want to live.