20 Mar How How How
LAD attracts attention wherever he goes. Put quite simply, he is irresistibly cute. I know this because everyone who sees him has to comment on it. We once went to a restaurant where every single member of the staff found an excuse to come and adore him. The chef, the owners, the back staff, every server. I’ve rarely had such attentive service! People on the street stop us to say how beautiful/cute/adorable he is, and will frequently ask follow-up questions about him, which we are delighted to answer.
When we get into conversations with the various members of his “fan club”, there are a few themes that frequently crop up:
- “How old is he? (He’s so cute! He’s so big!) How much does he weigh now? Has he started to [developmental milestone] yet?” Anyone might ask these sorts of questions– friends, family, strangers– and with little exception we are free to answer them in a straightforward manner. We love getting this line of questions, not only because the answers are a source of pride but also because the answers are clear-cut and there are many anecdotes that naturally follow. Why, yes, we’re getting more sleep now, but there was this ONE night…
- “How do you do it?” This theme is half-and-half. Sometimes the question has to do with parenting in general, and sometimes it has to do with fostering in particular. It’s easier to answer the former type than the latter, mostly because the range of socially acceptable, easy-to-swallow answers is so much wider with general parenting questions. Any fool can go to Target and see that there’s more than one way to bottle-feed a baby, more than one option for formula, more than one diapering system, baby carrier, discipline style, you name it; which system any given parent uses obviously depends on personal preference, lifestyle choices, genuine need, etc., and most people seem to be able to make room in their world for this kind of diversity. “We use a hypo-allergenic [whatever] because he’s sensitive to [whatever],” does not usually produce a stunned look or an intimidated “Whoa…” response. “We go to visit Bio-Mom X times per week,” almost always does.
- “How can you STAND it?” These are almost always foster-specific questions. What they mean is: how can you live with all the uncertainty, the possibility of giving him back, the regulations the County imposes, the aggravation of government bureaucracy, etc. Some of these questions are easy to field because they are based on false assumptions*. Answering them gives the questioner a genuine education, greater understanding of the system, less fear. If we do our job right, the person examines and re-examines their assumptions about life in general. At our absolute tip-top best, the person leaves the conversation seriously considering becoming a foster parent, or a respite provider, or a donor to Angels, or a CASA, or a Big Brother/Big Sister… At our worst, the person leaves shaking his or her head.
(* = The false assumptions are wide-ranging and sometimes eye-popping. I can’t tell you how many times my answers have involved drawing a distinction between some fictional Hollywood portrayal and Real Life. I try not to be too snarky when I point out that TV shows can certainly be entertaining, but they seldom provide a complete or realistic view of the world. In spite of what one might deduce from watching shows like Friends or Law & Order, for example, the overwhelming majority of people in New York City spend the day at work rather than in coffee shops and they manage to get through most days without getting murdered, shot at, or flirted with.)
Of course, the math in my head is just as far from describing the current reality as anyone else’s idea of how the world works. When I compare the latest Census Bureau statistics (308 million people in the United States) to Health & Human Services data estimating the number of kids in foster care (400k-ish nationwide, depending on the year), I cannot figure out how or why there is a critical shortage of foster parents. Even assuming that 99% of the adult population is neither in a position to foster nor a good candidate, the 1% left *still* outnumber the kids in need by almost 8-to-1.
How can I not do this?
How can I get more people to join with me?
How can they STAND it?
Shaking my head.