Foster care was fun last night.
And I'm surprised at myself: I bribed him to try out for a kids' theater production. His hesitation was all fear of something new, and I saw a glimmer of desire to get onstage. Giddiness, even. Promised a trip to Country Buffet and the trampoline gym.
He practiced the whole show 50 times last week. My husband and I always chuckle when we hear him practicing in the bathroom.
Yeah, sure: "troubled preteen, emotionally disturbed." We marvel at the label he's often given.
As his foster parents, we get a front row seat to the full picture of a complicated human being.
First rehearsal last night:
I sat in the theater, trying to keep my preschooler quiet for a three hour practice, thinking about "the system."
This is foster care, but it's not "the system."
It's easy to see foster care as court dates and paperwork and a revolving door of heartache, but in this moment, foster care is reveling in the delight of a kid on stage for the first time.
It's a kid who would rather be alone than risk losing his temper in front of his peers. But tonight he laughed, he took instruction, he was on their level. He was equal. Not, "that crazy kid."
"The system" was non-existent for the evening.
Foster care meant watching him jump into vocal warm-ups with no meltdown or fear-driven refusal. (Each kid did the exercises individually in front of everyone. I almost cried when he participated with minimal prompting. Gosh, amateur theater is such a win over competitive sports for this kid).
Foster care meant singing his heart out when he barely spoke at auditions four weeks ago.
Foster care meant full tuition covered by a few people who want to give normal childhood experiences to kids in foster care.
Foster care was a flamboyant director genuinely impressed with this kid's full and enthusiastic vocals, offering him a solo on the spot.
It was a little "bruhdder" (my wiggly preschooler) begging me to let him get on stage with his idol (see a photo on our Facebook page).
"The system" moved over for a bunch of kind-hearted kids spending the evening learning new skills and making friends.
I even wondered, "Could theater be the force that keeps him alive and aware through his teen years? Could hours spent in a play help him break the cycle?"
I love the moments where I remember that foster care is not all appointments stress and trauma, but it's the privilege to help remind a kid what's worth loving in his life.
That's why I love being a foster mom, even when "the system" needs help. Because, usually, the most effective help we can give a kid in danger is simply the kind of attention that every kid needs. Just a couple of people laser focused on what ONE kid needs. On what will make him come alive.
And the best fix for the broken system? More families (and more people keeping those families refreshed) willing to help a kid, and his family, heal.
Foster care was fun last night.
ACTION ITEM: Will you help us energize 100 Colorado foster parents, giving them a boost as they do hard and important work giving kids normal childhood experiences? We need 100 folks to sponsor a feast for a Colorado foster family before Christmas. 40 down, 60 to go: https://www.fostertogether.co/send-a-feast
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