For your edification and reading pleasure, I have here compiled for you (JUST for you):
How to Be Prepared when Waiting for Foster Placements: [subtitle] Things They Don’t Tell You
1. Step on a Crack
Supermans. Dead lifts. Whatever it is you gotta do for that lower back. Holy moly, chilt. Do some crazy yoga nonsense. Boat pose or whatever it is. Bulk that sucker up. Then flip it on over and do some baby pose, rock it back and forth. Child’s Pose. Stretch out that lumbar. You could well go from None Pounds of holding a human for hours at a time at a spine-cracking angle – to Upwards of Twenty-Five Pounds… OVERNIGHT. Get thee ready.
2. Locked & Loaded
Go to your local gym or fitness-outfitted aquatic center. Find some free weights; maybe start with the smaller dumbbells and work your way up to those big like 45-lb disc things that the bald-veiny-headed dudes are always moving around. Stand, feet roughly shoulder-width apart. Do half of a bicep curl with your weight balanced on your left arm. Hold it at the top. Hold it. Hoooooold it. Hoooooooooooooooold it. Keep your arm at a 90 degree angle, parallel to the ground, for approx 60-180 min. For realism, tiiiilt those shoulders back, jutting hips forward (you know, the OPPOSITE of mountain pose), simulating the nice shoulder shelf you will provide for tired or don’t-want-to-walk or sleeping-soundly-but-screaming-when-you-put-them-down babes. If you are about to die, relief may be momentarily provided by the right hand, although the right hand will usually be needed irl for things like cooking dinner, attending to other children, getting some work in on your laptop, folding laundry, or administering soggy goldfish crackers and lukewarm tea into your own neglected maw. Calf raises and a salsa-adjacent rock-back-and-forth dance step thing are also helpful. Ignore the folks staring in the gym as sweat pours down your forehead and you’re still standing there through half of Kelly & Michael and a full episode of Supernatural on the overhead screens. They don’t know your life.
3. Oh, and about those goldfish crackers…
Goldfish crackers and bananas. Hard currency in kid world. Worth their glycemic index in gold. The number of children who have been brought from “WTF IS GOING ON WHERE AM I WHAT IS THIS WHO ARE YOU” to “Ok, ok, I’m pickin up what you’re layin down, I think we might have something to work with here” over a bowl of goldfish crackers and a few banana slices is….. probably not a number known by modern mathematics. And you will want ANYTHING to get that blood sugar going, telling that sweet little brain that at least on this particular front, it might not die today. For real. Priceless. It’s only the tiniest start, but you may well find yourself like OMG WHERE DO I START. So here you go.
4. The Fetch-Squat
Again, at your neighborhood gym. Find a 30-ish-lb weight of some shape. Again, jut hips forward and shoulders back until various things start popping. Then, using a form that absolutely precisely NO health professional has ever in the history of the world condoned much less recommended, and without remotely adjusting the awkward angle of your top half, squat down (slowly, slowly, smooooothly, you wouldn’t want to cause any discomfort to anyone) as though picking up something off the floor. For realism, you may bring a small bag of props to drop on the floor – such as pacis, blankets that you are trying to use to put the child to sleep, your iPhone, noise-making toys that you are 100% guaranteed to step on in the dark ensuring the angry rousing of your child, etc. If your knees pop like the dickens, nobody cares. Unless it is loud enough to wake OH I DON’T KNOW SAY a human child. There’s always time, later on, to get a job with decent enough health benefits to be able to afford knee surgery. You’ll be fine.
5. The Carrying of Alllllll the Stuff
Bring out your duffels, your backpacks, your diaper bags you have in waiting. Fill them with all of the things. All of them. Every actual thing. Fill them and fill them some more. The purses. (The black-friendly one your stuff is IN as well as the brown-friendly one your sweater matches with.) The reusable shopping bags. Fill them, and lift them. Hike them up onto the forearms and shoulders. Now it’s your hands’ turn. A sippy cup or two, your own tea mug, the piece of construction paper signifying the Sunday School craft that you don’t want piling on the floor of your car, the stuffed dog that became completely and utterly indispensable at the very last second on the way to the car, the toast you’ve been trying to eat for the past 45 minutes, the jacket he won’t put on but you know he’ll need once you get where you’re going, the bike he swore up and down he wanted to ride until you got to the actual farthest geographical point away from your house, on your walk. And carry that stuff. Carry it though your arms wobble and your hair flies into your eyeballs and mouth in the wind. Carry it though your child runs the precise opposite direction of the car and you are enticing him with threats you could not possibly carry out in your current state. Carry it all.
And then try to find your keys.
6. And When the Call Comes…
Take a shower. NOW. Now now now. God knows when the next time is that you’ll be able to take a shower. When CPS showed up at our door last Friday morning at about 4:30, Dane had literally half of his neck shaved as we signed the papers. He was getting ON it. Next, eat a meal, and drink a large glass of water. It might not be that big of a deal. Honestly in the past few cases, it’s not that circumstances actually prevented us from doing these things, it’s just that you’re kind of standing around thinking of things to do and doing the things and thinking there must be more things to do, for like, ever, and you just kind of forget basic things like hydration and nourishment. Or maybe that’s just me.
7. Super Spy
Get some ginormous sunglasses. Maybe some hats. A zoom lens for your iPhone camera. Brush up on your Facebook/Google stalking skills. Good times are to be had dropping off and picking up at visits. Scoping the parking lot for likely candidates for bio parents, and nonchalantly circling the lot until they’ve disappeared inside. Sneaking a pic over the dash while pretending to read a book, so you can text it to your husband. Sitting in the waiting room to pick the little dude up and mastering the look of “Nope, not a foster parent, but if I was, and if you were the bio parent, I’d be so nonjudgmental and approachable and totally not placing myself in opposition to you, because like I’m totally on your team.” “But also I might leave the parking lot in the exact opposite direction of my house and drive around a couple other parking lots just in case you’re trying to see where I’m going.”
And some other things to look forward to:
8. The Firsts
They all happen at once. The first time he takes a nap successfully. The first time you realize Oh crap, this kid can walk, he just didn’t want to for like the entire first day. The first smile, which is possibly like 2 days after he arrives. The first time he puts his little head down on your shoulder and heaves a big sigh. The first time he makes a basket (with a basketball, not with like softened reeds), or sits up, or sings the entire lyrics front to back of Let it Go, or whatever it is that you had no idea they could do until they did it, but it’s like a year’s worth of firsts that you get to celebrate in like 3 days.
9. The Patterns
And on the other end, there’s the week where you’re trying to find a pattern in ANYTHING. Well, he napped at 11 this day but he had been up the entire night before, and then the next day he napped at 1, but then the next day he only slept in the car and then wouldn’t go down again, so maybe he “normally” naps at like, noon-ish? Do we take an average? Median? Twice he ate turkey, but that one time he spit it out? The two nights out of the past five he slept through the night, and on those nights we brushed teeth AFTER bath, and used essential oils, but one of those nights we read 2 books and the other night we read no books, so what’s the magic combo? We’re like superstitious bowlers. If anything goes right you try to replicate it with neurotic attentiveness.
Good times, guys. I can’t imagine why anybody would want to miss out on this gorgeous process. And this is only really our third placement. Veteran foster parents – what am I forgetting?