When we arrived at the birthday party, we sat around eating and catching up with friends while all the kids ran around and played. We had been at the party for about 30 minutes when I saw, through a glass door, a little head peek over the top of a couch. I thought the unfamiliar little girl was beautiful, but I didn’t realize until later (when I saw both girls) that she was one of the twins.
The party continued, we ate and opened presents and talked. Throughout the entire afternoon and evening I kept looking and hoping for an opportunity to talk with the girls. I really wanted to, but it just didn’t happen. The party started to wind down and guests started to leave. I didn’t want to go. I needed to stay. I wanted to be with the girls longer.
After all the guests had left, Matt and I found ourselves sitting with Les and Debbie and his parents. The twins were nearby, curled up under blankets, asleep in front of the TV. We started explaining to Les’ parents about our desire to be foster parents and our process of applying. We offered to babysit the girls anytime, so they could have a quiet evening out, and we could practice caring for children together. The six of us talked for a while, but finally we had to go. I walked out of the house wondering if I would ever see those precious little girls again.
About a week later, I left on a trip to the desert with my sisters, Lisa, Ellen, and Susan. It is a yearly tradition for the four of us to get away somewhere each summer, just the girls. We all look forward to it all year.
We were doing our sister thing, which includes lots of lazing around, eating, and talking. We had been in the desert for a day and a half, completely content, enjoying each others’ company and the chance to be away, when I got a phone call from Matt. Grandpa (Les’ dad) had called and asked if Matt and I would be able to babysit the following evening. But I wasn’t supposed to arrive back home for two more days. I told Matt I would call him right back.
I was not sure at all what I was supposed to do. Our sister vacations were sacred. I couldn’t just announce that I was leaving early. But I knew there was something special about these girls, and I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to spend an evening with them. I was so torn.
I explained the situation to my sisters, sure that they would urge me to stay and finish our trip. Sure that they would assure me there would be other opportunities to babysit the girls. And I knew that was what I would do. But, to my complete surprise, they had the opposite response. They told me I should pack my bags and leave early. They felt I should go back home and spend the evening with Matt and the girls.
I was so, so grateful to them for their understanding and support. I felt so much peace about the decision to cut the trip short. And I was beside myself with anticipation at the opportunity to spend a whole evening with the girls.
Matt and I pulled up to their house the next evening, full of nervousness and anticipation. As we entered the house, the girls ran and cowered behind their grandparents. They were just as anxious as we were.
Grandpa and Grandma got ready to leave as the girls questioned them repeatedly about how long they would be gone. Grandma gave us the lowdown on when to give them their bath, their milk, their dessert, there bedtime story and song….
And then we were alone with the girls.
We all went outside to play. The girls rode their tricycles, we kicked around their soccer balls together, and played Ring Around the Rosie, falling and laughing on the grass. Matt hoisted them up over and over to shoot baskets. It was completely joyful and magical.
Then we went back inside the house to eat some chocolate pudding. Later, I filled up the bathtub with warm water and marveled at how surreal it was to be washing their hair. I loved caring for them. I loved them. I didn’t want the night to end.
They fell fast asleep and Matt and I floated home on a cloud. It was an amazing time of being together, the four of us. We were smitten.
I absolutely could not wait to see them again. I thought about them constantly and wondered what they were doing. I hoped each day that Grandma or Grandpa would call and ask us to babysit. I waited and waited. But weeks went by and we didn’t hear anything. I started to wonder if that was it, just one night of babysitting. I couldn’t bear the thought. And I couldn’t wait any longer. So, I worked up the courage and called Grandma and Grandpa.I really, really wanted to babysit the girls again. I thought, “I’ll just call and see how the girls and their grandparents are doing. There’s no harm in that.” I chatted with Grandma and then casually (or as casually as I could) asked if there was another night we could babysit. Grandma mentioned a possible date the following month.
Wait a month? That was so far away! I practically begged to know if there was a time Matt and I could come over sooner. Maybe Grandma sensed my urgency or my desperation. Maybe she thought I was pushy. But she mentioned that they had baseball season tickets and wondered if we would like to care for the girls while they attended the games. She gave me the next ten dates of the baseball games.
I was ecstatic. TEN dates scheduled to babysit! Ten opportunities to spend time with the girls and get to know them. Ten! I didn’t care what else might already have been on the calendar. Every other event was second priority to being with the girls. We would get to see them about twice a week for the next five weeks.
Each time we came over to babysit, we all got a little more comfortable. The girls would greet us more enthusiastically, we started to develop a routine, we were becoming friends with the girls and their grandparents. It was so, so incredibly sweet.
During this time we took the girls on our first big outing to the small neighborhood zoo. We borrowed Grandma’s car so we could use her car seats. It was such a strange sensation, buckling them up and driving around town. It wasn’t just Matt and me in the front seats. There were two little people in the back seat. Kids. We’d never driven with children in the car before. It was wild. And scary. And so, so fun.
Our morning at the zoo was a blast. We held hands with them and carried them, snapped photos of them, watched the monkeys and the emus together, rode the train, bought them little toy cameras at the gift shop, and basically relished every moment being together.
Predicting there might be more outings in our future together, Matt and I decided to take the plunge and purchase two car seats to put in my car. When I went to Babies R Us to buy the car seats, I felt so unsure of myself. I felt like a fraud, someone trying to pretend to be a mom, but really just a babysitter. My head was so mixed up. I was so happy, so hopeful, and yet so unsure, so anxious of what the future might (or might not) hold. “But,” I reasoned, “Even for a regular sitter, car seats were very useful.” So I went ahead and bought them. All the time I was looking at the other “real” parents walking around the store and wishing I could be one of them.Matt and I continued babysitting the girls regularly. Every chance we got to spend with them was cherished. Both of us had fallen completely in love with them. But I was impatient. I missed them when I had to go a whole day with out seeing them. I wondered where these relationships were going.
One afternoon, after a few weeks had gone by, without thinking, I just asked. I asked Grandma and Grandpa if they had considered the possibility of allowing Matt and me to care for the girls. I’m not sure why I asked at that moment. I wasn’t planning to ask. The words just came out before I could stop them.
And then they responded that they would like us to be the girls’ foster parents.
I felt like my head spun around three times. It was too good to be true. They could live in our house? We could see them everyday? We could be their parents? It took me several minutes to comprehend the words. I felt numb and overwhelmed and joyful beyond words.
Matt and I started to pursue our certification for foster parenting with a passion. And we continued to spend time with the girls regularly. They visited our house with their grandparents for dinner for the first time, and Grandma enrolled them in the preschool on the same campus where I teach.
And we finally introduced the girls to my family. My mom and dad were hosting a backyard BBQ, so we took the girls along with us. The girls fit in perfectly with all the rowdy chaos. They had fun playing with all my nieces and nephews in the sprinklers and chasing the tortoise around the backyard. They both felt especially comfortable with my dad. It was so sweet to watch my family reach out to them and love them as much as we did.
Grandma, Grandpa, Matt and I decided it would be a good idea to have the girls sleep over at our house for a trial run. I couldn’t wait. I planned out the entire evening and morning down to the minute. Here is the actual schedule:
4:00 swim at grandma and grandpa’s house
6:00 feast on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, grapes, carrots, applesauce, yogurt, and fishy crackers (their favorites)
6:30 play at the park
7:15 go get frozen yogurt
8:00 bath time
8:30 make wooden beaded necklaces
We did all the things I had scheduled. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, and I was too overwhelmed to deviate from the plan. I think I actually had the schedule written on a piece of paper in my pocket. That’s how scared I was.
They went to bed quietly, and we didn’t hear from them until 7:20 the next morning. All through the night, I could barely comprehend that there were two little girls curled up under the covers in the guest room. I checked on them every hour, so I barely got any sleep. I was so nervous they would wake up and be scared. But they made it. We all made it!
chapter three coming soon!