During our foster parenting class, someone asked how long cases typically take. The social worker said something like "typically between 6 and 14 months, but sometimes longer." In my head I translated that time frame as "Doable and OMG-WHAT-AN-ETERNAL-NIGHTMARE."
On that note I would like to welcome you to my fourteenth month of foster parenting. I would like to say that it has not been an eternal nightmare. The last three months have actually been really nice. The five months before that were... I survived them. The six months before that were also not that bad and totally doable.
If you've ever been to Disneyland and ridden Splash Mountain, you know that the whole ride builds up to a big drop. One time I was on Splash Mountain and someone got out of the their little log seat before the drop, so in order to help that person off the ride the Disney ride operators stopped all the log carts. At the time I was sitting about halfway up the clickety-clackety ramp, just moments from going over the edge. Our cart halted, leaving us hanging, waiting, unsure of when we would start again, anticipating the plunge ahead but not entirely sure of when it would hit us. I'm never nervous about roller coasters, but for some reason that pause in the ride gave me so much anxiety.
Of course after the ride began again, we shot down the waterfall and everything was fine. Naturally we got wet, but I was relieved to know that I didn't have to wait or anticipate the drop anymore.
In terms of our foster care experience I feel like last Spring was the "halted-on-the-way-up" portion - we splashed pretty hard this Summer - and now we aren't quite in Zippity-Do-Da territory, but we're drying off and catching our breath. We're rounding the bend... but this bend is going to be a long one.
We found out this week that it will be about two months until the court sets that date for parental rights to be terminated. Then Mason's biological parents still have 4 months, before rights are terminated, in which they can appeal. The appeal could add an additional 6-12 months on to the length of the case. It is only after parental rights are terminated that we can begin our adoption process - and that (at its speediest) will probably take 4 months. Again, these are just my estimates. Everything can always take much longer.
So what I'm learning is this: patience.
Ugh. I HATE patience. It is my least favorite Fruit of the Spirit, my most challenging virtue, yet it is currently my primary task (not to mention the amount of patience I have to exude on a minute-by-minute basis with my little Wild Man).
About 8 months ago I was crying and praying and I said "Please God, whatever lesson you're trying to teach me here, I just want to learn it and be done."
Naturally, the lesson I'm supposed to learn can only be fully comprehended in t-i-m-e. However, I am thankfully learning this lesson. I am - shockingly - discovering patience inside of me. Now, I am not a deep well of patience, but I am - stupidly - praying that I become one. This concept, this deep well of patience idea, came to a few months ago, and I surprised myself by wanting to have a patience that just flows inside of me. A patience that I can always draw from. A patience that extends beyond myself and gives to others.
I know that 14 months ago I DID NOT want this well. A lot of the time I still think that it's one of my more horrible ideas, but I am learning. I'm growing. What I thought sounded like an eternal nightmare has turned out to be super, really hard, but also really good for me. Of course now I live with the terror that once I discover this deep well of patience inside of myself that I'm going to have to use it and draw from it and everything in life is going to long and arduous, but that's not a totally rational fear, and I know it.
I have a friend who uses the phrase "in the fullness of time." When I first heard her say it years ago, I didn't know what it meant, but I thought it sounded like a nice idea. I think - in my very long journey towards patience - I'm learning what that phrase means, and I can appreciate that.