I feel the familiar anxiety welling up. It washes over me as the muscles around my shoulders and neck tighten. The unsettling feeling eventually lodges itself in my gut. I breathe in and out. Deeply. I try to use my breath to push the knots out of my stomach, but they are too tight, and every scream from the other room pulls them a little tighter.
He’s been screaming for about forty minutes now, this little human who has somehow woven himself into my life in messy, complicated ways that I don’t even fully understand. This tiny person who has no relation to me in a biological, blood sense, but who is the thing that dictates most of my comings and goings right now.
Two years ago, foster care was a distant reality. It was a nice concept. It was a thing that I knew would be hard, but also, I assumed, good. The idea to foster was born of a season in which I acknowledged my own excess—the abundance of time and resources I had to give. I had enough. More than enough. And I wanted to share it.
But now, a year and a half into life with T, there are times I don’t want to help carry his pain. There are days I want to drop it back into his lap, dust off my hands, and just walk away. There are so many days I want to avert my eyes, turn my back, and pretend like it’s all fine. Days I just want to meet my friends for happy hours and have dinner parties and book my next trip. There are days it’s too much. There are days I want to quit. There are days that cleaning his urine out of my carpet one more time feels like it will break me—it makes me so mad I could scream.
Sometimes I do scream. And as mad as I am, it helps me understand. Life’s not fair. It hasn’t been fair to T, so he screams. He screams because he doesn’t know what else to do when it feels too big and too hard and too confusing.
He’s still screaming now. Between pure shrieks of frustration, he’s screaming that I’m a mother-fucking moron. The very worst human alive. And, my favorite: a mangy specimen. Which is, I assume, some combination of insults he’s collected from Calvin and Hobbes. He’s nothing if not original in that regard. And I cling to that insult as a ray of hope. A tiny ray of hope that allows me to breathe in just a little deeper. He has come a long way. He has grown. He can read Calvin and Hobbes and sound out words like specimen. That matters. It has to matter.
But today isn’t going to be a good day. I know enough about his patterns at this point to know even as he calms down bit by bit now, he’s going to amp up again several more times. Today will be a day where the goal is to simply still be alive at bedtime.
As his screams turn into little gasps and sniffles, I give myself a pep talk. I have to remind myself he’s just a little kid and he’s scared. I don’t feel capable of talking to him right now, but I have to. Even though I’m tense and anxious and impossibly tired from the screaming and name calling and pounding the wall.
It’s the kind of day that nothing I have to give feels sufficient—nothing I have to offer feels like it’s even close to enough.