We’re in over our heads.
Throughout our foster journey, I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve felt that. And thought that. And said that. Usually it’s in moments and seasons when we’re dealing with especially difficult behaviors. But even in the good times, I think it’s a realization that’s always present.
The phrase has to do with water- when you can touch the bottom of whatever body of water you’re in, there’s a certain felt-safety. If I can touch the bottom, I can remain in control and mitigate any potential dangers. When we get out deep enough that we can no longer plant our feet firmly on something and still keep our head above water, things immediately become more risky.
We have been foster parents for many years. We have hundreds and hundreds of hours of training on parenting children from hard places. We are very trauma-informed. Despite all of our experience, we’re still in over our heads. Always.
Here’s the thing- childhood trauma isn’t a shallow-water kind of experience. It’s deep. The wounds, the scars, the fight to survive- those are all deep-water kind of things.
Of course we’re in over our heads- they are too! There’s no secret recipe for overcoming trauma, because each child’s trauma experience is unique, and the expression of the hurt through behavior is different with each child. The only thing that’s common is that they have been profoundly affected by the trauma, and the water is deep.
Being in over our heads doesn’t mean we’re drowning. It doesn’t mean that we should make a beeline back to the safety of the shallow. It just means that it’s uncomfortable, there are greater risks involved, and we have to stay vigilant and engaged to stay above water.
If I’m going to come alongside my kids and help guide them to healing, I must be willing to be present in the deepness of their brokenness. That’s not easy, and it’s certainly risky, but our kids are worth it.