I hadn’t written about my journey as a foster father in a while, and the thought of getting back into it after so long felt daunting. It had to do with my emotional capacity. After my first foster son reunified with his birth mother, there was more for me to process than I expected. My wife and I developed a great relationship with the birth mother. She was very thankful for what we did and encouraged us to stay in her son’s life. We visited about once per month for the first few months to encourage them, but it was harder for me than I would’ve guessed. I think I was depressed for the first couple of months after the reunification. How can you not be when you genuinely love a child as a child is supposed to be loved and then suddenly to not have him in your care? At the same time, we took in a second foster son, for those of you who remember me writing about it, and I had to shift gears to be there for this little one, whom we named Peanut because that’s what he looked like when we took him from the hospital. There was a lot going on inside of me. As I was trying to emotionally find respite and sort through all that was going on inside, I found blogging about my foster parenting to be emotionally draining. Usually writing is a good thing for me, but at the place where I was at, it took more out of me. Instead, I found other creative avenues to process, mainly through painting and writing a story (which turned into a novel and should be coming out in print soon).
What we do as foster parents, and if done right, requires a lot of giving of ourselves. I think sometimes you can be so committed to something, give all you have to it, and not realize how much you gave. The quantity and quality of what was given is not in question, because some things (like children who come into your care) deserve that kind of giving. But we’re not invincible, and we’re not limitless. We have an emotional capacity. We all have a different capacity. It’s important to be aware of when that emotional capacity is low or empty. Some of us keep doing what we’re doing while running on empty without change or recourse, and that’s dangerous, even self-destructive. We have to not only know how to recharge our emotional capacity in terms of quantity, but grow in our emotional state in terms of quality – to become more mature than where we were before. And, it’s no defeat to sometimes have to admit that some things require more emotional capacity than we actually have – perhaps pertaining to certain relationships, situations, or conditions. We’re not invincible, and we’re not limitless. But we are pretty resilient. The human spirit was designed to bear more than we sometimes expect. Wisdom is required to understand your emotional capacity and what’s needed to replenish yourself. Replenishment means knowing what is restful for your soul. Doing nothing is not always the most restful thing for the soul. Doing what replenishes is restful. Maybe it’s reading a good book, going to an art show, enjoying a jazz band, writing a short story, or having dinner with that friend who always refuels you. Most of all, it’s prayer. Prayer is that communication with the Divine, the ultimate creative Being who not only knows the inner-workings of your soul but is masterful in forming and healing it. If you don’t know what to say, one of the most powerful opening lines in a prayer from a soul running on low is, “God, I’m tired.” If we don’t know how to replenish our emotional capacity or if we simply neglect it, we cannot go on doing the most important and necessary things we’re meant to do, like pursuing our calling, living out our vision, or loving someone who desperately needs our love.
2 thoughts on “Foster Dad 19: Emotional Capacity”
I always enjoy your posts, Brian…..and I look forward to seeing/hearing about your new book. I am glad you have refueled…….it’s a shared need, we all face as caregivers. Blessings to you and yours today.
Amen – Danny Gow