I remember the moment. The four of us were all sitting on the kitchen counters eating cereal at ten p.m. (or it might have been ice-cream. . . we were young and stressed) debriefing about the events of the day. We were all recent college graduates in our early twenties who were responsible for the day-in and day-out love and nurture of 7 boys, mostly teens and preteens. Boys who had come from trauma. Boys who couldn’t safely live with their parents. Boys who brought their unhealthy coping skills and beautiful smiles into this house designed to be their home until they could be safely reunified with their families. . . which for many of them over the years never happened.
We were exhausted by our work. My husband and I were the houseparents and along with caring for the boys were also responsible for supervising the interns assigned to help us– interns that were our same age with our same level of experience (namely, not much). We worked together to design systems to help these kids and created nurturing rituals and loved them with every ounce of our beings and it was draining. I remember the moment when one of our interns said, “I don’t think it’s supposed to be this hard. It shouldn’t be this hard.” We saw other houseparents that made it look easier than what we were experiencing. Were we making this more difficult than it had to be? It’s a question that has continued to haunt me over the years of caring for kids from trauma and as we continue to advocate for them, their families, and the foster families that partner with them.
I remember answering her in the moment, “I think it IS supposed to be this hard, if you’re doing it right.” And that’s continued to be the answer that gives me peace.