J.C., the sweet angelic boy I wrote about last time, lived with us along with his sister for 16 months until they were reunified with their parents. During the time we fostered them, J.C. refused to go on the “big boy potty.” Try as we might, nothing worked. Bribes, sinking cereal, promises of great presents and the potty dance all left him amused, and us exasperated.
One day, J.C. decided he wanted a puppy to add to the organized chaos we called home. With my fingers crossed, I told him I was only allowed to potty train one living thing at a time, and until he stopped wearing diapers, we would only have a household of two-legged creatures. From that very instant, he was an official “big boy” and I was on the hunt for a puppy.
The trek for this puppy was six hours in a snowstorm—on New Year’s Day—to Minnesota (who would have thought, just to go to our pound!) to obtain the newest member of our family. All this for our foster son who called my bluff. Outsmarted by a 3-year-old, again.
It was a given that this puppy we named Riley would go with the children when they went home. Their parents loved the dog, bringing treats for the dog whenever they came to visit their children. Then their landlord had a change of heart. Like the narrator on Peanuts, I heard it echo loud and clear, “No dogs allowed.”
J.C. is still at home, and I still have his promised potty puppy. This cute little canine that came to us the size of a 12-ounce soda can, has morphed into a 6-year- old overweight dog who is blind in one eye, has a tumor on one leg and is a constant reminder of the first time I fell head over heels in love with a child that I parented that I did not birth. That it is possible to unconditionally love outside of your gene pool, to be a fiercely protective mama bear to someone who calls someone else mama. Life lesson brought by a 3-year-old boy and a dog.
So I leave you with this question. What life lessons have you learned in an unconventional way? Did an impromptu visit to a shopping mall bring about a lesson you learned? Did you finally see something for the first time through the eyes of a toddler that was there all along, but your eyes were closed to it?
Share with us. Let us learn through you!
Best to all this day,
Paulette is a foster and adoptive parent. She works at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin as a foster parent liaison, providing support, offering encouragement and advocating for foster parents throughout all phases of fostering and adoption.
Paulette also discusses foster care and adoption on our Kid Hero blog.