Sit With Me: Isn't That Enough?
The sky was different this morning, somehow richer and more luminous than I had remembered, with whiteness of clouds only partially covering a backdrop of opal and cerulean blue. Puffy dragons, swirled steam from coffee cups, and, of course, the obligatory cloud angels did their best to pull my attention from the road as I walked alone. I dared not look up for too long. I could lose my footing; I could fall. I could take a wrong turn, and I might not find my way home.
More than half my lifetime ago when I was pregnant with Elliott, Dan and I were barely done being children ourselves. We were taking a childbirth class with other expectant parents. The instructor asked us to share one thing that we were looking forward to once our babies were born.
"I'll always have someone with me." That was my offering. That was what I was looking forward to.
As time has passed, I have often known how it feels to be alone in a house that is bursting with people. I have known the loneliness that comes from the feeling of helpless insignificance, of realizing that there is much that lies beyond my understanding. Perhaps it's best that way.
The house is not nearly as full as once it was. Three little boys remain, though now a new school year occupies their days. Adult children have moved away to pursuits that have taken them to their own apartments and homes, some far across the country, and to different countries, even. Maybe it's not the same; there are no longer six teenagers sitting in my kitchen, intercepting the paths of little boys that run wild, clad in underwear alone, with boxes over their heads. I miss the teenagers. I miss the little boys. I miss who they used to be, but I love who they are.
I'm not the first person to say that foster care is a journey. It's like a book that begins in the middle of the story. It reaches the past of all those involved, telling secrets and opening doors that may have been locked for a long time. For many, this journey stretches far past the path of foster care, into future outcomes with lives that are forever changed in a multitude of ways.
The little boy that arrived at our door before the sun came up was too young to speak. His shrill screams, the way he scratched his jagged little fingernails into the flesh of my hand, and how he stood up to the other two-year-old in the home clearly communicated his angst, his fear, his need to be with his people, no matter what had happened to make this come to pass. I couldn't fix it, any of it. I could, though, sit with him. I could sit with him through the screams and the scratching.
My daughter once told me that we tried too hard. Those words burned inside of me, as still they do. Wanting so badly to help, trying so hard to be the difference, hoping to "fix" what had gone wrong...it was too much. What I needed to know, truly, was that to hold the space, to walk alongside, had to be enough.
The regret and the fear that visit in the dark of night are softened by the thought that there are others that, in their own ways, have been to some of the same hard places. Some have held the stiff body of a child who has been overcome by grief. Some have picked up the smashed remnants of a milk-glass vase that met its demise at the hands of a toddler who could not understand why he just couldn't go home. With still others, I have sat in solidarity at the very heaviness of our own insignificance. We found each other, and we made a little community of support where we, as foster caregivers, could laugh collectively at things that were really not funny at all and commiserate at being called "idiot fools" on the best of days.
At some point in the thick of our years of fostering, I began writing a blog. Putting my emotions on paper somehow felt therapeutic, so I kept going. Sharing what I had written became a way to connect to others who had experienced similar thoughts and emotions. The blog evolved into a memoir entitled, Isn't That Enough? Musings of Motherhood and the Meaning of Life. In some ways, my book is about navigating your way through the unexpected. I believe it's also very much about finding your way back to yourself. It's okay if we don't know what to do because it's enough to just be.
Isn't That Enough? has been around before in a quiet sort of way, reminding readers that there's a lot more to our stories than what we often know. With the second pressing, I am ready to turn up the volume on this because it's more important today than ever before to speak the truths that are important to you. Find others that will sit with you, that will walk alongside you even when you have no idea where you are headed. You'll find your way to wherever you are supposed to be going.
The foster care journey doesn't end when an adoption is finalized or when a child is reunited with her birth family. The stories evolve, and there are new chapters and new directions. There are more stories to be written. For those stories yet to be told, I will need someone with me, someone who can stand alongside me through the hardest days and walk with me when the sky is a new color.
Though the clouds had beckoned as I walked along this morning, I stayed on the road and made my way home. It was quiet in the kitchen. There were no teenagers, calculus homework papers, or crumbs of brownies at the table. There were no little boys circling the empty chairs; there were no boxes and no underwear strewn on the floor. At that moment, it was oddly peaceful, and I liked it that way. I knew that the buses would deliver the little boys in a few short hours, even before I had finished my next project. I knew, too, that all too quickly, they would be the teenagers sitting at the table, keeping me company through the next chapter.
About Isn't That Enough? Musings of Motherhood and the Meaning of Life by Patty Ihm - a Memoir
“This is a story of my family, and, really, the story of many families. It’s everyone’s story because we’re all human. We all experience the depths of true emotion as we are led along the path of our days. And maybe, we all end up back where we first began.”
Patty Ihm knows a thing or two about chaos. She’s laid with the disarray that ensues in the trenches of motherhood, pondered questions of worthiness when she thought no one was listening and ruminated in the dark as she examined the things that present themselves in the shadows. But she’s also learned to find the glory in ungracious things, the power of surrendering to that which is uncontrollable, and the truth in knowing what she loves will always come back to her.
Isn’t That Enough? Musings of Motherhood and the Meaning of Life is a memoir that openly discusses the challenges and revelations in parenting the children that have come to Patty’s family through the child welfare system. Her journal entries take readers through various snapshots in time and space where she stirs in the vulnerable complexities of life and the emotions that encourage her to embrace all that may always be unknown.
It stays with you like a guiding light on your shoulders; empathizing and validating, calling you to lean into your introspective thoughts, supporting you to lead with the heart. Patty cuts her words free, vividly inviting you into her world as she expounds upon the revelations of her past to appreciate the beauty of all that is to come.
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Patty Ihm is an author, former early intervention therapist, and teacher living in Illinois on a farmette where she is a mother to many; three biological, six adopted, and 18 children she has offered her home to as a foster parent—some for a day and some to stay forever. Fueled on coffee and the soul-cleansing therapy of the written word, Patty also tends to thirty-something chickens, a mix of hens and roosters, four bee hives, and a thriving garden. She is the self-published author of Ode to a Boy, a poetic tribute to her grown sons. Isn’t That Enough? Musings of Motherhood and the Meaning of Life is her debut memoir, revealing Patty's intricate journal entries about her experiences as a mother to those in the child welfare system. Goldie Bird, a middle-grade, coming-of-age novel, is Patty’s first fiction work with Our Galaxy Publishing. Her narrative prose is also featured in the anthology, Venus Rising: Musings & Lore from Women Writers.
Our Galaxy Publishing is a New York City-based, women-owned, and operated independent press with a nationwide team serving aspiring authors the tools to write and publish. Our seamless publishing experience focuses on action-based tools and resources to publish, exploration of all core storytelling elements, and empowering an entrepreneurial mindset. Whether seeking to self-publish a book or find a traditional publisher, work with us for book publishing, book editing, book marketing, and writing mentorship to publish a successful book.