Have you ever known someone who decided to train for a marathon? Perhaps you are that person. Either way, there is a serious life lesson at work here. How do you support a friend who seeks to run a marathon? The answer applied to more than just marathon training.
There you are sitting with your friend at Starbucks. You’re into your routine. You and your friend have it down… then they throw you a curve ball. “I’m going to train to run a marathon.” An array of thoughts go through your head in a flash. ‘Are you crazy?’ ‘Do you know what you’re doing?’ ‘What will this take out of you?’ ‘How awesome.’ ‘I’m proud for you.’ ‘I’m scared for you.’ etc. It’s a flurry of both positive and negative thoughts buzzing in your head as you process what this means to you.
You see, when a person sets out to train for their first marathon, they will absolutely need support, and that support comes in all shapes and sizes. Some people will simply pray for them and be happy. Others will help train with them. Some might say, I’ve done that before, here are some tips. The runner is in need of this support if they are to succeed.
But the truth is, almost all of their support comes before the race begins or at the starting line, sending them off. Where that runner is going to need the most support (and where that support will most likely be lacking) is about half way through the run. At that point, when the large crowd has dramatically spread out and they are far away from the people at the start / finish line… that is when things are going to get tough… that’s when the runner will question their motivation and be tempted to quit. That’s when they need support the most.
The best way to support a person training to run a marathon is to have several people supporting in different ways, but to remember… the support is not over when the race begins.
So… what’s the life lesson? Perhaps you’ve been sitting at that same Starbucks table when you heard a friend say, “We’re going to foster or adopt”. Just like the runner, your friend is setting out on a journey you are not called to do… but they will need your support anyway.
So how do you support a friend considering to foster or adopt?
Just like the runner, that support can take many shapes. Just like the marathon, that support is not only during the training phase, it needs to continue all the way through the marathon.
Your friend is starting the training of their lifetime in preparation to forever change the life of a child (and their life as well). They need prayer of course, but what else?
Their schedule will change drastically, support and don’t judge. They will develop awareness of issues you’ve never seen before, appreciate their awareness and learn from it. They will be more stressed than you’ve every seen, seek ways to help alleviate that stress. They will find joy in the most unusual places… celebrate with them. They will struggle with child behaviors they have no experience with. Sympathize and support them, don’t judge the behavior.
Deciding to be a parent for another child (either temporarily with foster or forever with adoption) is the biggest life change that most people will ever go through. As they prepare for those changes, they are in the training phase. But once that child comes into their home, the real race has begun.
Now the real support is needed the most. Just like the beginning of the marathon, there will be a honeymoon phase where all seems great. But at some point (perhaps 30-90 days later or more), that honeymoon phase is over. Like the runner in the middle of the marathon, the adoptive parent will suddenly feel all alone and drowning. Look for signs of heightened stress around this time and triple your support efforts.
Your friend needs your support to continue and that child needs their new parent’s strength so survive.