Extreme Parenting

by Patrick Dierschke

The Tough Mudder® race is an extreme obstacle course designed to challenge those willing to sacrifice their bodies by overcoming barbed wire, mud pits, electrical cords, and fire! It gets you in shape and out of your comfort zone. In order to successfully navigate the course, you have to rely on a tremendous amount of preparation – physical strength is not enough. You must be mentally tough to endure the seemingly impossible tests you experience. The event is team-oriented, and places camaraderie over individual glory. No mudder is left behind.

Why would I bring up such a topic? Maybe you have thought about or participated in such an event, and have the T-shirt to prove it. However, my intent is to talk about another team-oriented extreme obstacle course that is inescapable in our community – foster and adoptive care.

Simply put, foster and kinship care is opening up your home to a child or group of children who, through no fault of their own, have been removed from their biological home, due to abuse, neglect, or both. It is a demanding journey filled with hurdle upon hurdle, a journey that will test the strongest of faith, courage, and stamina. If only traversing the “Kiss of Mud” would save these children!

While the Tough Mudder® is only held a few times a year, and in select cities, fostering is a 365/24/7 mission, and has a presence in 89 percent of Texas counties.

Completing the Tough Mudder® requires intentional focus on one obstacle at a time. If you are worried about getting through the “Electroshock Therapy” before you have completed the “Mud Mile,” then you are already defeated. Fostering entails the same mindset, as there are a multitude of additional responsibilities that can very easily derail the primary mission of caring and nurturing the child. Court hearings, parent visits, paperwork, a revolving door of people in your home, are all necessary to ensure a successful placement, but you must never take your eye off the “best interest of the child” mantra.

No one expects to salvage their clothes at the end of a Tough Mudder® race: there will be mud, and lots of it. Opening your home to children from hard places, children who have experienced severe trauma, will give you a different perspective on what is truly important in this world, a world where tangible items become “nice to haves”, not “need to haves”.

The 10-12 mile Tough Mudder® course puts camaraderie over finisher rankings. One vow of the Mudder Pledge is “I help my fellow mudders complete the course”. So it is with fostering and adopting. A support network may be comprised of your spouse, biological children, extended family, other foster families, church, community, and others. Fostering requires an “All In” mentality that will strain, but strengthen your relationships. It will become readily apparent who is with you in this mission field for the long haul.

Any successfully completed challenge should be celebrated. Finishing the Tough Mudder® course has been described as “euphoric”, “over the moon”, “tired, yet inspired”. Having the opportunity to be involved in the reunification of a family, or seeing children find a forever home produces even greater emotions.

Please consider opening up your heart and home to these innocent children. Only a small number of families in Tom Green County have taken the challenge. And, more support is needed for relatives who are caring for their grandchildren, nephews, and nieces.

It is not on the same level of difficulty or fulfillment as completing the Tough Mudder® – it is so, so much more!