Guest Post by Bruce
Bruce is a convert to the church who lives in Australia. He is married to Spunky.
My journey to fatherhood has been fast paced, chaotic, challenging and surprising. I’m an Australian, married to an American and we currently reside in Australia.
In March 2012, I was preparing to attend a conference in Santiago, Chile when Spunky told me that she had received a phone call from a friend. She then relayed the details of the call, about a family in Sydney who were looking for someone to care for a couple of young children. Spunky told me that since I was going to be away for over a week, she might drive the 1,000 kilometres to see if she could be of service to this family by way of babysitting, providing meals or other support. Spunky often puts providing service to family, friends and strangers above her own needs, so I thought nothing was unusual about her plan.
We both left on our respective journeys and checked in with each other once we arrived safely at our destinations. The next time I heard from Spunky she had met the family but she was uncertain as to what she could do to help because the situation was so volatile and confronting. The family had four children of their own and they were also the legal custodians of their two nieces. Spunky had not yet met the two young girls that were about to be offered to us, as they were staying elsewhere. But before she had even met the family in person, the family discussed placing their nieces in our care.
The next time I spoke to Spunky it was approaching midnight Thursday her time. She told me that she had the girls and briefly updated me on the chaos of the previous 48 hours and what had transpired. Most importantly, through her tears I heard her tell me that late on that night while standing in their driveway, Heavenly Father had directed her to ‘take the girls’ and ‘that these were her girls’.
Cheyenne and Reesey were 3 and 2 years old at the time. The girls and Spunky had only met three hours earlier and they had been given to her indefinitely; there was no plan or communication about what was supposed to or would happen.
Spunky was limited in her options and chose to drive the 1,000 kilometres back home with the two toddlers. Normally an 11 hour drive, it took over 16 hours with the girls. They arrived home around midnight Friday night. To this day, I still wonder how she did it. (spunky’s note: road trip advice from Quimby was invaluable, and prayers from Exponent sisters sustained me.)
After getting off the phone with Spunky, I knew that caring for the girls was the correct decision, because I too had felt the spirit. I needed to act! I started making phone calls. First I arranged to be on the next plane to Australia. The next flight was in 12 hours. After a long six- hour wait for a reasonable hour at home, I rang fellow church members to seek assistance in preparing our home for their arrival; we needed beds, bedding, toys and ….well, I wasn’t sure what else. I had never had the joy of parenting, and had no idea what two and three years old girls needed or wanted, but I knew the Relief Society would know.
In the meantime, I paced around the hotel room until it was time for me to go to the airport. I’d be in the air for around 16 hours unable to be contacted or to contact anyone I was worried about my wife driving so far with the girls; I knew she hadn’t had much sleep and that her stress levels were high. I was also concerned that we would not have the things we needed to be able to care for the girls. The magnitude of our commitment still hadn’t really dawned on me.
I arrived home at 6am on Saturday morning to meet the two children Spunky had bought into our home. They were beautiful, and small. It was an amazing experience arriving home that morning, one I will never forget, and can never be expressed adequately in words. It was surreal to see two small children sitting, eating breakfast in our house, with my wife, like they were meant to be there. I could also see fear in their eyes and sense their uncertainty.
I was pleased to be home, re-united with my wife and ready to do whatever our Heavenly Parents had planned for us to do.
As arranged, friends and Relief Society members had bought toys, beds, clothes and food, more than enough to cater for the girl’s initial needs. Rooms in our home had transformed from neutral colours to pink in a blink of the eye. We had a (single mother) friend and her 2 year old daughter temporarily staying with us at the time; they were very helpful in supporting the girls to settle in.
Initially, I found caring for the girls was extremely challenging and I was terrified. I made many, many mistakes and got screamed at a lot. The difficulties I was having, the mistakes and the screaming made me feel inadequate as a father, and a husband. Now, two years on, the frequency of my mistakes and the amount of screaming have both significantly decreased. That being said, I still find fathering the girls extremely challenging and I still feel inadequate as a father.
Without a legal arrangement, we both knew we could lose the girls on any given day. As time went by, we advised various government departments, but none were interested and all were adamantly opposed to getting involved. Miraculously, in September 2013 it was made official and Spunky and I became the legal parents.
Our marriage has been strained due to the challenges that we have faced but surprisingly, I feel it is stronger now than it ever has been and my feelings of inadequacy as a husband are fading.