I recently wrapped up our first foster care experience. We had 2 kids, a 7 and 10 year old. One was autistic, the other very attention starved (we hypothesized the autistic child got all the attention because she had the higher need). Both had ADHD. They weren't bad kids. They were more or less polite, and they didn't steal, lie, or throw fits (much). However, in retrospect, having our first placement being higher need was probably not the smartest idea.
We did learn a lot, though. Both me and my husband learned we aren't comfortable with younger children, or those with special needs. We realized that we aren't strict disciplinarians, or stick to rigid schedules. I realized that just because I'm irritated, doesn't mean I have to discount their opinions or wants. Just because I was the adult, didn't mean that it was OK for me to make all of the decisions unilaterally. We also came to see that we don't really know what an average kid is like.
Which made me think. For all that Mormonism glorifies the stay-at-home mom, they don't give much direction on the practical aspects of raising kids. I mean, for all that the Prophets say "mothers are the primary nurturers of the home", the church doesn't offer classes in child rearing or development. Yes, I had taught numerous classes of children of various ages, but there was no class to get me ready for it. I just experimented with different techniques to see what would work for whatever specific age group I was in charge of. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. And if I said I was having difficulty with a specific child, or age group, or lesson, I was merely told to "fast and pray, and God would stretch me to fit the challenge."
So I did. And the kid, group, or issue was still a problem. I began to think the problem was me. That I wasn't good with kids. Some of the parents agreed. "I would NEVER let my child get away with that!" I was told, often. My own mother would lament "At least one of my children will be a good mom". (Hint: it wasn't me she was speaking of)
I grew up with the idea that I wasn't mothering material. I wasn't compassionate enough, wasn't nurturing enough. To this day I'm not sure if it was an accurate assessment or a self-fulfilling prophecy. Regardless, I've never wanted kids, because I had been told I was terrible with them. Then I got married, and he really, REALLY wanted them. I told him of my track record. I told him I couldn't have kids naturally. I tried to scare him off with horror stories, but he would look at me and tell me that I was amazing at everything, so I would be great with kids.
So here we are, done with our first 24/7 kids experience. And I'm not sure if I want kids at all. I'm definitely sure next time, I want to try teenagers. But we were talking last night, and the problem with doing respite, is that only difficult kids need it (usually). Respite is usually used as a mini-vacation for the parents. If we want a good representation of what kids really are, perhaps seeing only the challenging ones isn't the best way.
Now we have a decision to make. We can either suspend our adoption status, to foster a group of kids and deal with less challenging ones, or we can adopt, and hope we don't end up adopting a family with which we are not really capable of dealing with.
Either way we have a lot of thinking to do.