Tuesday, March 4, 2014

3 More Days!

In 3 days, the foster kids that we've had since October are going back with their mom. I'm conflicted.
   For starters, I'm glad that the kids can reintegrate. From what I've noticed, a lot of kids just never go back. These guys have only been in care since September, so their mom has worked super hard towards reintegration. I hope things will be better after the "honeymoon period". But I'm worried. It's hard to change 13 years of parenting strategies and coping mechanisms and habits in 6 months. Plus, everytime the kids have gone for a visit, they get new stuff, nobody fights, nobody yells. It's like a sterile hospital environment, and soon the whole family will have to deal with the real world: school, homework, behaviours, financial issues, babysitters, chores, etc. And they will all have to figure out how to navigate these normal events differently than they did before. Old ways of doing things aren't going to work. Old, unhealthy habits will have to be switched to newer, safer ones. Social workers will be in and out of their house often, making sure things don't go back to the way things were. But old habits die hard, and there's a part of me that feels they'll be back in the system within a year. I guess we will see.
   I'm going to miss the routine of kids. I have a set time when I wake up, we have a routine before bedtime. Meals are more structured, and I will have to do the chores we've had the kids do. My husband and I will have more time for each other. There will be far fewer doctors, mental health, dentist, and other various appointments. There will significantly less things to fill out my day.
    It's weird. As a stay-at-home, my day is cut up into sections. Before school, during school, after school, and bedtime. Once the kids are gone, that changes to wake up, do whatever, dinner sometime after my husband comes home. Everything will be a lot less rigid without the kids.
   I'm happy they're leaving because I'm sick of the fights. I'm sick of everything being a battle. I'm sick of fighting to get the 10 year old in the shower. I'm tired of explaining that turning your underpants inside out does not make them into a new, clean pair. I know that there will be battles with every kid we bring into the house. But new kids means new battles. New kids means new ways of seeing things, of doing things. I feel like we're in a rut with these two, because there is only so much we can accomplish.
   With biological kids, it's understood that the parents are there to guide them until they're adults (and then keep on truckin'). But as a foster parent, everything that we can teach, or show them, or model is shadowed by how their parents did things. And not just that. But by how their parents do things on visits, and once they go back home permanently. If homework wasn't important to birth mom, then it is a lot more difficult of a struggle in a foster home than if it was routine to do homework after school.  It feels sometimes that we're competing with bio parents for room in the kid's head. The bio-parents win every time, in case you were curious!
   As our guardianship of this family ends, I'm starting to think of the next bunch of kids we'll get. Things are progressing towards the family we've expressed interest in adopting. My husband and I have talked about it, and we're not going to get any long-term kids until we know the end result with the other family. We'll do respite care (basically 2-3 day babysitting other people's foster kids), with new kids every few days. Which will be a whole other routine!

   So here I sit, 3 days before the kids go away forever. And for right now, I'm OK with their leaving. I hope we've made a difference in their lives. At the very least, I hope we didn't screw them up more!


  1. " It feels sometimes that we're competing with bio parents for room in the kid's head."

    Kind of. You're really competing with the best-case memory of their parents in their head. Think about when you break up with a lover. When you miss them, you're not remembering the bad times, just the good, fun times.

    I'm a high school teacher. In two of my teaching jobs, I replaced a well-loved teacher who took a different job. I thought I was going to lose my mind at first because the students told me EVERY.DAY. how "Mr. R" did things better. In a great turn of events, I met "Mr. R" and started a great mentoring relationship with him. The major irony is that what the students were remembering was not based in how he actually ran the classroom.

    Also, what a kid learns from you will not be visible in the first months...or years. I've been teaching for 9 years if you count student teaching in college. I've been shocked at the students who reach out to me now to let me know I made a difference. Often, I thought that student hated me. And, honestly, when they had me as a teenager, they DID hate me. As they grew up, though, and moved into the work world or college, they've seen why I was trying to push them and see things differently. You may never know exactly what good things come from the time foster kids stay with you because the benefits may not come until they have their own children.

    1. That's a good point! I've noticed when the kids talked about their mom, they never talked about the bad stuff that put them into care. Just how great their mom is, and how much they can do there. The 9yo today told his sister "I can't wait until we're home for good, then I can punch you without getting into trouble." Oh dear.
      It's interesting how memory isn't always accurate. And your story gives me hope that I wasn't as awful as I thought. I hope the kids have learned something from us; I hope we were a, mostly, positive experience.

  2. I'm glad that their mom cared enough to fight for her kids. Whatever happens when they get back at least that shows them that they are wanted and loved. I totally agree with NatureLover. I think it also makes a difference when the kids know that you are a temporary caregiver. It's just not possible to form secure bonds with a caregiver that you know will be gone in a few months. I hope all goes well with the family you are trying to adopt. I'm not sure that being forever parents would be easier but I do imagine it would be different.

    1. We stopped by the kid's house the day after they left to drop off some stuff they forgot. My husband was really upset that they just said "Oh, hi." And didn't offer to show him their rooms or anything. He thought he meant more to them. So I think you're right about the kids having the same mentality as I do.

  3. Congratulations on making it through, my friend. I admire the strength of you and your husband during this whirlwind experience. I 100% believe you have made a difference in the lives of the kids, though it may not show or be acknowledged by them for years to come, if ever. I can understand your concern about them returning to what was such an unstable household, and I hope their bio-mom sticks with the difficult progress she's made.
    I'm glad to hear that things are progressing on your potential adoption, I will continue to send positive vibes that way!
    For yourself, have you considered continuing the structure that the kids have instigated in your home? By that I mean keeping the schedule and just changing what you do in the times? I know I live so much better with structure, just thought I'd mention it :)

    1. I'm trying to keep the same routine, but sometimes the lack of motivation is killer!
      Oh well. At least there's no one judging me when I wake up at noon and don't change out of my jammies.