This week has been an eventful one for our family. It has seen me reveal my OCD to our YouTube audience(something which scared the hell out of me) and we had the good fortune to reunite another family, ending a year long foster placement that was originally only meant to last 2-3 months. It sort of felt like Gilligan's Island...a three hour tour that turned into something much, much longer. However...looking back over the last year has taught me that even when things were at their most challenging and at times I really...really wanted to tear my hair out, we all were learning and growing together in ways I couldn't recognize at the time. It's only now that "H" and his little sister "D" are home with their parents that I can look back at the last year and realize the good things that we gave to each other..and sometimes the ride has been a rough one.
It was actually this same time last year when we were asked to take in "H". He was six years old and temporarily living in a group home meant for much older kids with his brother who was eight. When we first met him, he was expecting his parents and the crestfallen look he got on his face when he saw us instead I will never forget. Because we could not take all three...as well as circumstances of their case..."H's" older brother was placed in another home and "H" came home with us. He was followed a month later by his little sister "D". Both kids were cute as could be. They were blond haired, blue eyed and smart as whips. We also quickly discovered that they had never been told "no" for anything in their lives...ever...and had been given what ever they asked for rather than showed attention and given limits. They did not recognize adult authority at all. They were also traumatized by their removal from their family and did not understand why any of this was happening...the result being a very deep anger and resentment of their circumstances that came out in their actions and smoldered behind their eyes.
Over the following months all of us struggled. The kids were angry and didn't understand why they couldn't be with their parents. As a result...and because we gave them rules and limits...we became the bad guys. They made it clear that we were not their family...or their parents and as far as they were concerned, we could take a long walk off a short pier. If we asked them to sit down, they stood up. If we asked them not to do anything, they did it more....and looked at us as if daring us to stop them. And we did. Their lives and our lives were a struggle as they had to understand that no meant no and it wasn't negotiable. Time out's and loss of privileges is all we can really do...but it made their lives very restricted and they just seemed to accept that restriction rather than not hit, kick, or throw toys at others. then "Baby Boy" came into our home in December and "D" being three did not like no longer being the baby in the house. Then everyday became about monitoring her to make sure she wasn't sneaking up and smacking Baby Boy on the head and then pretending nothing happened. These two kids were hands down the most challenging kids that we had ever taken into our home. They seemed to be died-in-the-wool rebels and they tested everyone of our parenting nerves to their limits and beyond.
As time went by at our home. Their parents were slowly working through the things they had to do to regain custody of all three of their children. Mom graduated her drug treatment program, got a job, seemed to be doing well. Dad got the home in safe condition again and never missed a visit with the kids. They both seemed anxious to get them back and committed to doing what ever it took. While it was hard for us to accept that we were now in this for the long haul, it was good to see that they were working so hard and gave us hope both for the kids sake...and our own.
Now here we are, one year later, packing up their things and remembering the good and the bad and realizing that even though it was tough...we had all gotten used to being together and their absence was going to leave a hole in our lives. Even though I was very ready to be a three kid household...and not have to give revolving time outs every five minutes...or referee some physical altercation...I found that I was still going to miss the kids. Even "H", who fought us said he wished he could bring us with him and that he would miss us. After all the struggles we had with him I didn't expect him to feel that way. I thought he just wanted to hit the ejector switch and get home as fast as possible. Somewhere along the way we had all grown together and none of us had seen it happen. Perhaps because we had all shared the adversity...or perhaps we had all given each other something we didn't know we needed and it absence would be missed....even though all of us were also happy and relieved to be in our own families again.
Fostering is a funny business. Sometimes you think you can't deal with something and think it's time to give up. And then in the process of living with it you learn to adapt. Sometimes you don't see a bond happening until it has already snuck up on you. I learned a lot of things from my time with my little rebels...one important thing was really understanding what my social worker meant when she told me how common some of the behaviors that kids express really is. When a child first comes into our home, there is always a few weeks in which they are doing their best to fit in and not cause any waves. And then, when they feel safe with you, they feel safe letting out the angers, frustrations, and trauma's....and even though the behaviors that they use to express these things can be hard to deal with...it's also totally normal and possibly the only way they can get it out since they often don't have the self awareness or vocabulary to talk it out. So we will get calls from the school...we will occasionally have a child running to us because someone, out of nowhere, threw a matchbox car at them. Their will be wet beds...and sometimes wet toy box's. I have now come to understand that it is not unusual even though my adopted son and daughter didn't do those things.
Sometimes you can see underneath those behaviors to the real child underneath and make a connection. Sometimes you just have to ride it out and then discover, much to your surprise, that a connection happened anyway. Either way, we are all now a part of each others lives and I hope that when "H" and "D" are older they will look back on their time with us as a positive memory...even though it was hard for them too. I hope they know that we did our best even though we were not perfect either. I wish the kids a happy life and a strong family for years to come.
I am relieved to be closing this chapter. It has been a complicated year and this summer vacation will really feel like a vacation for us dads too. But even though this chapter of our lives might be closing, the story is not over.
Until next time dear readers.....