Last night was a birthday party for my dad. He hit a major age milestone and I’ve been somewhat touchy because the reality of life and death, and how little time we really have on this earth, is at the forefront of my mind. A beloved pet died an untimely death two weeks ago, young, and perfectly healthy, so we thought. Even the vet has no idea why she died. Husband has a much more difficult time dealing with these things than I do, so on top of dealing with my own emotions, I am left without any way to help him through the loss. I don’t like feeling helpless.
I may have a teensy weensy control issue.
My dad is rapidly closing in on the age that two of my grandparents died, one from cancer and the other from a major heart attack, and there is nothing I can do about it. The thought of losing either one of my parents is blood curdling for me. So you can see why I’m a little fixated on death right now. None of us are guaranteed another moment of life. And I can’t control that. And that scares me.
But that’s not what I really want to focus on today.
Today, I am recovering from last night’s realization that Blue Eyes is the first grandchild my parents have really had. When we fostered before, we lived over a thousand miles from them, so they were unable to spoil our kids. But now that we live 20 minutes away, “oh how the turn tables… have turned.” (–Michael Scott)
Last night was Blue Eyes’ first time at a family function with that side of the family, and he had the whole room of them wrapped around his little pinky. I am the oldest of 4 siblings, and the entire crew was there, plus my dad’s girlfriend’s grown kids. Blue Eyes had everyone’s attention almost the whole night and loved every minute of it!
I should preface the sharing of the following facts with the mention that since he has been in our home, Blue Eyes has had limited sweets and sugar, even on Christmas, because of his many diagnoses. It is in an attempt on our part to limit opportunities for him to become dysregulated. Last night I was unsuccessful at preventing an opportunity.
Blue Eyes let me down.
He was as close to an angel as I’ve ever seen him.
He was awesome. Even after consuming:
- A root beer (offered by my dad)
- Two fistfuls of M&M’s (a bowl offered by my dad, and when Blue Eyes took one fistful, dad insisted on a second)
- Half a container of dip and an inordinate amount of potato chips
- Two helpings of supper, a glass of milk
- Two pieces of cake with ice cream (thanks, dad’s girlfriend, for offering a kid that doesn’t ever feel full due to his cocktail of medications, a second helping of dessert, with chocolate syrup on top no less, even after I told you he’s always ravenous and we need to help him listen to the signals his body sends when he is full)
He was still on his best behavior.
Go, Blue Eyes!! Of course, he is paying for it today. He is tired, crabby, and lazy from a major sugar crash last night. His body, and his little brain, are in recovery mode.
I told husband when we got back what happened. He encouraged me, as he always does, to put my foot down and not be a doormat. I’m the foster momma! I should be able to say no! Of course, knowing something and acting on that something, are two different things.
I have a problem when you offer my kid food, put it on a plate, place it in front of him, and only THEN look at me and ask, “oh, is that okay?”
But I, being the non-confrontational person I am, said fine. No problem. And now Blue Eyes knows, from experience, to say, “No, thank you” to a second dessert. His stomach hurt.
My dad LOVED spoiling him with sweets and sending him home. He has no clue about Therapeutic Parenting.
He had a gleam in his eye as we parted ways.
Happy Birthday, Dad.
We are nearing the end of our two-week vacation with Blue Eyes. He was placed with us at a perfectly convenient time- the organization I work for gave all the staff Christmas week off, paid, which is a huge bonus. I also had saved up a number of vacation days to use in the event of a placement, which I wasn’t sure I would have an opportunity to use in 2012. Then we got the December phone call from the county. So, two full weeks of vacation with Blue Eyes, and no school for him.
We fostered 5+ years ago in another state, and I’ve found that being able to take time at the beginning of a placement is key for both the child and for us to begin to create that tiny, tentative bond. I learned the hard way that if I am unable to take time off, and the child spends 6 or more hours at school or daycare 5 days a week, it is much more difficult later on down the road and more feelings of wishing to disrupt occur. I can already see the benefits of taking the time with this placement.
Blue Eyes attends a special classroom with a very small number of other children, due to his emotional needs. The issues in this case are so tangled up, I don’t know where to begin the unraveling. He doesn’t seem so emotionally disturbed to me, but of course he has only been here two weeks and is on a slew of psychiatric medication. We also have avoided putting him in high stress situations, due to his recent stay at on a child psych ward. I guess we’ll find out what happens during the daily stressors and triggers of every day life.
We are not first time foster parents, and have provided respite for Blue Eyes previously. He is freed for adoption, but has had several failed adoptive placements. Thank God our county had the wisdom to move slow and require many weekend visits before full time placement in those homes, so the pill was slightly easier to swallow for Blue Eyes. Unfortunately, the family he had the most visits with had told him they were going to adopt him. They encouraged him to call them mom and dad, so he did. Then he did what Blue Eyes does: He had an angry, threatening outburst, and they got scared and said forget it, we don’t want him.
We considered taking Blue Eyes earlier this year, but he was in a very stable foster home while the county looked for an adoptive placement. We cannot commit to adopting a child we barely know- both husband and myself have reservations about that. We know one of our strengths is caring for and protecting kids who need a safe place, but adoption? That’s a whole ‘nother post.
So after the successful respite, when the county asked us about adoption (we are fost/adopt licensed, on their recommendation, but they know we are not looking to adopt), husband and I agreed together that it would take at least 6 months, if not a year of living with a child, to be able to stand firmly behind a decision to adopt. And because Blue Eyes was already in a stable, safe, long-term home, it wouldn’t be fair to move him, perhaps unnecessarily, into a new home that may or may not be an adoptive resource.
All that changed when the home he had been in for years closed.
Years. His one foster home. Years. Closed. Breaks my heart.
So when we got the call, we had to say yes. This was exactly what we were willing to provide. A safe, loving home for a child in need. We told the county we are not an adoptive resource, so they are continuing to search. In the meantime, we are working on regular stuff, including how to handle irritation, anger, excitement and anxiety, as well as basic social skills and academics. I am totally 100% committed to this little dude, and refuse to disrupt. No matter what. We are in it with him for the looooong haul.
Welcome to A Place of Safety and Refuge. I’ve thought about creating a blog for almost a year now, since we began our (second round of) M.A.P.P classes in January 2012. I wasn’t sure I had enough to say that would be interesting to a reasonable amount of people (like, more than one), and I honestly didn’t know how much anonymity I would want to shield my family with. So I decided to wait until I knew whether I wanted to go fully intimate for friends and family or completely candid yet without identifying details. I also wanted to wait until something noteworthy happened.
Some noteworthy things have happened.
I am planning to use this blog as a place to vent, a safe arena to share my frustrations and joys in foster parenting, and to allow others to live vicariously through my (anonymous) journey, as I have lived through so many other candid, authentic and keepin’ it real blogs.
I just took a 15 minute pause to find the appropriate S.A.T. prep test word for keepin’ it real.
I could now delve into our family history, how my husband and I came to be foster parents, the facts about our current foster son, blah blah blah. I won’t. I’ll save that for another post. Don’t want to give all the milk away for free on the very first post do I? Don’t think so.
Instead, I will tell you what I tell my 9 year old foster son at least once a day. This is the magic saying. This will calm him down. No matter what (so far). I love this. Are you ready for it?
‘You are safe. You are loved.”
When my husband and I started our (second round) of M.A.P.P. classes in 2012, I began to pray for direction from God. What are we doing this for all over again? What are our motives? Is this what I am supposed to be doing at this time in my life? And as I prayed daily, I began to hear, until I could drown it out no more, “Safety. And refuge. Your home is to be a place of safety and refuge.”
So whilst my little one waits and wonders what is to come of his life, worries about whether he will ever belong in a family he can claim as his, I simply pray that this place, our home, continues to be a place of safety and refuge. And I tell him, “You are safe. You are loved.”