Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Cookies and Gold Stars for Everyone

I was super impressed with your responses to What Makes a Family?  I thought about responding to each comment, but figured it was easiest to answer here. It would also give me an opportunity to show you my kids' Halloween costumes for no reason.

Robin visiting Batgirl at preschool in the morning

First, the post was really intended to address how we, as the "inner circle" of foster care and adoption, speak to those on the outside about our children's families. This is the trend that I'm seeing more often and find really dangerous. If a fellow fost/adopt parent said to me, "I got little Johnny all bathed and dressed cute for his visit with his Bio Mom, and she called 10 minutes after we were there to say she wasn't coming. At that point, why even call?!!", I know that frustration and I understand it just comes with the territory. I would not harshly judge the Mom or feel the need to come to the defense of the foster family. I could share her weariness and then we could move on. When you "vent" to your family or friends outside of the system, they will try to save you. It's what good friends and families do when someone causes their loved one discomfort. If you set the tone, by adding an (unnecessary to the story) title separating the biological parent from their full role, the other person will match that and start the shame/blame crap that is hurtful to your resolve to move forward in shared parenting and destructive to the child's security. Further, they will bother me because apparently it has now become appropriate to have these conversations on public websites where I can see it.

Batgirl loving Batman while Rib has lost her skirt

As far as what you do to clarify your situation with your child, I know with absolute certainty we all do the best we can. I have never transitioned from foster care to adoption with a toddler or preschooler, so I would never pretend to have any clue what that's like. Baby 4 understands and owns his whole story, so he does not get confused with just Mommy and Daddy for all of his parents. If I say "Daddy is taking you to the park", and there is question as to who I'm talking about I will specify "Daddy Brandon" or "Daddy John". He also only specifies when someone is confused. I totally agree with following the child's lead as they get older as to what terms they like. I have discouraged 4 from saying, "You're my BEST Mom." or "but she's my real Mom" by pointing out all the best things his Mom did that I couldn't or all the real things I do for him. I do that because I can see how that kind of thinking could make him feeling like he needs to pick a side or be loyal to one or the other parent. Even if he chooses this language or ideas throughout his life, I want him to know it doesn't have to be that way. He knows why he can't live with Mommy Susan, and does recall the trauma she caused him. I never try to sugar coat what happened to him or make his parents look like super heroes or victims. They did what they did and he needs to know. Which brings me to my next clarification...

Who you are is different from what you've done. I try so hard to drill this into Baby 4. He has some big behaviors and there have been entire weeks where every other time I open my mouth, it's to correct him or deliver a consequence. During those weeks, we all get a little antsy about how secure our family is. So about two and half years ago, I started saying "There is nothing you can do that would EVER make me stop loving you.". I say it when I'm especially mad- sometimes for him and sometimes for myself. Once we knew he was staying forever, I altered it a little, "I will always be your Mom. Nothing you do will EVER make me stop loving you.". I really mean it. There have been times where I have gone through all the terrible twists our lives could take, and I can honestly say there is nothing that would change his identity. He is my son. What kind of message do I send if I link his parents' behavior to their identity? They are his parents. Yes, they are not safe caregivers. Yes, they made poor choices. No, we don't like what they've done. We don't even have to like them at all (but it's nice if we do). Respect for their role should not involve changing the truth or ignoring the negative. Just like my loving Baby 4 does not mean the consequences don't get dished out like hotcakes on a Saturday morning.

I'm glad we had this chat. I needed to get this off my chest.

1 comment:

  1. I've spent the last few weeks and have read through your entire blog, from the beginning to present time! I promise I'm not stalking... My husband & I are beginning the process of becoming a certified foster home, and I googled 'foster parent blog' and yours was the first link to appear! I have truly enjoyed reading through your ups and downs of foster parenting, rooting for you all the way. It's been great being able to hear first hand some of the struggles that occur, that I wasn't really aware of before. Keep sharing your experiences, I can't wait to see what's going to happen next with your beautiful babies :)