21 days with our little love! So far, I’ve been able to update once a week and I hope to keep up with that to be consistent but I have no idea if it’ll happen once I got back to work. Honestly, I doubt it. But my plan is to do at least once a month! Anyway.. crazy to think it’s only been three weeks. It feels like our little love has been a part of our lives forever. I know (think?) I mentioned that the honeymoon phase was over in another post.. but I didn’t really talk about it. I am not going to go into major detail, but here’s a little picture of what I mean:
Little love is no longer afraid to tell us no. In fact, I think it’s her new favorite thing. I will say that it is mostly very typical toddler stuff that we are dealing with here (with a few exceptions), but she is generally just much more defiant these days. It has made me turn my teacher brain on to figure out strategies and consequences that work for her. Being new parents, we are learning how to deal with this defiance when we are out in public. It’s HARD. Being consistent with our parenting but also trying not to make a scene seems pretty close to impossible. Little love is also STRUGGLING at night. And it is the most heartbreaking thing I have ever had to deal with. She is missing people and dealing with this change and it is affecting her way more than I realized. I’ve never felt more helpless than I have the past three nights rocking her, trying to soothe her, singing to her, praying over her.. I know we will get through it. But right now it is hard. And I want so badly to know exactly what is going through her mind.
Overall, I think I prefer the honeymoon being over. I know that sounds crazy, but it makes it feel more real. Like we are getting to know the real little love. Like we are officially IN her world, hearing about it from her perspective, and getting through everything she’s experienced together. Her acting out means she’s comfortable with us, that she trusts us. We have wanted that all along. She is still joy – so loving and happy – still always singing about cats and meowing. She’s just a toddler dealing with some very non-toddler like stuff and it’s finally coming out in the ways we were prepared for in training.
I think I’m just going to make it a habit to answer some questions I’ve been asked a lot each week. At least until I stop getting asked the same questions (which, by the way, I don’t mind. I LOVE questions..for real):
What will work look like? Are you dreading going back now that you have a child?
Work will look the same as it always has for me. My husband will be home most of the day (he works evenings), and we will have a babysitter for the few hours that we need. It ends up being about nine hours a week. We have someone that is watching little love for my first week back, but are waiting to see if we will have her after that before figuring out the rest. We have some options, but it is hard to promise someone hours and money when you’re not even sure if you’ll have a child. I am NOT dreading going back to work! I am actually really excited. I don’t know if that makes me a bad mom. I hope not.. but I like working. Yes, throughout the year there are hard times and it is an exhausting career and I WILL complain and say I don’t like it at times.. but I really do love it overall. And the beginning of the year is my favorite part: creating my new classroom, getting to know my students, the excitement that comes with something new. So no, I am not dreading going back. I will be sad to miss out on time with little love, of course.. but I know a lot of women that rock at being both a mom and a teacher. I can only hope to become one of them 🙂
Why doesn’t little love call you mom? How did you decide what to have her call everyone?
So.. this is a loaded question. Little love does not call me mom because I am not her mom. I call her my daughter, but not to her. If that makes sense..it’s all really weird. My husband and I made the decision to not go by mom and dad because we thought it was confusing. We also want to have good relationships with our foster children’s biological parents, and we don’t think they would appreciate us taking their title. Little love calls us both by our first names. We decided to introduce everyone else as Mr. _______ and Ms. ______ using their first names, unless they wanted us to use their last names. A lot of my friends don’t think it’s necessary for the Mr. or Ms. I don’t think they feel old enough for that yet.. which I totally get. But to me, it’s a respect thing. We ARE adults even if we are young (and don’t feel very adultish – which I certainly don’t!), and I grew up calling every adult Mr. and Ms. so that is what we wanted for our children. Some people have asked why everyone is Mr. and Ms. except us. We felt like that was more of a comfort thing. Even thought little love is young, we feel that first names are more comfortable and that any child should feel comfortable in their own home (even if it’s a temporary home). We never wanted her to feel like it wasn’t her home as well as ours.. and Mr. and Ms. felt too formal for the relationship we are striving to have with her. We struggled with the decision of what to have her call our family members. We thought using Aunt _____ and Uncle _____ for our siblings wouldn’t be as confusing, because kids already have multiple aunts and uncles. She calls some of them Aunt and Uncle and others by first names. We considered even having our parents as some form of Grandma/Grandpa but vetoed that in the end. She calls my parents Mr. and Ms. with their first names, and my husbands parents by their first names. So basically all that to say – there is no consistency in what we chose! We just roll with it.
*Disclaimer: What you are called as foster parents is totally situational. This is what works for us, right now, with little love. I will not say that it will always be the same. I’ve heard that some kids genuinely prefer to call their foster parents mom and dad. Probably because we are filling that role for them for a while. If that was the case, I may encourage them to call me by my first name at first.. but in the end I’m not going to force it. Also, kids are kids and will come up with names for people as they get to know them. I am certainly not against nicknames. It’s also different when you have biological children in your home. Obviously we don’t now, but in the future (because we’re in this for the long haul – I hope!) if our biological child is calling us mom and dad, it will be more likely that our foster children will do that as well because it’s what they hear every day. I don’t know what’s right or wrong in this situation. I don’t think there really is a right answer. My game plan currently is just to always ask the biological family what they want us and our family members to be called.
Is it as easy as you make it look on Facebook?
I got asked this question twice.. and honestly it threw me off both times. I know no one meant for it to (and no one meant anything negative by it!!), but I just wanted to explain: I hope that I do NOT make it look like all sunshine and roses. You see, I feel like I wouldn’t win no matter what I wrote. If I post about all the happy stuff, I make fostering look like a breeze. If I post about how difficult it is, I make it seem like I want attention and pity for the hard life I’m living. Of course it’s not easy.. we are attempting to raise a child. It’s hard to take care of another human life; to put someone else’s needs before your own 24/7. It’s hard to be a parent in general! not just a foster parent. Heck, it’s hard to be a human. I’m going to be super bold and honest here and say that I am proud about how I’ve shared this journey so far. I feel like I have been pretty transparent about the ups AND the downs; the good things AND the bad. In the past, I wanted everything in my life to look perfect. It’s only been the past couple years that I’ve started to get over that. I don’t want anything to look perfect when it’s not. Saying things are perfect does not help anyone. People can relate a lot more to imperfect, so my new mantra is to just be real. Besides, pretending things were perfect was definitely not fooling anyone. So when I decided to share about fostering – I decided I was going to share the real stuff. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I want to encourage people to get involved in the foster care system. I want them to hear and learn about it, because we knew nothing about it until we started pursuing it. That is what I want. I DON’T want to paint a picture of a perfect little life we live with our foster child. I also DON’T want to paint a picture of a horrifying, broken, everything-goes-wrong kind of life lived within the system. Most people have seen both of those pictures, but neither one is very accurate. At least in our experience so far. Yes – the pictures I post on Facebook are happy. And most of the status updates are too. But I hope no one thought I was trying to pretend like things were perfect. Let this blog make sure of that. Seriously.. I’m a first time parent. Of course my life is a total mess. I’m just basking in this new life I get to live – even though it comes with challenges. I was an over-poster before I became a foster parent. Did you really think that was going to change once I had a kid in my life?!
What’s your biggest fear for your foster child?
I honestly don’t know how to answer this question. There are so many fears I have for her. I think a lot of people assume that my biggest fear is that she will end up back in a place that is not safe. Going into fostering, I thought that would be it. But I haven’t really feared that yet. I really think God is giving me a peace about it.. that she will end up exactly where she is supposed to be. I’ve responded with that answer before to which someone said, “But it was God that put her in a dangerous situation in the first place, right?” and I don’t have the response you want. Our world is broken. We are sinners. Messed up things happen every. single. day. I have to trust that little loves story is written the way it is for a reason. That all of it is part of His plan, which is bigger than any one of us. Little love is in His hands. Things I do fear? That people will look at her differently because she’s in the system. That people won’t want their kids around her, because they’ve heard horror stories about what kids in the system have heard or seen. That she won’t grasp or understand how much she is loved. That her many many questions will always go unanswered. That she will always wonder. Or, the real kicker: That somewhere down the road, she will end up blaming herself for some of the things she’s gone through. BUT my response to all those fears should be the same I said above: Little love is in His hands. I need to trust that.. not only for where she ends up, but also for how she feels, what she does, and who she becomes.