People often ask us what it’s like to have foster kids in our home. It has been an interesting journey to say the least. It doesn’t mean we are perfect parents, that we did everything right with our own kids or that we will do everything right with the ones we care for now. I hesitate to be totally candid because I dislike being judged as much as the next person, but I want you to see that we are real, the process is stretching… and amazing… and rewarding!
We just returned from a 9 day family vacation. Being in the same space with people 24/7 for 9 days is a good way to discover just how selfish you are! As we journeyed and explored my hubby and I both managed to have moments where we were done. Negative emotions were triggered and patience was used up. Just how many times do you think it is reasonable to hear the same question and repeat the same information in a day? Three, seven, seventy times seven? These are not horrible or destructive behaviours. But they can raise some less than pleasant emotions. Does that make me sound petty or maybe just human?
If we are honest with ourselves most parents will admit that they have seasons when they have a favourite child. By pure logic that means there is a child we are struggling with. All though we love them all equally, their challenging seasons can make them harder to be around. My own three children each had a season where I loved them a lot… and didn’t like them much at all! Often this was because of choices they were making or behaviours they were exhibiting that just managed to trigger negative emotions in me, sometimes a lot of them! We don’t parent our kids from within a perfect world, we dive into the mess and navigate our relationship with our partner, our kids, our neighbours, our parents, our in-laws and ourselves all at once. I have been guilty of losing my cool with a kid only to realize later that I was already so frustrated with my spouse, or the dog, or the dishwasher… that the next thing that got in my way didn’t stand a chance. Sorry kids, it happens and you’re not to blame.
Learning to deal with frustrations in a healthy way is a huge part of the journey. Stuffing things down to deal with later rarely ends well. So what does that mean when you are essentially being paid to be a professional parent? It means that you are still human, you will still make mistakes and you will still have to forgive yourself and keep going. If you are in a healthy space those mistakes will be moderated and not have any major effects on the kids in your care. You will continue to grow in self-awareness and things will look different next time. It is not realistic to think you will feel the same about every child in your home all the time or that you will parent perfectly all the time.
I am, however, totally committed to working towards what is best for each child I have the privilege of nurturing for a season. Sometimes that means setting aside my own preferences (for peace and quiet at the moment as the TV blares in the background) and realizing that I am not the center of the universe as I try to teach these children that they aren’t either. Sorting through what issues to tackle and which ones to save for another day is part of the journey. It’s OK to leave some things for another day. (why can’t they chew with their mouths closed?)
The other mother who’s children I care for at the moment collapsed under the weight of the frustrations of life and is having to rebuild trust and relationship with her children. It’s a hard road, one I am grateful I have not had to walk down. I hope she succeeds and is able to have the joy of her children around her again. That doesn’t mean she will be a perfect parent. I am certain that some of the things her children do will raise negative emotions in her. That doesn’t disqualify her, it makes her human. I am humbled by the same things. But I want her to succeed. I want to see her kids look at her with love and trust again!
That being said, I am aware that means I will have to say goodbye to them. Which already seems almost unbearable after only 3 months. Unless you catch me at the right (wrong) moment when I think having them gone seems like a good idea!
In the midst of the mess