the time we all cried on the bathroom floor

It was one of those nights…the nights where you put your 2 year old to bed at 6pm, because you are allllll out of therapeutic parenting.  I was assembly line bathing other kids, when Oakley stood up and slipped in the tub and whacked her face *so* hard.  Blood came just pouring out of her, alarming all of us.  I scooped the wet baby up in a bit of a panic, and noticed the bath water was quite red with blood.  A terrified Rabbit screamed, “don’t hurt me, Mom!”  Huh?   I tried to semi-focus on what was going on with him while I tended to the bleeding one.  “I’m sorry, Mom!  I’m sorry!”  So.  Confused.  I saw the whole thing happen – there was absolutely nothing he did or didn’t do to cause the accident.  And then I realized, as I looked at his glazed over eyes.  He was not in this bathroom with me at all.  He was somewhere in his past, far away from foster care, and he was terrified.  I pulled the second soaking wet child from the tub and held them on the bathroom floor while they both cried.  Trying to sooth one with nursing, and the other with talk of the present.  “You’re safe.  It’s mama Ann.  Oakley had an accident.  It wasn’t your fault.  Everything is okay.  See that blue towel?  I hear a bird outside!”  As he slowly returned to the bathroom floor, where we were all soaking wet, we all sat together for awhile and cried.  Sometimes it’s just so very, very overwhelming.  Sometimes it feels like you just can’t possibly give everyone what they need….like the time we all cried on the bathroom floor.

towel-on-the-bathroom-floor-for-web

I am the stranger

I hear it all the time from clients who have their children placed in foster care – “they shouldn’t be with strangers.”  I hear from our social worker that the biological parents of “our” kids say the same thing- “they shouldn’t be with strangers.”

I am the stranger.

I am the stranger that bandages your child’s skinned knees.

I am the stranger that changes your child’s diaper.

I am the stranger your child that holds your sobbing child during night terrors.

I am the stranger that feeds your child, that fills countless sippy cups.

I am the stranger that interprets your child’s language for other people.

I am the stranger that knows exactly how to tuck your child in each night, complete with frog and mickey mouse and his favorite race car blanket.

I am the stranger your child runs to after day care.

I am the stranger who knows all of your child’s favorite foods.

I am the stranger who wipes your child’s nose and cuddles him when he’s sick.

I am the stranger who knows all of your child’s favorite books by heart.

I am the stranger that hangs up your child’s art projects and celebrates his victories.

I am the stranger that can make your child shriek with laughter.

I am the stranger who wears your child on my back when he says, “Up, mama?”

I am the stranger that loves your child.

I am a stranger to you.

I am not a stranger to your child.   Not anymore.

stranger

 

 

 

Big Feelings

I have had lots of thoughts floating around over the last week.  Big feelings, too.  Usually when I sit down to blog I have something specific to “get out,” but that isn’t really the case this time.  I’m feeling kind of sad, to be honest.  We used respite care on Saturday night for the first time ever in our 6 years of being licensed.  We really needed a night with our forever family.  We did.  But, the guilt of it almost ate me up in the days leading up to it.   Everyone tells foster parents to use respite…but would we drop off our forever kids at some random person’s house?  NO!  It’s really kind of bizarre.  And terrible.  And it speaks to the way that “foster kids” (I dislike that language, PS, they are KIDS IN FOSTER CARE.  The foster part is only a part of their story.  I am guilty of this language, too, but I think it speaks volumes to how we expect their stories to go.  How we define them, and later – how they define themselves.)  Ok, that parentheses is excessively long so I am going to go on a brief tangent.  Rabbit is smart and resilient and crazy good at riding his strider bike and can de-escalate a mad adult in a SECOND and gives the best hugs ever.  He also happens to be in foster care.  Monkey’s smile can light up the whole world, he is curious and funny and athletic and he loves life more than most people I know.  He is currently placed in foster care.  That language feels different to me.

I think this maybe is more like a vent, I guess.  Sorry.  Two more (give or take).

  1. Please don’t tell us “I could never give them back.”  I *know* this comes from a good place.  You have a warm heart. But when you say this, I hear you telling me that you don’t think WE have warm hearts.  Sometimes we are jerks, let’s not turn this into something other than it is.  But…we very much love these kiddos.  We cry over them.  It’s going to hurt like hell when they go.  Annnnnd, we are willing to take that on if it means that they know love.  K?  K.
  2. Foster care and adoption are different things.  I wish we could say more about our current “case,” as part of what makes foster care difficult is the feeling of isolation, but we can’t.  So just hear this – reunification is always the goal, until it isn’t.  Our role for these little guys is foster parents.  For us, this means that we love them and provide a safe home until they are a) safely able to go to biological family, b) rights are terminated and a forever family is found, or c) the county realizes how crazy we actually are and pulls them.  For frame of reference, when we were matched with J and A, their bio parents’ rights were already terminated and they were waiting in foster care for us to find them.

In the words of 6 year old Jax, “foster care is hard, Mom.  Part of me wants their parents to learn to keep them safe and for them to go home, and part of me wants them to stay forever. I wish they weren’t so cute.”

And in the words of 8 year old Jake, “NEXT TIME LET’S NOT GET TODDLERS.”

toddler

 

 

reflections of mother’s day

Mother’s Day.  It takes on a new meaning when you have only birthed 2/6 kids in your home.  It feels different when 4/6 kids have trauma histories, and feel abandoned by one (or more) Moms in their past.  It’s too painful for them to take a whole day to honor something that holds so very much sadness and loss.  As my kids heal, so do I.  I don’t feel resentful (anymore) that it can’t be about me.  The anger I feel towards birth family is slowly but surely being replaced by sadness for them.  When my daughter verbalized “I’m thinking a little bit about my birth Mom today,” I actually had a sigh of relief.  Me too, my dear. I have been thinking about her (them) a lot today.  I am grateful we can talk about this. Were they grieving?  Were they aching to hold our kids in their arms?  Did they feel guilt?  Anger?  Were they empty inside?  Did they wonder about me?  Would they go back and do things differently if they could?

Sitting with these questions is painful.  Watching my kids wrestle with them is more painful.  I am finding that in our family, mothering and pain are close sisters. We are in LOVE with our bonus boys…and this simultaneously makes things easier and harder.  We have officially survived a month and a day as a family of 8.  EIGHT.  There is a strange parallel process where part of me looks forward to being 6 again …and also the grief of that mere thought can knock me to my knees.  Despite our prep work, when we arrived at a family party today, Rabbit thought we were dropping him off at another foster home.  “Don’t leave me, Mom,” he said, as he clung to me.  I want to tell him I will never, ever leave him, but that’s not the truth.  We are their foster parents, and “forever” isn’t our role in their life.

It’s not the truth that I will physically never leave them, but it IS the truth that my love never will.  I wear those boys on my back, I kiss their owies, I read them bedtime stories each night, I have learned what their cries mean, I know how to comfort them now, I cheer them on.  I know they most likely won’t consciously  remember this time, but I hope somewhere deep down their bodies KNOW they were loved.  That they were wanted.  That they had aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents that instantly accepted them and loved them.  That someone watched them sleep, and smiled.  Would do ANYTHING for them after knowing them a MONTH.

As I head to bed tonight with tears in my eyes, I feel overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed with pain and love…and this, my friends is motherhood.

sail

 

Dear birth mama of my little ones,

I am fighting this battle between wanting you to FIGHT and wanting badly for you to let go.  I hate you and I love you.  I ache for you and I am angered by you. I am falling in love with your children, though it is not my eyes I look into when I tuck them in at night.  They are your eyes.  I see your hurt, your pain, your grief reflected at the end of a long day.  Despite your actions, I know there is a piece of you terrified about where your kids are and how they must be feeling.  You probably imagine the worst.  I do the same when I think about their past, so I guess we have that in common.  I know you didn’t set out to let this happen.  I know there is a giant piece of you who loves them more than life itself.  I am working hard to understand the other piece of you, that seems to be paralyzed. The piece that got so very lost.   I know you have your own story.  I don’t know if fighting for them means continuing on at this point or letting go.  Choose wisely, mama.  We will love them through it.

Love,

The other mama

fence