Drama for a Foster Mama

Being a foster parent has its ups and downs.  It teaches you so many things, but also challenges you in ways that you didn’t expect or anticipate.  Take everything you learned growing up from your parents and basically, throw it out the window, because this is new.  It’s a whole new process and a new learning experience.  Lately, I have been struggling with my role as a foster mama.

I have been having a really difficult time relating and being patient with our 6 year old Mary.  I’m not sure if it’s my lack of sleep, my swing shifts at work, a new baby at home, not spending enough time as a family, Mary attention seeking (she’s been an only child her whole life and a new baby is really throwing her for a loop), Mary seeing her biological mom once a week and twice bi-weekly, or a combination of all those things.  These past 2 weeks she has been insufferable, and I have been less than my usual gentle and tolerant self.   I have to remind myself that it’s a lot of change very quickly for her and to step away and count to 10 before I lose it!

She’s very cheeky and sassy, and usually I find it to be pretty funny (I don’t laugh in her face though, I swear it.)  Lately, it has been less than funny.  It’s been downright rude and disrespectful.  She has made it her business to get the last word in even when we tell her that the conversation is over. “Mary, that’s enough thank you” “I know, but I was just saying that blah blah blah”.  “We understand honey but thank you, that’s enough” “But I was just saying that…” ” MARY! ENOUGH!” ::mumbles::”I was just saying, god!”  She blatantly disregards us and pretends not to hear us, but we know she does because she makes a slight flinch when you call her, but catches herself and turns back to what she was doing.  It’s beyond annoying because we KNOW she hears us! Lately, she has gotten into the habit of sucking her teeth if we ask her to do something and she is busy with her crafts or playing wit her dolls.  This is what we have been dealing with since they updated her visiting schedule with mom.  It’s like dealing with a teenager and she’s not even half way there yet!

The visits are a whole other problem on their own.  We consider ourselves to be pretty strict and have a strong grasp on the proper discipline of a 6 year old.  It basically comes down to losing her privileges like, no playground after school, not helping with cooking dinner, no feeding the baby, no electronics time (about 30 minutes of her choice of TV, iPad, or computer), or a half hour earlier to bed where she can read or lay quietly in her bed.  When she wants a new toy, she first has to raise the money herself by doing her chores (this consists of making her bed every morning which she does a great job with, cleaning her station after dinner, and making sure to scrape her dish and put it in the dishwasher). Then she has to donate one of the toys that she no longer wants to make room for the new one.  We also have a strict “candy is for special occasions” rule.  We had a few issues with her stealing and hiding her candy and now she does a lot better about asking for it, so we’ve eased up a little bit to reward the positive behavior.  It makes it incredibly difficult to implement these rules for good behavior when every Tuesday after parenting sessions with her momher mom sends her home with a black deli grocery bag FILLED to the top with junk food (which we promptly confiscate when she gets off of the bus and yes, exactly! Parenting sessions!). Sometimes it’s a buttload full of toys.  Or bags and bags full of clothes and new sneakers, that I have to bring a shopping cart down to be able to carry it all into the apartment. Or my new favorite, a brand new Little Mermaid school backpack over a month into the school year, when the one that we bought her cost us quite a bit of money and she chose herself because it was “OMG! SOOOOO cool!”  I understand that mom is trying to assert herself as the parents, but there are other ways to do it, like slicing an apple with peanut butter instead of Doritos, or split some carrots and some ranch dressing (Mary’s favorite snack!).  Maybe instead of telling her you’re going to buy her a ferret, a cat, a dog, and sugar glider for when you get to go home and be together (God knows when!), get books to read together about those animals.  Weigh out the pro’s and con’s of owning each.  Ask her how her school day was or if she made any new friends.  Ask her about her new teacher.  That’s what we do! Make her earn her toys.  “If you read 10 books from now until next Tuesday, and Callie and Sammie write me a note, then we can talk about getting you a little something.” That would be most effective.

Maybe I’m just being salty because I’m taking it personal.  When Mary goes to visits she comes home in different clothes or a different hairstyle or different shoes.  Are the things we bought her not good enough!?  Are WE not good enough!?  The case worker simply stated, “Different strokes for different folks” and I totally get that, but does it have to be every week?  I’ve actually thought once or twice in the past week, “Are they making progress with this aunt in Connecticut or what?!?!”

Ultimately, I know I don’t mean it and that I’m just frustrated.  I know birth moms that at some point have said, “Where is the nearest church so I can drop this damn baby off on the doorstep because I CAN’T!”  If my Mary left, I would honestly and tragically be devastated.  My heart (whether due to the lack of sleep, sensitive painful breasts, and all the emotions for the impending birth of our twins has made me a sappy mess!) can’t handle it.  I would cry and cry and cry for quite a while, but I’m human.  I’m allowed to be pissed at a kid who doesn’t listen, or is fresh, or is rocking my last nerve! My parents keep saying, “Remembah gwen jew wus a 6?” “No dad, I don’t” “Well, we do, and we gwanna forgot becoz jew was a pain in de ass!” “Thanks a lot dad!” Wise words from my dad again. (If you need a translation let me know!)  I’ve come to the realization that this too shall pass. It just seems to be crawling this week…

24 thoughts on “Drama for a Foster Mama

  1. I can only imagine how difficult this might be. I can’t imagine trying to parent a child and have someone undermine me at least once a week. Is it possible to have a meeting with her mother and worker? Voicing your concerns and offering up alternatives could work wonders! Hang in there

    • I actually just emailed that case worker. I have the mothers number but I didn’t want to reach out the her before speaking to worker. I asked her to see if she can make healthy snack suggestions to mom or if there was any way that we could set up a reward system so that we are working as a team instead of against each other…let see how that goes!

      • That seems like a great idea. It is what is in Mary’s best interest and hers as well if she plans on ever getting her back. You can’t be expected to raise Mary to a successful and thrive if there is someone that undermines your efforts and hard work. Its a ducky situation but it seems the mother is putting her own wants before Mary’s needs. I think it is smart to go through the worker that way there is someone in your corner. Good luck!

  2. Been there done that!. I hated when Nicolas spent time with his mom & dad (and that is my sister lol) He’d come home and have a fresh attitude along with all sorts of new stuff that she blew on him, where I’m trying to feed the kid on my budget (We didn’t get licensed until the very end so we were not receiving subsidy from the state) It is so frustrating, but it sounds like you guys are doing a great job with both kids.

  3. I know that feeling. It is really frustrating to be at odds with bio-mom (who is going to be at odds with you by default!). Vent away. It’s okay to resent the things that the system does to people, and the poor choices that bio parents making in the name of “asserting their parenthood” or trying to bribe their children to make up for not being there. This too shall pass!

    • I get it..she;s a crappy mom and that’s how she makes up for it…and honestly, that’s not really the problem, it’s the lack of communication and the undermining of our authority. We’re raising her, so it’s our rules, ya know!? But i reached out to the case worker (who is the exception to the rule because she is phenomenal) to see if we can figure out some type of system for healthier snacks and communicating better about buying her things. Mainly we don;t have the room for 2 of everything, and we keep spending money on things that aren’t approved for reimbursement so if mom is going to buy them, then we can reserve that money for other things that Mary needs/rewards/wants…lets see what happens…

  4. I don’t even know how you handle this, honestly, because I have a hard time parenting my own children sometimes and it’s just me and The Queen. I can’t imagine trying to co-parent with a third individual who didn’t have the same goals as us. I remind myself often that I love my kids, so raw and deep, but some days? I don’t like them (really, their age) very much. And I’m perfectly comfortable with that. I like to think it makes me human. 😉

    I will say that your suggestions are awesome and I’ve written them down for when they toddlers are older. (Really liked the earning rewards through reading tidbit. That’s solid parenting right there.) And I know, without a doubt, you are good enough. You’re actually better than good enough- the job you’re doing? The love you’re so selflessly giving? It’s tremendous. It’s way more than “good enough”. For Mary. For Callie. For Laney. For those babies. For your family, man. Sounds an awful lot like “the best” to me. Keep on doing your thing. 🙂

    • Thank you, i needed that! Sometimes i really question whether we are good enough. But you’re right! And I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one that sometimes doesn’t get/like/tolerate these kids! I love them like crazy, like they were my own, which is probably why I’m so sensitive to all of the things going on and what they go through. And, when are you moving back to Boston so we can hang out. You’re hella awesome and totally my kind of cool. Let me know if you’re ever in town and we’ll make the trip out there…that’s be sweet!

      • Kids, even as young as they are right now, are still their own people. They still do weird, confusing, unpredictable things because people are weird, confusing, unpredictable people. I don’t ever question the love I have for these two loud, smelly children in my home. But I question often how in the world they got here and what am I supposed to do with them? Sometimes, it’s so easy it’s frightening. And sometimes, it’s so hard it’s absurd. A lot of the time, I can float happily in the middle and know that’s enough. You can’t give 100% all of the time. They definitely don’t give 100% all of the time. Sometimes, I pick them up. Sometimes, they pick me up. Usually, The Queen picks us all up. She is freakishly strong.

        It’s not supposed to be easy. This is human wrangling. This is hard stuff. People like to pretend it’s all a wonderful, perfect blessing. And it definitely is. And it’s also awful and time consuming and really irritating sometimes. It’s the whole, not just parts that sound nice, and I’m okay with that. It makes it real.

        Being sensitive about your children is something I know all too well. You’ll learn, in time, to find a balance. (I hope. I’m telling you this because I am hoping I find a balance.) But don’t ever apologize for wanting to be good for your children. Don’t ever apologize for wanting it to ‘be enough’ and for someone to tell you it’s enough; for someone to recognize that sacrifice because it is definitely a sacrifice sometimes. And from one mother to another, you’re doing it right.

        Ah, Boston. That’s tricky. At least until the babies are out of infancy, we’re probably in a holding pattern. I will definitely let you know though. Love me some NYC.

  5. I’m certain EVERY parent – foster, bio, NGP, co-parent, single, blah blah blah – has days/weeks/perhaps even months, where they want to scream, cry, kick the kid out of the house. My sister has a 6-year old little girl and she’s as lippy as the day is long! It must be partially the age.

    • My dad keeps telling me that 6-8 year olds are the worst and I remember wanting to kill my brother at that age…just a right pain in the ass! So i get it. I just have to remember to exercise patience and little tolerance. Oh and get more sleep! Glad to know i’m not the only one that wants to pull a Homer Simpson every once in a while!

  6. It’s not you. The mom just is desperate for a connection with her daughter and only gets limited time with her. So she let’s things slide and tries to buy her daughter’s love by giving her stuff. It’s a really common MO even in intact families. I wouldn’t take it personally at all. Just take it as her trying to stay bonded and loving her daughter.

    • Yeah, you’re right. Just emailed the case worker to see if we can set something up as an extension of what we do at home. Try and implement a reward system, touch base to see if she is on punishment or things like that. Hopefully, that will go over well. I try my best not to take it personally because I know that it probably isn’t, but they can bond over carrots and celery and not a $.79 10 pack of glazed donuts, 3 bags of Dorito’s, 2 bags of bugles, and a 21 oz pepsi! LOL! And it will help her with per parenting skills too. Your kids shouldnt be sugared up like that! But you’re right, it’s not personal, it’s her trying to have her kid not hate her for sucking as a parent

  7. I used to see what this did with a kid I use to see in therapy. His mom had a lot of limitations, which I’m guessing Mary’s mom also has some. It can be hard for kids to sort out that “I love my mom,” and “I love my foster parents,” don’t have to be mutually exclusive. And you have no idea what messages they get from their family on top of that. Hang in there, stay consistent and play with her after she comes back from visits. Play can help kids express and work out their feelings in ways talking can’t.

    • Usually, when she gets home from visits, i make sure i have an activity planned or take her outside to p lay with some of our neighbors to keep her mind off of missing her mom. The rare occasions that we are busy of have to run to the store for something or other tend to be a bit harder of a transition. It’s one of the things we learned in out certification class that we didn’t do initially but when we went back in out notes decided to implement and it’s worked out great! And she does have a hard time separating them both. I think her mom might too. She always says that her “heart is confused, because I love my mom and i love you and Callie and the babies too!” I always say, “i know honey” but thank you for that because now, I’m going to make it clear that It’s ok to love us both and that no one is going to love her less because she loves the other one,. i don’t know why i never thought of that. Thank you!

  8. I love it when you quote the wisdom from your parentals. Lol. I know how it feels when you’ve been trying to establish a consistent routine and standard of behaviour and then something happens that messes it all up. It’s like teaching for me- I get very upset about things because I genuinely deeply care about my students. I think that if you didn’t care so much about Mary, you wouldn’t be as irked by what is going on. It’s too bad that you can’t really tell her mother that her choice of rewards isn’t really good for Mary. But if the candy situation improved, she has demonstrated that she can change her habits if you’re willing (and have the energy) to keep redirecting her.

    • Aren’t my parents ridiculous?!? I do have Mary’s moms number, but i didn’t want to overstep my boundaries, so I did email the caseworker and address our concerns. Hopefully, she will get back to us about that. it’s not so much that her mom buys her things and gets her snacks, but she just needs to make better choices. It’s fair to say that she isnt the best parent in the world, and who knows what examples she had, ya know!? So maybe our suggestions will go along way and instead of getting Mary a bag of chips, she can get her some humus and Pita (which she loves) instead. Lets see how that works out…and we’ll just keep doing what we have been doing because it has been working. She is a completely different kid

      • That’s amazing. I know it’s such hard work, and you’re pulling your hair out at times, but that kid is benefitting so much from your love and care.

  9. Bahaha I love your “impersonation” of your father. Your blog is one of my favorites for many reasons but mainly because of your sense of humor and your willingness to share your life without sugarcoating it! Ps… Mary will outgrow this phase. It’s not forever. Embrace every bit of it, even the bad. She won’t be that small forever ❤️

    • Isn’t he a mess?!?! I’m telling you, it gets better! One day i’ll add an undercover video of him on one if his “dad rants”. It’s ridiculous. And you’re right…one day, like we do with my dad, we’ll laugh about it. I have to put that one in my pocket…

  10. My mom did foster care and I did respite for foster parents in one of my prior lives. My heart goes out to you two and to Mary. No kid should have to be played or learn to play her loved ones. I say that and yet I also appreciate the futility of doing so. Wishing you peace in the midst of it all.

  11. You two are amazing. How you manage raising Mary with the undertow of her mother is really remarkable. I hope you can take that in and not be hard on yourself. And, I agree with the others, your parents sound like a trip. I always laugh when you relax their sage advice in perfect accent.

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