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…