We Were So Worried…

for NOTHING!  Absolutely nothing!

First, thank you everyone who commented on my last post about Mary visiting with mom for the first time in months.  Callie and I read all of your replies, and really just love you all so much.  Your support and your kinds words always validate our feelings, address our concerns with kindness and love, and lift us all the way up on our super low and tough days.   So friends (and I’m lucky to call you that), we appreciate you.

Mary had no idea she was having a visit yesterday.  We were worried that mom wouldn’t pass the toxicology test and that Mary would be really upset if another visit was cancelled, so as per our caseworker Karen’s request, we didn’t tell her.  Yesterday morning, Karen received the results of Mom’s tox screening on Tuesday.  Results negative, visit still on, but we still didn’t tell her because what if Mom didn’t show up?!  So we sent her off to school, with no inkling that a bus would be picking her up early, and taking her to see Mom. We debated (several times) calling the school, or having Callie walk over and pull Mary out of class to warn tell her, but Karen advised us to just not say anything because there was still the possibility that Mom wouldn’t show.

But she DID show up.  And the visit went (from what Karen and Mary tell us) pretty well.  The tears didn’t happen until the end, when it was time to leave, and Mary wasn’t ready yet.  She says she needed more time. That the visit was only this long (spreads her hands about 8inches apart). I think she fears Mom will go missing for a long time again and that she had more things to say to her about how she’s been feeling.  Callie and I were texting with Karen most of the day (in iPhone group text fashion) and were just asking her to really try and guide the conversation so that Mary can get some of the answers that she needed from Mom.  How we have been working on her being honest about her feelings because no one can get mad about what is going on inside of her even if it’s something they don’t want to hear or they don’t agree with.  We asked her to explain some of the terminology that we have been using with Mary to convey some of the things that are happening with Mom.  I’m pretty sure when taken out of context, “Mom is sick in her brain” probably makes us sound like real assholes, instead of making us sound like parents using child friendly language to explain the true nature of addiction.  But Mom completely owned it! She told Mary that she has been sick and that she has been working very hard on feeling and getting better.  And we appreciate that, because we are all on the same page, and Mary is getting the same message from ALL of the people that she loves.  That it’s ok to make mistakes because we are all human, but it’s so important to own them and fix them, and try your best.  Must make it a little less frightening and confusing.  At least I hope it does.

They talked about the baby in Mom’s belly, six months along, and how it’s another little girl, and Mary gets to name her (ugh! This is gonna be the topic of conversation for WEEKS!  I just know it!) and Mary chose Lydia (a combination of her and Mom’s names) and she must have told us about it 500 times already in less than 4 hours!  Mary told her about what is going on in school, and how soon, she’ll be going into 2nd grade, and that she is reading sooooo many books and that she reads like a 2nd grader already!  From what it sounds like, she was trying to fit in as much as she could in the short time they had together.  Mom bought a ton of junk from the vending machine, like Oreo’s and Chips, and some other stuff, and Mary told her that those things are yummy, but that you can only have them sometimes because they are not good for you!  #PARENTINGWIN!  This coming from the kid who did this!  And then it was time to come home, but not before a whole lot of tears and clutching onto Mom.

Callie tells me that she was so happy when she got off of the bus.  That she walked in, put her things away, and asked Callie to write her down some questions.  This is her new way of telling us that she wants to talk.  It’s indirect and non-intimidating, and most of all, it’s working.  She’s opening up.  She’s feeling comfortable and happy and safe enough to trust us with what she is feeling and knows that we won’t judge her or make her feel bad or not validate her.  So Callie wrote some questions down.  “How did it feel when you saw Mom?”  “What’s your best memory of you and Mom?”  “What’s your saddest memory of you and Mom?”  “When were you most scared?”  “When were you the happiest?”  “How did you feel when the bus picked you up and you didn’t know where you were going?” Open ended questions that we were hoping she would answer honestly and openly.  And she did!  She totally did.

I got home from work, and we ordered her (and her Mom’s) favorite dinner, Sesame Chicken and fried rice.  We laughed and talked about this weekends plans (Fishing Derby, PRIDE Carnival at our Church which houses our county’s LGBTQ Community Center and has a huge family event Saturday afternoon, and the boys Baptism on Sunday), and the whole time Mary kept making comments about her “family”, meaning US!  YES, US!  Everything was, “my brothers”, “Mommy” “Mama”.  She talked about our upcoming vacations, and a few times, she would just mumble randomly, “I really love my family!”.

At one point, she caught me off guard.

M: “So I made my choice Mama”

S:  “What choice, CooCoo?!”

M: “I choose to stay here!  I want to stay with my family”

S:  (Look of shock on my face) “Your family?! You mean…with us?  You want to stay here, at home, with us?”

M: “Yeah.  This is my family.  I choose you guys!  I choose to stay here.”

S:  “Oh honey, we choose for you to stay here too! We love you in our family.  You’re our daughter, our best girl, my CooCoo bird, our silly lady!  We want you here too! But sometimes, those things aren’t up to us, honey. They are up to the court and the judge.  Hopefully, the judge will see that we all love each other so much, and that we are THE BEST family EVER!”

M: “YEAH! The BEST! Hehe ::huge smile:

S: ” Yeah, hopefully she’ll see we are the best family, and she’ll make the greatest choice, and let you stay. But no matter what happens, you always have a home here, you hear me?! With two mommies that love you, so, so, so, so, so, so much!  So, so much!” (hugs and kisses and cuddles, and i tuck her in)

M: “Mama? Can we pray?”

S:  “Sure Cooc’s. You do it!”

M: “Dear God, please keep my mommy, and my baby sister safe.  That she makes good choices, and that she doesn’t get more sick.  Please let her not be sad at me for choosing my family.  Let the judge make the good choices too.  Bless my brothers and my moms, all of them, and bless me.  Thanks for food and clothes and a nice house.  Oh and Olaf (her huge stuffed animal).”

S: ” And bless our hearts so that they stay open and filled with all of our love, no matter what happens!  Amen. Good night, best girl”

M: “Goodnight Mama.  I love you, and I love my family….”

It COULD NOT have turned out better if we had written a script for it.  She’s safe, she’s loved, she’s home.

She chooses us…

She totally. Chooses. Us…..

SHE'S GOT HER FAMILY, SO NOW SHE CAN SOAR!

SHE’S GOT HER FAMILY, SO NOW SHE CAN SOAR!

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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…