Monday, March 16, 2015

Goodbyes for now and hellos soon

In ten days we will have fostered for two solid years (we've been licensed longer but our first long term placement - Child B. and Child C. - arrived 2 years ago) with a two week break between placements.
And after 18 mos child D., Child E., and Child F. are moving back to their parent's home. There are boxes and boxes of clothes and toys to pack. This transition has been progressing for over a month and it's nice to finally have some permanency instead of splitting weeks and schedules and bouncing tired cranky kids back and forth.

For all five kids, this is a sad change ... and a happy one ... so everyone is a little out of sorts and confused. But as we get closer to a consistent bed every night the more settled everyone seems.

And everyone is sympathetic to us - as in, to Ren Man and myself. I get it, kind of. But this is the point. The point is to be a safe holding spot for kids while their parents learn new skills, strengthen their community/support system, and maybe even space to re-evaluate their choices/life/future. It's not a perfect system - far from it, but in this case, it seems to have taken hold in a positive way. And fortunately for us, we're working with some pretty amazing parents who value our relationship with their kids.

Having said all that, this investment takes a ton of effort, time, resources and it's been a relatively long time - especially given how young these girls are. This is all with the underlying pressure of feeling like every move, scratch, illness, parenting choice is analyzed and assessed by an almost-stranger who you didn't invite into your life - beyond deciding to foster. The lack of respect applied to original families (which is discouraging and frustrating) is just as often arbitrarily applied to foster parents, in general (having said that - this is a general statement - we've felt beyond thankful for the hours and hours of support and guidance and explanation and respect shared with us from the caseworker for this specific case). This is completely draining.
We're so honored to have seen them grow and mature over the last 18mos. But it's discouraging to see all that progress disintegrate the longer the kids are away from you - it's not even big things. Here's a silly example: in our house, you shut the toilet lid when you're done. This is apparently not the case at the girls parents' because the lid is now consistently left up. But we know they are morphing into someone else's kids who we just happen to know really well, and the toilet seat being up or down is not a big deal for this short time during transition. It's a good reminder of all the adjustments foster kids are expected to make the instant they move from one home to another - on top of the trauma of the move in the first place.

This summer is slated to be our busiest yet. We have all kinds of projects on the brink of beginning - including one huge one we're keeping under wraps until it's a definite.
Oh yeah.
And a new baby we're growing that will presumably come out into the world at some point this summer.
So when the girls were looking more and more like they would be leaving us we talked about taking a break until November or so. This would get us past weddings and high school seniors in terms of photography and through the intensity of summer farming.
But as the Big Project becomes more and more likely we're thinking the fostering break might last years, not just months.

And part of this is saying "Goodbye" to the notion of a larger family. I have always said I wanted 6 kids. Ren Man is pretty committed to not going over five. But even at five, he gets socially overwhelmed. And child rearing is intense and when you make the choice to raise kids, you make the choice not to do other things. And right now we're making the choice to do those other things and be satisfied with 2 (and a half) kids. It's taken a while to get here - because for years (since I was a child myself, literally) I would tell everyone that I wanted 6 kids (originally it was 50 birthed and 50 adopted, so 6 seemed a reasonable compromise). Every.single.time the adult I was telling would inevitably scoff: "wait until you have one!"
How condescending!
And all that did was encourage my adamance that I would raise six kids. And I was that person that said she'd have six kids.
I also attribute this desire to raise more than four kids to my mom - who I observed first hand as she raised four kids. What a testament to her mothering, to find myself wanting to emulate her so much - and then some!
I try not to take it as a testament to my mothering then, when Del insists she wants to remain child-free. Instead I think she is wise to see that there are so many choices in life and raising children is not a more valued than another choice - but by choosing to raise children, you choose to not do other things. And by choosing to do other things, you are choosing not to raise children.
And I hope hope hope no grownup ever says to her: "just wait until you get older, then you'll see how you feel."

So goodbye for now to girls - our daughters of 18mos, goodbye for now to fostering, goodbye for now to the expectation of a large family.
Hello soon to an evolved relationship with our girls, hello soon to spring and summer, hello soon to new projects, and hello soon to a new baby.

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