Earlier this week I told you that #7 & #8 went home. In honor of Tuesday's Tears, I focused on the gut-wrenching part of their departure and how we felt. As has been our experience, when foster children leave there is actually a strong ambivolence and that is probably strongest with the end of this placement. Leaving the story with the tears would not be telling the whole story, at all, and it's really important in my mind that I also convey to you something that is very hard to explain - there is a joy in having foster children leave.
That is very true in this case.
I went through the case in the earlier post - how we never really knew, even until the moment they left (which was 45 minutes later than planned, go figure) how this case would turn out. And if I learned anything about foster care-to-date, even when they leave the case is far from over. All of our kiddos have come back into care and so far we've been asked to take them all back. It's a bit early for that to have happened in this case. Surely they can make it through one week. And while we hope that they have a successful return home (really, we really do), it's not something we're necesarily counting on this time. We didn't expect it in other cases, but we do expect it this time and that in and of itself contributes to the sadness for the kiddos.
So we were in limbo the entire time on where their case would lead. This was very bad for the kiddos because #7 especially needed a lot of help understanding permanency and since we didn't know what that looked like it was hard to help him feel safe. What a tradgedy of the system this time.
But we're still thankful they have gone home. Maybe it's God's way of preparing our lives to be foster parents, but when we know children are going home we begin looking forward to life without them. This is very hard to explain. It makes us sound like we have no heart. When I answer "not really" every time someone asks if it's hard for kids to go home, it's not because we don't experience pain but rather because we've learned to let that go and focus on the bright side wherever possible. And there's almost always a bright side. I'm sure of it.
Foster parenting is hard. Parenting 4 kids is hard. Parenting 2 2-year old girls and 2 boys (4 & 5) is hard. Therapeutic parenting is hard. Having a child in the home whose RADish is hard. It's a lot of work!
Is it really all that hard to believe that there's some relief from going from all of that to one 2 year old and one 5 year old, neither of which are very high-maintenance?
We're enjoying our rest, we're enjoying that things are easier, but most of all we're enjoying the peace in our home. You see, the behavior we've experienced over the past 6 months has been constant opposition. It doesn't matter what you ask/tell one of our children to do, it was almost always instant opposition, a fight, whining, crying, tantrum throwing, and it was not a 2-year-old. It did get better through therapeutic parenting - we were able to curb the "vomiting on command" and reduce the length and intensity of most opposition, but it was still there. Constantly. Now add to that behavior the behavior that naturally comes with 2 2-year-olds and an annoyed "big boy" and you get a lot of chaos. It was a managed chaos. We could handle it. But it was exhausting.
Now imagine all of that as a single parent. I'm not one, but 4 days a week I am including weekends, my days off from work which means I only get to co-parent 3 weeknights each week. That's it.
Now add-in all the chores that we have to do. Remember all the behaviors and the schedule. Now think about taking them all grocery shopping. The trips are long just because there are 4 kiddos in tow but they are long because of the amount of groceries that need purchased. Think about all of the laundry and how all of it needs to be done either after the kids go to bed or while the kids are playing with it...
Need an example - some imagery? One night a couple weeks ago I finally got to the laundry about 8pm on Sunday night. By that time I had about 9 loads of laundry waiting for me to fold, hang-up, iron, and put away. Except I can't put most of the clothes away because then I'd have to chance waking the kids up as I go in their room (that's where hubby's schedule helps...he can put away for me when kids aren't home!). So I spent 3 hours just folding and then about 11:15 pm finally started the process of getting ready for bed. No time to iron, hang-up, or put away. Hubby doesn't have much time Monday's to put away, so I usually get to it Monday night or he gets to it Tuesday mornings. (I also usually get some of it done over the weekend so it's not 9 loads all at once, but I digress...). Except, for whatever reason that weekend the kitchen was also a disaster so I made the decision to let the kiddos play while I cooked dinner and cleaned the kitchen after dinner MOnday night. I have an open floor plan and should have realized what they were quietly doing but they seemed happy so I didn't interrupt. When I finally had the kitchen sparkling I joined them in the living room.
They had thrown ALL of the laundry that I'd folded the night before into a pile on the living room floor (which hadn't been vacuumed or swept yet so you can imagine it wasn't THAT clean). Now it's about 8pm on Monday night, I have to get the kiddos off to bed, I've just spent a few hours cleaning the kitchen, and now, I know I have to refold all of the laundry - which I knew had taken me 3 hours to fold the night before.
Are you pausing to bow your head and collect yourself yet? That's about where I was. A big sigh. A deep breath. Then back to it.
That's what it's been like for the past 6 months. It's been hard.
Now that #7 & #8 are back home, presumably happy and with their reunited family, our family is back to a family of four. One incredibly compliant and pleasant and intelligent 5 year old who is really sweet. One good-natured and adorable just-turned-two little girl who we're all giddy about because we're about to adopt. They play well together. Less laundry. Less groceries. Less work. No more defiance and opposition beyond that naturally expected from a 2-year old and that which is easily manageable.
Can you see how sending foster kiddos home might be rewarding too?
Don't get me wrong, it's been incredibly rewarding being their parents. We love them. We wish the best. We love having a big family and though the work is daunting there is also that much more joy from laughter and all that comes with lots of kiddos around. Good stuff. There's nothing like that joy you get as a therapeutic parent when one of your kiddos has a breakthrough moment.
It's worth it, which is why we'll continue to foster. We're not currently on the list. We've agreed to wait at least until the end of next week to enjoy this downtime and then we'll talk about it to see if we need more time. We'll see. We can't imagine not having more kiddos in our home and doing it all over again. Call us crazy, but we love being foster parents and can't imagine having kiddos out there who need a home who'd fit with us go to another bad fit just because we were afraid of more craziness.
We'll keep you posted on that. Right now we're enjoying our little break and looking forward to #4's adoption, which is scheduled next week. That's right - it's actually scheduled to be done and over with by the end of the week NEXT WEEK!!!! Can you believe it? .....