Wednesday, July 28, 2010

When you pass the test

This story goes out to Foster Ima from Frum Fostering, who I'm guessing will appreciate this.

Big Guy asked DP this week if "when you pass the test, can you drive on Saturdays?" She had no idea what he was talking about. "What test?" she asked. Turns out he was referring to the fact that he knows we follow the Jewish laws that forbid driving on Shabbos (our sabbath, which is Friday night and Saturdays) except in a serious emergency. Big Guy isn't Jewish and has been fascinated and perplexed by all the rules we follow - We don't make him follow them, obviously. But they affect the rhythm of all of our lives since we are religious Jews and there are foods we don't bring into our home and things we don't do with him on our sabbath. Apparently he got the idea that somehow if you follow all the laws strictly enough for a while, you've "passed the test" and then you can stop following them. As DP said (to paraphrase), "I guess he thinks if we're good enough about following halacha* for a while, we've proved ourselves and should be let off the hook. Wouldn't it be wonderfully convenient if it worked that way?" Indeed it would, DP. Indeed it would.

*Jewish religious law

Mom, Mother, Ima, Mommy

Big Guy has been asking to call us mommy for a while now, and we've firmly but lovingly said "it's too soon, it would hurt your mommy's feelings." But he started doing it anyway. He's been playing around with different words, but definitely making it very clear he doesn't want to call us our first names. So we finally had a conversation with him tonight about what he'd like to call us - We feel we should each have a different name and it shouldn't be "mommy" since he already has a mommy, whose feelings we want to respect and encourage him to respect. We gave some suggestions (like Ima & Mama, or Ima & Mama-B, which he rejected). His ideas?

Idea #1: "Mom One and Mom Two" ... Um, no way, buddy. I am not a robot. And it makes it sound like one of us is better than the other. Plus, it reminds me of Bob One and Bob Two (aren't they characters from some Dr. Seuss book?)

Idea #2: "Mother X and Mother Y" (with X and Y being our last initials). Heck no. There is no way you are calling me mother, sweetie pie. That makes me feel way too old and way too British.

Gotta keep working on this, because I want him to call us things he's comfortable with but I really don't think I can handle being Mom Two or Mother Y.


You know you're really a parent when you're giving a child a bath and you have to say:

"Um... buddy? It's okay to touch your pee-pee*, and I'm sure it feels very good, but that's something you need to do in private, not in front of your foster mom while she's giving you a bath. We only do that when we're alone, so I'm going out of the bathroom and closing the door now. Let me know when you're ready for me to come wash your hair."

*To clarify, I used the accurate anatomical term, but he insists on calling it a pee-pee anyway, and I don't want people to find my blog by searching for the real word!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Things I should post about at some point.

Just a few things I'd like to write about when I can find the time:

1) The situation that led to Big Guy (and, initially, his brother Little Guy) being placed with us

2) The way I feel totally abandoned by most of my friends and much of our family since Big Guy became part of our lives

3) The fascinating conversations we have with Big Guy about race, skin color, ethnicity and hair

4) Figuring out how to discipline a child with intense behavioral and emotional issues

5) How surprisingly wonderful some of the support staff are that we've been working with through the Agency, school, etc.

6) Some of the hilarious things Big Guy says over the course of a day.

7) My concerns about his mental health

8) What keeping Shabbos (the Jewish sabbath) looks like when you have a 9 year old non-Jewish foster child

9) Addressing Big Guy's negative feelings about gay people and Jews, and some of the amusing conversations that have ensued

Why I've been M.I.A.

It sounds cliche to say "I just haven't had time to post"... but it's really true. Since my last post here's a brief version of what's happened:

1) We got licensed as foster parents

2) I finished up a pretty intense semester of school

3) I continued to struggle with several health issues that give me a lot of pain and fatigue

4) We got a call about an allegedly gorgeous 1 year old girl in perfect health who was a rare "truly fost-adopt placement" (in the words of the caseworker who called us) in that the TPR process had already started and she had been in a kinship care situation that was no longer working out due to nothing related to the baby. My hands shook, I could hardly contain myself. And then 1/2 hour later we got a call back saying "Uh, just kidding. We found another family member." We both felt really sad for a day or two, but praying for the baby and feeling happy for her that she was able to be with a family member got us through that.

5) We got a call about a teenager. Um, what? What part of "0-5" don't you understand, Agency?

6) We got a call about 1 and 9 year old brothers in mid-June. Because we are completely out of our minds insane we said YES! Little Guy, age 1, was a chubby and delicious and unusually adorable bundle of sweetness. An easy baby who slept through the night, was easily comforted, and adored his brother, Big Guy, like nothing else. He followed him around the house like a puppy dog and belly-laughed every time Big Guy yelled or whined or threw a tantrum. Big Guy was handsome fellow, with a sweet neshama (soul). Kind and helpful and funny and affectionate, when doing well... and extremely behaviorally challenged when not doing well. Diagnoses include Oppositional-Defiance Disorder (ODD), ADHD, depression, anxiety, impulse control disorder, so on and so forth.

7) After a week with us, our Agency totally screwed up their court case, which led to the judge requiring that Little Guy being returned home... but not Big Guy. So now the boys became separated, and for the last 6 weeks we've just had Big Guy, whose honeymoon period ended after 2 or 3 weeks with us. Since then we've been spending most of our energy managing his incredible tantrums and outbursts, which include throwing and breaking things, turning over furniture, threatening to run away, and threatening to hurt himself. In between those challenging episodes, he shows how much some of his behaviors have improved, he shows how much he's bonded with us (he's now asking if he can call us both Mom, and even though we told him we thought it was too early and we didn't want his Mommy to get upset, he's started to occasionally call us Mom-type names), he a pleasure to be around, and he amuses us ceaselessly. School says he's doing better since he's been with us. All his social workers are impressed. Yet at home, we are struggling with how much we are in love with this boy yet how totally clueless we are about how to manage some of his behaviors.

8) So, we're foster parents. It feels like it's been a lifetime. This has been the longest 6 weeks of my life. We know rationally that we're doing a great job with him, even if emotionally it doesn't always feel that way. It seems like Hashem (G-d) must have known what He was doing in leading a 9 year old with intense behavioral issues to our family instead of the 0-5 year olds with mild to moderate needs that we had originally signed up for. Except at the very most difficult times (when I am exhausted and hurt and angry and frustrated and sad and burnt out, and feel utterly isolated and unsupported) I feel like this was totally Meant To Be and I am so grateful that we've had the opportunity to learn how fulfilling it can feel to parent an older child. I miss Little Guy so much. We see him at Big Guy's weekly visits, and sometimes get to hold him. I am angry they have been separated - Angrier than words can express. At the same time, it's amazing to me the ways in which parenting an older child can actually be more satisfying than parenting a baby. I never would have dreamed I could handle this. But so far, I can. Just barely.