Thursday, March 26, 2015

The First Moments

The day is here! After waiting for nine months (give or take) you finally get to hold your sweet little one in your arms. The pain and effort, worth it. The months of discomfort, worth it. The HOURS spent trying to assemble that monstrosity of a crib that seemed so beautiful in the store, worth it. You now have a precious child. They are yours, forever and always. It is a feeling of fulfillment, of peace, and that all is right with the world. You will now be able to watch that little one that you’ve already become so close to as they grow. You’ll watch their personality develop and teach them so many things. Thoughts flood your mind. The old way of doing things is forever changed.

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That’s how I’ve heard it is, anyway. Those first moments of parenting in a bio parent’s journey are emotional to be sure. They are full of excitement.

Our first moments have been full of emotion and excitement also. I still remember the first placement we had so vividly. After long months of going through the training, home study, and background checks, we had finally been approved and were ready and waiting. We didn’t hear anything for quite some time, but one day the call came.

It was a unique placement, from the perspective that the child was being voluntarily placed into foster care. However, the thoughts and feelings we experienced that time are the same ones we experienced so many other times since then.

To compare accurately though, let me just write about the moments immediately following the child’s arrival.

A foster family’s first moments with a child are often awkward. As a foster mom, it’s my job to keep it from being awkward for the child as much as possible. After all, they are in a whole new environment, with all new expectations, and totally new people. The only person that they may already be familiar with is their caseworker who brought them to this strange new place.

In our home, there has always been excitement when we receive a new child. Whether a temporary placement, a respite for a weekend, or a long-term placement, we are excited to welcome another child to our home. We are excited because we will get to teach them new things. We are excited because we get to show them Christ’s love. We are excited for the potential that each of these precious gifts from God has.

However, although a new bio parent gets to show and share his excitement with everyone around, we foster parents can’t share or show too much. After all, to the child entering our home, there is nothing at all exciting about being there. Normally they are more focused on the reason they aren’t at their old home, and rarely is that a good reason. If we as foster parents are over-excited, it can cause the child to feel more awkward. Instead, we try to welcome them into our life and home by teaching them our expectations and going on as though life is normal, and has always been that way. . . even though we all know it hasn’t. Establishing routine is so crucial, so that’s where we start. We have a family meeting, go over rules and responsibilities, and start our new life together.

I am thankful for the friends and family that I can call or message to share my excitement. There are some of them that are so excited for us, and it encourages me so much. Some are full of questions, some of which I can answer and some I can’t. The ones I like to share with the most are the ones that just share our joy over welcoming our newest addition. Bio parents receive gifts and visits in the hospital and share pictures of their new sweetie-pie with the world. Foster parents buy gifts of clothing, toiletries, and other necessities for every new placement, have visits from caseworkers, casa workers, therapists and counselors, and can’t share pictures in any public way.

The first moments are emotional. Emotional for the child, emotional for the foster parents, and maybe even emotional for the case worker. I already addressed the emotion of excitement, but there are so many other emotions I feel when we welcome a new kiddo into our lives. I feel compassion. Most of these kiddos have very little control in their lives. They are tossing about like a cork on stormy ocean waves, just trying to survive. As I learn their stories and hear their pain, my heart reaches out to them. I feel hope. Now there will be a chance for these little ones to know Jesus. Now they will be safe. Now they will learn what it is like to live in a loving, nurturing environment. I feel insufficient. Will I be able to reach them? Will I be able to teach them the lessons they need to learn? Am I capable of making decisions in their best interest even when my heart tells me otherwise? I feel uncertainty. How long will this placement last? What issues will we face with this child? Will they be a picky eater? How soon can we get them in school?

For bio-parents, the first moments may be peaceful and relaxing as they take it easy for a few days or weeks and ease into life with a new addition to their family. The first moments for a foster parent are not moments of peace and calm by any means. There’s the busy-ness of getting the child enrolled in school, getting physicals and dental check-ups, getting medications regulated and/or prescribed, unpacking, doing a clothing inventory and shopping for necessities that are sadly lacking, getting therapy and other supports in place, and getting used to the new normal. All of that is in addition to dealing with a hurting child who likely is acting out, bedwetting, or having sleepless nights because they are reeling emotionally as well. As a foster parent, I generally have nights with very little sleep for the first few weeks after a new placement. I’m listening for tears or wandering in the night, because to many foster children, the night is a scary time when bad things happen.

Bio-parents get to see most moments of their kiddos life.  Not so with foster parents. When we receive our new little bundle of . . . pain, they have already often lived through more in their short lives than many adults we know. We don’t get to see their firsts. We don’t get to know their stories and experiences. We only pick up bits and pieces of their life stories as they gradually begin to trust and accept us. There may be entire chunks of their life that we never know about. We struggle with filling out paperwork at dentists, doctors, and schools because we don’t have a family health history, school records, or vaccination reports. We don’t know about their traditions and customs. We sometimes don’t even know their full legal name. (I’m thinking of one placement we had that had 3 different last names on different legal paperwork.) Favorite foods are a mystery, and we have no idea what foods are intolerable to the kids either.

Bio-parents start their parenting journey at the beginning and grow their parenting skills as their children grow. Not us. We have to be a strong, unified team of parents, problem solving, counseling, guiding, and encouraging. We do learn as we go, no question there, but we don’t go from baby screaming to toddler tantrums to preteen puberty to teenage independence. We can receive any one of those stages at any time, and we have to learn to deal with them as they come. Fostering is not for the faint of heart, to be sure.

But some things are the same regardless of whether you are a bio-parent or foster parent. Every parent has those first moments. Every parent remembers them. Every parent learns from them. Every parent has a story. What about you? What were your first moments like? I’d love to hear from you!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Moments: Intro

Awhile back I started to contemplate a series I’ve been wanting to post. I’ve been pondering it for months, and at long last I am daring to sit down and start typing. Before I actually dive into the posts, please, please understand the following:

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* I don’t want this to be an us vs. them series. I’m writing to help others understand foster parenting and some of its emotions, not to say that fostering is better, harder, more rewarding, etc. It is simply different. That being said, I do see things from the foster parenting side of things, and our opinions may differ.

 

* I would love your input. I am not a bio parent. I would love to be, and by God’s grace I hope that one day I may be. If I share something that you disagree with, I’d love to read your polite viewpoint. If I share something that triggers a memory or a bit of advice, I’d love that too.

 

* Our journeys are all different. Just because I am sharing how fostering has played out in our lives does not mean that every foster parent feels the same way.

 

* I am not an expert. I’m just sharing our experiences and emotions. There are parents out there that are far more seasoned and experienced than my husband and I are.

So, now that you understand those things, let me begin.

 

Over the past years, my husband and I have discussed over and over again our feelings of not fitting in. We don’t fit in the singles, newlyweds, or married with kids categories where most of our friends belong. It wasn’t that any of our friends were unkind or anything of that sort. We simply couldn’t relate to them as well as they could relate to the other members of their life group. When we FINALLY had our first long term foster placement, in the back of my mind I must have thought things would be different. At last I was in “the club” of parents. Now I could join them in sharing about the parenting adventures, challenges, and triumphs. We could relate!

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Then, one day I was in a room full of mothers. As I listened to them sharing their parenting stories, I realized that although I  had my own parenting stories to share, our stories were and would always be different. You see, every parent has moments that define the way they parent, the relationships they build with their kiddos, and even their feelings of parenting success or failure. Thinking about those moments made me start to wonder if my friends and family would like to see things through my eyes. Would understanding help them to relate to me, and me relate to them? Would my view of these parenting moments prevent someone from making one of those insensitive remarks we foster parents often hear? If so, the time and thought I’m putting into the posts will be worthwhile. I’d love for you to join me on this journey of understanding.

Come back soon to read about The First Moments.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Book Review: The Pirate and the Firefly by Amanda Jenkins and Tara McClary Reeves

BOOK COVER PIRATE

I was thrilled when I got the opportunity to review this book. As a foster parent who is always on the lookout for character building books, I read them to my kiddo and let her help me with the review process.

She LOVED this book. When I read the title to her, she wasn’t so sure she wanted me to read it, because she doesn’t want anything to do with flies or bugs, but as I read this story of Oliver, who learns an important lesson about peer pressure and doing what is right, she was drawn in and very engaged. The questions Oliver asked really resonated with her little heart, and she seemed to really take in the lesson behind the story.

The authors beautifully use real life situations to show kids how Psalm 1 applies to their lives. They share Biblical truths about wisdom in a book colorfully illustrated with captivating pictures.

If you’d like to check out this book for yourself, you can find it on Amazon, at CBD, or wherever Christian books are sold.

 

***** I received this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own (or my daughter’s) and I received no compensation.

Book Review: Precious Moments God Watches Over Me

 

PM book cover

I recently had the privilege of reading this book to my daughter during our devotions. It’s a lovely little book with prayers, poems, and readings about the different times God watches over us. The reassuring words are complemented with the beautiful Precious Moments artwork in soft, relaxing, pastel colors.

My little girl loved the book and over and over again through the next days, she’d pull it off the shelf and (She doesn’t read yet, by the way.) “read” it to herself. She’d say things like, “God takes care of me when I’m swinging,” or “God watches over me when I get a boo-boo.” Those are not exactly the words in the book, but she was comforted by them over and over again. Since we received the book, we have referred back to it several times when she was scared, hurt, sick, etc. What a beautiful truth that God cares for us no matter our situation in life!

She says that I should tell people that she reads it some days because she likes it. When I asked her why she likes it, she said, “Because God really does watch over me, Mom.”

If you’d like this book for yourself, check it out on Amazon, at CBD, or wherever Christian books are sold.

******* I received this book in exchange for an honest review as part of the BookLook Bloggers program. All opinions are my own (or my daughter’s) and no compensation was received.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Moments: Will you help me out?

I’ve been thinking about this topic for a couple of months now. I’ve seen several posts, articles, and stories about common misconceptions of foster parents. I’ve been comparing and contrasting in my head, and now I’m finally ready to post.  In order to accomplish what I want to in this series, I’m going to need the help of my readers.

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I’ve been thinking about the similarities and differences in the moments foster and bio parents experience. For example, they both experience the FIRST moment. But the experience is very different. I have a list of moments I’d like to write about, but I’d like to see if you can help me come up with more. If you think of some, write them in the comments below. Thanks so much!

Here’s my list:

The first moments

The “why” moments

The preparation moments

The proud moments

The helpless moments

The “what did I get myself into” moments

The goodbye moment

The school moments

The teachable moments

The discipline moments

What moments are important in your parenting?

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© Bethany Morford

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