I love my kids. A lot. I really, really do. Even if I‘m not always perfect. The kids aren’t always either. And sometimes I forget why it can be even harder for them. Cindy reminded me, yet again, how previous traumas can be hard to overcome.
It has been years since I first found her blog and began reading; I can’t even remember how long ago. There were times when my stress levels were too high, that reading there was just too much because it was too close to home. A break was needed. I always go back though. I get it. I know what she means.
Then I forget. Our current foster kids have been here so long I forget that their past still affects them. Out of sight, out of mind for me. I react as if the kids are not traumatized, as if they are “normal”. Now, we don’t have it as evident here as Cindy does there. She has just a few more kids than we do. Okay, several factors more. They also have had harder backgrounds. Some things though are evident even with fewer kids or “not as bad” situations.
Early on in the placement of our current kids I read the following in a parenting book, “Follow through consistently every time and your child will learn that you mean business. It may take 5 or 10 times, but they will start to see you mean it. Stick with it.” I laughed. Loud. Then I began to wonder if perhaps I was doing something wrong. After 50 times they weren’t getting it. Every day I would be consistent over and over again (one day I kept count but stopped at 20) with the rule, but they just weren’t getting it. They kept pushing and pushing trying to do what they wanted. Following through 5 or 10 times was not cutting it. When I remembered that perhaps these kids weren’t getting it due to reasons other than my consistency I wasn’t so hard on myself. Part of it could be stubbornness. Part of it could be genetics. Part of it could be past traumas. Whatever it is, God has given my kids some perseverance beyond what I had at their ages. I still forget at times that their past is very different than mine.
What I need to not forget it to keep on keeping on trying to raise them with lots of grace, love, and guidance.
Change is hard for them. They really don’t respond well. Two weeks of vacation was beyond what they were able to handle. Even if it was to a place we had been before, seeing people they know. Their routines were messed up, including not going to school. Meal times (food is always an issue, even if it isn’t always obviously evident) were not the same, time wise and food choice wise. And to top it all off, we weren’t in the same place the whole time. There is a strong desire in them to know that home is still there, they will be going back there, their beds have not gone away and neither have their toys. Towards the end of the first week, one kid asked if we were going home soon. I actually felt guilty for saying, “No, we still have a week of vacation left.”
When we left for our overseas trip last year, the kids stayed with my parents. We had to prepare them ahead of time, making it sound like an adventure. It also helped that they knew the beds they were going to be sleeping in were the same ones they always sleep in when they go there, the stuffed animals would be the same, and the toys would be the same. I knew that meals would be at consistent time and similar to what we eat at home. The kids go there about once a month with us to spend the night, so while it was not home, it was very similar. After three weeks staying there, they thought that was their home. They didn’t understand why they weren’t going back there to sleep once night came around. I almost cried. Not because I took it personally, but because I knew where they were coming from and why.
All of this to say, after a week of readjusting from vacation, we have had a GREAT several days. My post on Sunday came after a week of post-vacation behaviors. It happens. It is a part of our life. Even our caseworker mentioned why they were acting up and that it isn’t uncommon for the foster families to really consider whether they can emotionally handle the results from taking a vacation. Honestly, sometimes it is easier and more restful to stay home rather than take previously traumatized kids on a trip. Even a fun one. One that they would really love. Sometimes the fall-out isn’t worth it. And sometimes,
you I just need to remember what will be at the end of a wonderful vacation and lower my expectations for a few days.