As I was typing that title, Nine Weeks, I almost typed Nine Months by accident which reminded me of being pregnant. And while I’m NOT pregnant, I have seen a lot of similarities between the first weeks of parenting new foster kiddos and the first weeks of parenting newborns.
You just don’t know much about each other for a while. You have to be together just about every single second for at least a few weeks, if not longer. You feel like you have no time to do anything…your house is a mess and your kids eat a lot more “instant” food than you’d like. The bathrooms are neglected until absolutely necessary. You’re worn out and want a break but know that you can’t really take one. You can’t leave the kids alone in a room, especially with their siblings! You count on your family and close friends a whole lot more than you’d like to. When you pass off your child to a friend or family member to get a little quiet, you feel guilty because you’re supposed to be spending these first precious weeks bonding! Every. Single. Second! You frustrate each other and there is crying by both child and parent.
Of course, there are things that are quite different, too. Foster kiddos have entire pasts that are different from your family experiences. There are habits to be broken, expectations to be changed, respect and affection to begin building. With foster kids older than infants, there is definitely a lot of being annoyed. For both kids and parents.
Imagine inviting your child’s friends over for a playdate and then they just never go home. And they are friends who have not been taught the life lessons your kids have been taught. And you’re not really sure if they’re going to be staying forever or just for a while, but you’re supposed to (and you really WANT to) love them both in actions and with your emotions. They’re not used to your way of doing things and you’re not used to theirs. Sometimes you push their buttons so much that they throw tantrums or toys or words that are aimed to hurt you or your other kids. Sometimes they push your buttons so much that you wonder what the heck you have gotten yourself into.
I know from other foster and adoptive parents that there is a time of building attachment…nine weeks really isn’t all that long! Our goal right now is to look for ways to build our own attachment to each of our new kiddos. Greg and I are each thinking of activities that bring us a feeling of fondness and affection for each of the new kids. They really are adjusting very quickly and every little bit of extra attachment helps! The faster they attach to us and we attach to them, the better our family can function.
The first two weeks were honeymooning. During week three, the four kids started fighting with each other all. the. time. Week three or four, one of the new kids started major tantrums (we knew these would be coming) and Jake started melting down and blaming it on one of the kids. Weeks four to eight were more fighting, more meltdowns, more tantrums, and more of the kids trying to figure out the pecking order of their new “pack.” I know that sounds terrible, but I suppose every large family has to learn to navigate the different relationships somehow so that everyone gets along. We’re not finished with that yet.
But weeks eight and nine have seemed a little less crazy in regards to sibling rivalry. There is still fighting and there are still a lot more mean words than I like in our house. There is still a long way to go towards attaching these new little ones to siblings and parents and the routines and expectations of this house. But we’re managing…which is more than I could have said a few weeks ago!
Thank goodness that Greg and I both felt so strongly and clearly that this placement was the one God had for us. It’s so nice to be able to look back at a decision that has brought such chaos and exhaustion, and know that this is the chaos and hard work that God meant for us. He knows all four of our kiddos best. He knows us best. He has a good plan for all of us. And best of all, we’re making it through these long summer days, which I was SO worried about! Phew. Life is hard all around for us and most everyone, right? And Life is good.