Dear Daughter, Comfort is What I Wish for You

Dear Daughter,

A few weeks ago while you were in your equine therapy session, I watched a DVD that said this, “Aggression is not a behaviour problem, it’s an emotion problem.”. While I already knew this in theory, there was something about the way Dr. Neufeld described it that really sunk in for me. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, and so it was ironic when you crawled into my bed at 1am this morning and started to talk about that very thing. You explained that when you hit, bite or spit at me, it’s not really because you’re angry, but because you’re sad or scared. You told me that when you feel this way, hitting is how your body protects you from getting hurt. You talked about how you learned when you were little how to protect yourself, which was a remarkable statement because you were too young and don’t remember the actual events that caused you to need these skills. I explained to you that when you were a baby, your body got stuck in “fight mode” and now it doesn’t know how to calm down. The grown-up’s call this “hypervigilance” but at home, we call it being scared or worried. I hope that I’m helping you to understand what’s going on with your body and that I’m not confusing you further. It’s such a complex thing for a 9 year old to understand, but you have proven time and again that I am telling you things you already know.

It fills my heart that you have become confident enough in me to share these vulnerable thoughts, and while you’re laying in my arms sobbing I am oddly happy, because your tears are a sign that you are finally breaking through the mad. That, my darling girl, is progress… and all I can hope for is that someday you feel safe enough to live in calm and comfort.

Love,

Mom

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Dear Daughter, Tomorrow it’s Back to School

(Reposted from September 2016… originally posted on a new blog I started and then later abandoned, because hey… I like blogging here.)

Dear Daughter,

Tomorrow you go to school for the first time as a fourth grader, and as my daughter. You’re terrified, and I feel for you. You have a new last name that you don’t really want, written on all of your things, so you can learn to spell it. And you’re shy… and while I tried so hard to connect you with as many peers as I could; you made a few (5) friends over the summer, but none of them are in your class. Your new friends have promised to look for you at recesses and lunch time, but I know you’re still scared.

You struggle with your self esteem. You don’t like anyone to know that you’re behind in school, and according to “your file”, you’ve lashed out at your past aid’s in frustration. I can’t imagine how you must feel. I don’t know how much to share with your new teacher and aid. I want to give them as much information as possible so they can help you be successful, but part of me worries that they will write you off without a chance.

You should know that you are SO smart. You have this crazy knack for remembering anything and everything you hear about animals and all of the world’s amazing wonders. You ask so many inquisitive questions and that’s one of my favourite things about you… your curiosity. And I don’t know why you’re so nervous about making friends; you seem to make friends everywhere we go. You’re more outgoing than I think you realize, and I hope that this quality begins to shine through as you become more secure in your new family.

I hope that I can help build your confidence in your capabilities and in yourself. You are amazing.

Love,

Mom

My Experiences in Foster Parenting

I’m not sure why, but I guess I haven’t ever actually written about my journey to “foster parenting” this past year. A few months after I lost my job due to layoff, I put an ad out for a room mate to help with the mortgage. I was approached by the Boys & Girls Club to provide room and board for homeless youth. Some of these kids had behavioural issues and were kicked our or ran away from home, and some of them left abusive homes. I knew it wasn’t really what I was looking for – a financial boost during my unemployment – but I figured that since I’d had to put my adoption file on hold, maybe this would be a way for me to find fulfillment in the meantime. I wasn’t going to make any money having to house and feed these youth, but the program paid me enough to take care of them so it wasn’t costing me anything, either. I decided to go for it, and so far I’ve had 4 placements through that program. I was later approached by someone in the community about taking in a youth who was in foster care, but had to leave her current home. She became my 5th placement. Until then I’d just had one placement at a time, but right now I have two.

Some of the kids were just here for respite, when they needed a place to stay for a weekend while their “foster parents” went away, but some of them were here longer. One girl, whom I became very close to, was here for two months over the summer. We developed a close bond and we maintain that connection. She still comes for occasional respite and sometimes just to visit, we text all the time and she’s invited me to her high school graduation this year. Not all of the experiences I’ve had have been positive, but that one – knowing I made such a significant difference in her life – has made it all worth while.

Some of the other ones weren’t as easy, they struggled with addiction, behavioural, mental health and attachment issues. There’s been a lot of yelling, I’ve been trash talked behind my back and told off more times than I can count, I’ve had minor damage to my home, I’ve been emotionally abused and accused of the most ridiculous things. Despite that, the hardest part for me is when I recognize that there’s nothing I can do for them; that the needs they have are beyond the scope of what I can provide, and it’s time for them to move on.

It’s devastating knowing that you can’t help someone, despite your good intentions and best efforts. It makes me sick watching them pack their things and move on, knowing what they’ll be faced with, but also that some of them have to learn it for themselves, the hard way. It’s difficult feeling like just another person who’s deserted them when all they’ve ever wanted out of life was to be loved unconditionally. But then, there’s the ones that you did help, even in the smallest way. If one made it through a bought of depression and feelings of suicide and started going to school again, then it’s worth it. If one learned to trust again, then it’s worth it. I’ve learned that even though I couldn’t help them all, it’s worth it for the ones that I have.

The Young Boy I Met

In May I met a 14yr old boy at an adoption party. He was awesome, but I was holding out for a sibling group. I decided to look into him again recently and just today discovered that he’s been placed with a family. It is always bittersweet to hear about placements of kids you’re interested in – but I’m so glad he has a home now.

I’ve inquired about lots of kids over the past several months. Most of them from the public website. None have panned out yet. The trouble is that the kids on the website are the “hard to place” ones, who’ve been resorted to marketing tactics to find them homes. We don’t get to see files for the majority of the kids in care. We as adoptive parents have to leave our lives in the hands of a social worker – a stranger – and hope that they’re doing everything they can to match us with a child and expand our families.

It’s hard not to feel like you’re just another file sitting on someone’s desk. Usually, you are. I contact my social worker once every couple of weeks to ask questions and make sure we’re making strides in the direction of our end goal. What is that saying… the squeakiest wheel gets the grease.

In the meantime, I sit and I wait and I hope for a child to bring noise and laughter and life into my home and into my heart.

It’s Almost Go-Time!

I’m really quite excited to start my life as a mom. It’s taken a long time to get to this point (my best friend calls it “the most overdue pregnancy ever”). I first applied to adopt in April of last year (2013), but I had spent my whole life thinking about it first. It took six months to receive the first phone call saying that they had finally reviewed my application. After that things thankfully seemed to go faster (though they really didn’t). I’ve been through two very long weekends of training, filled out massive amounts of paperwork (repeatedly), I’m now onto my third social worker (intake worker, home study writer, and now the permanent adoption worker), and last month I was finally approved to adopt!

In between all of the appointments and paperwork, I’ve painted both of the kids rooms, the laundry room and the basement. I’ve torn down and re-built a fence and a deck, I’ve attended several meet-ups with other adoptive or prospective parents, and I’m managing the blog for a new non-profit organization started by one of my new friends. Things have been really busy preparing for my new family; I guess you could say I’m nesting (and drinking more coffee).

My social worker said that my file has been getting a lot of attention due to my wide age-range, so I don’t think it will be very long before I’ve found a “match” and will get to bring them home. I’m spending the interim period saving up for my parental leave and trying to finish off a few projects around the house. I also have a couple of weekends planned at the lake for good measure.

Wish me luck, and keep your eyes open for big news coming soon!