Thursday, November 5, 2015

Tough Questions

Tonight was FULL of tough questions, y'all.

Eli as Darth Vader, Wonder Boy as Yoda

And not just because Eli just found out that Darth Vader really was Luke Skywalker's birthfather, though he initially refused to believe it when Darth Vader said it in the movie. The cool part about that is that when he finally accepted that fact, it elevated Luke Skywalker to awesomely cool adoptee status.  But that part...not tough at all.

In the wake of Wonder Boy's departure (our 3rd foster child, but only the second one to leave for those who are counting), I think Eli's been feeling unsettled and a little confused.

We're seeing it in his behavior even though he says he does NOT miss Wonder Boy AT ALL.  Even though he says he can't wait to have another foster child because...why not?  And - possibly - because he occasionally worries aloud that Itty Bitty will leave one day.

The really tough questions began tonight after we heard an ad for Operation Christmas Child - a program that we participate in at our church by filling shoeboxes and collecting/donating items.  We were in the car, and it was fairly quiet and dark, so I think he felt vulnerable and more open to serious talking than he usually is.

He started by asking what an orphanage is.  And then demanding to know why the kids in the orphanages are not all in foster homes.  And then fuming that there are simply not always enough foster families...going so far as to say that he would "never go to a place who didn't care enough to find enough families to take care of kids who need it."  And saying that he would always want to care for kids and he would grow up and take care of all of the kids who need it.

My heart was breaking for him.  He's so innocent and sensitive.  I have to be so careful what I say, as he is so smart that he understands things he probably shouldn't - and he gets furious if he thinks his questions aren't taken seriously or answered to his satisfaction - yet he is so tender hearted that he genuinely gets distraught if the answers are too much for him.

But then he asked the clincher: why WE were the ones to send presents at Christmas....after all, isn't it Santa Claus's job?  Especially for kids who don't have anything?

How in the WORLD do I explain this to a FOUR YEAR OLD?? I've already had to explain, as gently as possible, what orphanages are.

And granted, I'm not the one who told him about Santa, and I always dodge Santa-related questions by telling him to ask his father.  But he was already confused and worried enough to ask this question, and I was NOT about to hurt his feelings further (especially so close to Christmas) by throwing Santa under the bus (though I am not a fan - sorry, Santa)...and he wanted an answer from ME.

I thought for a moment, and was able to say that 'even Santa needs help sometimes, and that he would want us to show our love to other kids this way.'

The answer must have satisfied least enough to change topic a bit. But then, Eli began asking some tougher questions about HIS story.  He knows that every kid has a different story, and we've told him repeatedly that his is VERY different from W's, Itty Bitty's, and Wonder Boy's...and their stories are very different from one another, too.  For his personal privacy, I am leaving out the parts of our conversation that are only his to tell - I feel the need to share what I can.

He said that sometimes he gets really sad, and wonders if his birthparents ever miss him or think about him. He wants to tell them about Star Wars and swimming and how he loves to read comic books.  He says he wishes that his birthparents and foster parents lived nearby so that we could visit.  I did tell him that I would help him search for them, if he wanted to, when he was old enough, and that I firmly believe that his birthparents DO wonder about him and love him.  I am so grateful that his foster family has kept in touch with us, as that helps fill in some answers to some of his questions.

I'm very glad that Eli has enough confidence and trust in me that he is able to ask these questions.  I just never expected it at his age, and it is so hard to realize that he does genuinely feel the losses he's experienced - even though he doesn't consciously remember them. I know part of this is because we do have foster kids coming in and out of our home, so he does see and learn more about how other people live at a much younger age than other kids. In addition, it has definitely put his view of his time in foster care in Korea in a different light.

When we got home, Eli asked to see his pictures. The ones that his foster mother in Korea so carefully organized into an album. The ones that are so, so precious to me, too, since I wasn't in his story yet.  As I retrieved the album, a burgundy gift bag slipped off the shelf, and Eli asked what it was.  I explained to him that I kept EVERYTHING that came home from Korea, and that the bag was the one that most of his belongings were packed into when we brought him home. I didn't expect to see the initial sadness as he quietly asked, "But it's so small. Is that all I had?"  I had to gently explain that he truly didn't have many belongings, that he did have a second, (smaller) bag, and that his foster family really loved (and loves) him. I also reminded him that he's seen for himself that children in foster care don't always have a lot of belongings to take with them.  I reminded him that the amount of belongings someone has does not equal the amount of love that they have (which is a really difficult concept for a preschooler), and that he has (and had!) a lot of people who love him very much.  I think, for the first time, Eli realized part of what being in foster care really meant as part of his story; I think a part of him began to identify, at least a little bit, with W and Wonder Boy in a very new way.

I don't know how other adoptive parents feel, but geez....these conversations do leave me feeling as though I wish I could make everything better...and that I wish I had so many more answers for him (especially happy/comforting answers).  I walk a very fine line sometimes, with him especially, to make sure he has the honest answers he deserves in a way that is developmentally appropriate.

On the upside, it was awesome to see him, when he'd had his fill of the conversation, go immediately into a 'Ghostbusters' break dance.  It makes me realize that, even though he is serious when he has questions, they aren't always in the forefront of his mind.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Wonder Boy Is Leaving

So, while on the way home from the pediatrician (since all 3 kids are now sick), I received a call from Wonder Boy's caseworker.  She explained that a foster home has been found who is able to take Wonder Boy and his siblings, so that they can be together.

While we are glad for the chance for Wonder Boy to be with his siblings, it did take me by surprise.  We didn't even know that they were looking for one! It doesn't surprise me, though, as he has a fantastic caseworker who really cares about the children and is working hard to help them. Honestly, we'd only begun to bond with Wonder Boy, so his transition out of our home will not be as hard for us as it might be for him. His behaviors have made it very difficult to even begin to bond. Even Eli was pretty nonchalant when I told him the news. I sincerely hope that someone continues to pursue speech services for Wonder Boy, as he desperately needs them.  He is a smart boy who needs a little help catching up.  Being with his brothers, too, will be best for him long term.

And I might as well admit, in the interest of brutal honesty, a small part of me is very relieved that he is leaving, and my guess is that Patrick and Eli have similar feelings.  As badly as Patrick and I would love to adopt again, we had no intention of adopting Wonder Boy. Partly because we felt that our parenting style isn't what Wonder Boy needs, and partly because we feel strongly that he should be with his brothers (and we're not up for adopting a group of 3). Some people would be offended to hear that, but they aren't in my shoes.  And trust me when I say: I am surprised as anyone that I would pass on adopting a child (any child). So, we're back to prayerfully waiting on another child to be placed in our home; hopefully a child whom we might be able (and willing) to adopt. This time around, though, instead of being open for calls immediately, I requested that our agency wait until Itty Bitty gets well before calling us with another foster placement. In the meantime, I have packing to do for Wonder Boy, so that he will be ready for the transporter tomorrow.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Exhaustion and Optimism

I am exhausted, y'all.  There's no other way to describe it. I am so tired.  I am about to scale back from trying to 'do all the things' have some quieter evenings and weekends.  I am definitely not a person who likes to be scheduled every minute of the day...but for the last few weeks, that's exactly what has happened.

In all honesty, tonight was very much an exercise in putting one foot in front of the other and going through the motions.  I've really been trying to do to much with a very limited amount of energy...and I definitely need a break.  Even though Patrick is the awesome-est husband ever and made me some sweet tea and watched the boys (who, quite literally, sat and watched cartoons the entire time, thank heavens) while I had a much needed break at the grocery store.

Let me back up a little. Today, especially, was an anomaly, but it was overwhelming. Patrick and I took today off to take care of an appointment that we had for one of our foster kids...only to arrive and find out that the appointment had been rescheduled...without anyone bothering to tell us.  We'd both taken the day off to go, and we knew to expect a few days like this when we began foster care. But it was definitely frustrating to realize that, with the new appointment upcoming, we have to miss another day of work.  Still, we decided to have a nice day, just the two of us, especially since this really doesn't happen often. This plan unraveled within seconds.

Literally, before we could start the car, Wonder Boy's preschool called me and said that he was running a fever.  While picking him up, Itty Bitty's teacher called me over and said that he had a low temp as well (he didn't, that I could tell - the highest reading I got on our thermometer was 98.9). And then Eli's teacher came out and asked me to come get him, as he was misbehaving and telling his teacher that "he didn't have to respect her or do what she said because she wasn't family."

After disciplining Eli, taking all of the kids home, and then calling and begging the doctor's office - twice - to please please please squeeze him in, we found out that Wonder Boy had dual ear infections and a high temperature.  Poor kiddo.  Then, although the doctor said that they called in his prescription when we were sitting in the office, the pharmacy currently has no record of it. And since I waited (stood) in line for more than 45 minutes at the pharmacy, by the time I knew they didn't have the prescription, the doctor's office was closed, and it took another hour to find out that the on-call doctor could not access his records. 

Oh, and to the snarky teenage cashier at the pharmacy...thanks so much for giving me a hard time when I was trying to get medicine that was supposed to have been ordered for a little kid who is clearly sick.  Advising me to drive back to the doctor's office (or to 'holler' out the pharmacy drive-thru window toward the pediatrician's office next door to see if they 'was' open) - which I assured her was CLOSED - is certainly not helpful. And saying "I don't never heard that name afore" when I tell you Wonder Boy's birth name sounds much less educated than a more pleasant alternative, such as "I'm sorry, I don't see his prescription in the computer." 

But, then, I do live in a town where it took nearly a year to open a brand-new Jimmy John's sandwich shop...because the owners had so much difficulty finding employable people. 

I did manage to go home, sneak a bite to eat (thanks to Patrick, who had the foresight to grab some take out), and start a roast for dinner (that later came out looking like a charcoal briquette, since I forgot to set a timer) before I made a run to the grocery store to correct an emergency diaper shortage.  While trying to buy said diapers and some ingredients for the week, my mother calls and asks me to come over tomorrow night to help set up her new home office.

Really?  I wonder what she will do when I show up with all three kids...

But in the wake of having a rough afternoon, it really wasn't all bad.  When I started writing, it certainly felt that way.  I definitely cried and started whining about how overwhelmed I felt.  As I started writing, though, my inner optimist fought her way to the surface.  Patrick helped by reading over my shoulder and giving a well-timed hug.

Then, I couldn't help thinking of a few good things that happened. For one, I was able to get Wonder Boy into our town's REALLY GOOD pediatrician.  That's hard to do. I had to wait about 2 months to get Eli in as a new patient when he was little, and was never able to get W into their practice. To have all 3 kids at the same (great) doctor's office is freaking fantastic.

Later, at the grocery store, I was so relieved when I turned from paying for my groceries and realized that someone had bagged them for me, put them in a cart, and offered to help me to the car.  This little bit of extra effort on someone else's part took a surprising amount of weight off of my shoulders. I normally would think someone was being ridiculous if they said this made them as happy as it made me...but I'm not kidding when I say that it made it possible for me to drive home, finish cooking dinner for my family, and (sort of) clean the kitchen afterward.  Though, it definitely did not make it possible for me to do laundry tonight...and I'm feeling very guilty for letting clothes 'marinate' in the hamper overnight while I write.

Now, this is not to mention that, while Wonder Boy's behavior is still very challenging, he is making major improvements.  He surprises me frequently with what he WILL do....and with what he thinks he WON'T do.  Getting dressed in the morning is on his "Nope" list. Sometimes getting in or out of the car is on his "Nope" list. Trust me when I say...his "No's" are almost always non-negotiable (for example, we're not going to preschool naked). But, his decisions to randomly decide to use the toilet instead of his diaper...and giving hugs in the doctor's office today...and quietly playing all afternoon with Eli have been pleasant surprises. Though, the fact that he is sick may have played a role in the 'quiet playing'. But, the unsolicited, freely given hugs were pretty awesome.

The potty thing was also pretty cool, and deserves an explanation. Though his teachers do have the kids "try" to potty 3 or 4 times per day, Wonder Boy is definitely not potty trained. Other than letting him 'try' at school, I wasn't planning on addressing this with him yet, as he's been through so many life changes lately. But then, we accidentally got him to go #2 on the toilet last night. I'd been changing him for bed, and realized that he was in the middle of 'the go', so put him on the potty to finish. And gave him a treat for doing so.  Tonight, he started grabbing his behind and fussing. Patrick figured out what he was trying to tell us, and took him...and he successfully went!  We're celebrating a bit, because this is how Eli started, too.  But we're not prepared to force the issue.  He will continue to wear diapers until he decides he wants to completely train, or until I think he's really ready.  I'm already having to put my foot down on too many other issues!

So, really it's not all bad. It's just a lot.  I know tomorrow will be better, and I'm glad that Patrick is staying with Wonder Boy tomorrow. For now, I'm going to indulge in some old sitcoms, spicy chips, and that yummy sweet tea : ).