We just started fostering two boys ages 5 and almost 3 on Friday. I have one bio son, age 3.5. I am on my first half day of work (DH is home with everybody - we don't have childcare set up yet). I feel like I am on leave from a warzone. They are very beautiful boys, very smiley and enganging at times, but also very very very difficult. Knowing where they are coming from, it is very heartbreaking, but also very frustrating - they are so so needy, and there does not ever seem to be enough of me to go around. I have put them each on my back in a carrier, and they melt onto me like chocolate on a warm day. But I cannot carry them both at once - I am simply not strong enough, and they both want up. And my son wants up too. I am exhausted.
They are both still in diapers. The younger one will use a toilet (or potty or jar) when asked, and I expect he will be quite trainable, but the older one wants nothing to do with it, and we are not going to put any effort into it at this early juncture. So there is lots of poop. Big boy poop. We are just dealing with it, but the gross factor is huge! DS was EC'd and thank God! Except that we are not therefore diaper trained ourselves.
The shouting and screaming is fairly constant. They compete to be heard. My ears ring. My brain rings. Then I shout too, at first to be heard, and then because I am angry that my ears and my brain ring, and I feel like a complete failure. I took them in out of kindness, and I want to treat them with kindness, but then I am shouting again. And whoever is being shouted at clearly expects to be hit. He cringes and raises his hands reflexively over his face. And I feel like a monster for shouting and waking that fear in them. They don't know I will never hit them.
I am not a perfeclty calm person. I have always had a temper. I have always shouted on occassion. I was worried during training that I would not be a fit person for this task. I hoped that knowing that their 'behaviours' are the results of neglect and abuse would soften me to them, woudl permanently engage my compassion. But it has not. The noise gets to be too much and there is no escape from it most of the time.
So - support? Encouragement? Discouragment? Is it too early to tell?
Hi Ma Cactus! So glad you stopped by here! This is so new--you've been doing it for a short while. Everyone is still adjusting and there is so much to learn!! They sound like they've been traumatized by abuse so it is great that you are being mindful of the effect your actions have on them. I think you are right, yelling won't help them move forward, as they're brains have been wired to expect abuse and perhaps not even to recognize empathy and compassion. It will be a tough road, but for parents that are willing to do the work and learn from it, so rewarding.
I wondered if you'd perused the resource sticky in adoption which has a lot of really great information? And I know that some other 'veterans' will be along to offer you support soon!
Sending my hugs and encouragement!
You are having all of the right thoughts, except one :) Please remember to be gentle with yourself. If is so hard not to hate yourself when you can't keep your cool all of the time. But This is all so new and must be so scary for your boys.
I have a daughter with bathroom issues and I know all too well that poop is just hard to deal with. If you can remember that most people would lose it every once in a while, I think it is easier to be nice to yourself. Remeber, even the parents of babies complain about diapers. But you are parenting a traumatized child, you are doing something that is very hard!
Once again, you can do this and you are already off to a wonderful start.
Rhu - mother,grandmother,daughter,sister,friend-foster,adoptive,and biological;not necessarily in that order. Some of it's magic, some of it's tragic, but I had a good life all the way (Jimmy Buffet)
One thing that fostering has taught me: Poop is enraging at times. Especially when it's big boy poop! Or when it's not where it's "supposed" to be....
I agree, be gentle with yourself and take care of yourself. When they start yelling, close your eyes and take deep breaths. I'm not very patient AT ALL, and I was raised by yellers. I was stunned the first time I got frustrated with a new foster and he cringed. I felt so bad, and I hugged him and told him I was sorry I got mad and that he is safe with us. And of course, I didn't just automatically stop yelling, b/c even though I try my hardest, it's ingrained in me and I still forget. I really thought my empathy for their situation would be enough to help me be more patient, but it didn't. And over the months, he learned that just b/c he's getting yelled at, doesn't mean he's getting hurt. So no, I'm not saying it's okay to keep yelling, but don't beat yourself up if you slip again. Time will help them realize they're safe, no matter what you do.
I think going from 1 kid to 3 is a big step, and when they're all 5 and under, it's more than a "handful!" (Mine were 5, 4, and 1 when I had 3 boys. I think two 3 yos would be even harder.) There are ways to wear one on your back and one on your front, if you think you can manage that. Otherwise, I'd set a timer and have them take turns or simply tell the 5 yo he's too big. I can't even wear/carry my 1 yo b/c he's huge and my back just isn't that strong. I'm not going to kill myself in the interest of wearing the kids. I try to find other ways to meet their needs and attach/bond, but wearing is out for me. (Which makes me sad, b/c I've always wanted to be one of those moms who just walks around wearing her kids all day long and having them there and happy all the time.)
Hang in there. You're doing a good thing. And as my licensing worker said to me when I told her how bad I felt when I lost my temper, you can't do anything to damage them considering what they have been through.
Thanks so much everyone. One week later, things are getting a bit easier. We spent the weekend camping with several other familes so there were lots of people around to help keep tabs on everyone and the noise IS so much easeir outdoors. Our backyard is a mess right now and the front is not fenced (and so far, they still bolt straight for the street) so I can't keep us all out there as much as I would like. I have had my nieces (7 & 9) over several days and they are big helpers too, and with the 3 of us to keep tabs on the 3 boys we took some nice walks to a church parking lot nearby and rode the trikes we got on craigslist.
Even when by myself, I am not shouting as much (which is not to say not at all), and although I think that is in part because my previous yelling has made them more responsive to any slight tightening of my voice before things escalte to full volume, hte fact that they are listening better and takign direction better is allowing me to keep my shit together better which can only be good in the long run.
One of the on-going difficulties is fairness. We have always been pretty free and easy with DS, and have raised him with a lot of respect for his autonomy and choices. The new boys are so unruly however, they can simply not be allowed the same freedoms, for their safety and the pets safety, and so the house doesn't come down around our ears. But I find having my thumb on them starts turning into a sort of tyrany. If one of them rebels, I simply cannot allow it, the chaos is too much, and I overrule them constantly. I never do that with DS! And he is getting increasingly rebellious right now, no doubt in protest, but with him I am all sympathy and concern and trying to figure out how he is feeling and what he needs, as I always have. But the inconsitency feels an awful lot like rank hypocrasy. But the honest truth is it is also a difference of feeling - I love my son entirely, and although I feel responsible for the boys and pity their experiences and admire the little ones true grit (though it drive me nuts as well), I don't love them like I love him, and I don't think I am likely to in the timeframe we are likely to be together (looks like Mom will be getting them back within a few weeks). Sigh. We will have to keep working on it.
Thanks again for all your kinds words. It is a relief to know I am not so far outside the pale.
I'm so glad to hear things are going better. You have my support and encouragement.
I completely understand you when you talk about your son having autonomy (that I'm sure he has earned and shown you he can handle) and your need to keep things more in order with the new boys. We once took in two children who were close in age to two of ours and, yes, our children had positive behaviors so I didn't need to set down the same rules for them as I did for the children we were fostering. I just slogged my way through and kept trying to figure it all out.
The first days are hard, as you've discovered (after, perhaps, a honeymoon period). It does get better.
And that cringing and covering the face when your voice gets loud, that is the most horrifying thing I've ever seen. My son, who we took in two years ago and have since adopted, STILL does that.
1 me + 1 hubby + 4 kids + 5 goats + 3 pigs + 3 dozen chickens + 6 ducks = 1 crazy place
This is covered in another thread about an entirely different issue, but it's the same thing here and what I've had to explain to the kids in my house: Fairness is not the same as "sameness." Fairness is everyone getting what s/he needs, not what everyone else is getting.
For us, that goes from clothes (having to explain to DS why we're buying all these clothes for FS and not for him, b/c FS came with NOTHING), to food (baby is on a special diet/had surgery so he gets different things to eat, sometimes deprived of fun stuff like pizza, sometimes better stuff like popsicles), to discipline (DS is fine sitting in the timeout chair, FS chooses to throw a fit instead and has to go to his room to calm down). Focus on the end result and explain that sometimes different people get there in different ways, and that's okay.
Glad things are going better. I hope it keeps up!
Thanks so much everyone. The judge sent them back to Mom on Tuesday. I am so glad we stuck with them (after that first week we were ready to throw in the towel). However bad I thought I was, the older boy (5) very emphatically did not want to go back to his mother, so at least I guess I was an improvement. I hope the experience of having them taken away (not to mention hearing him beg for another mother as he was being returned to her) helps her turn over a new leaf.
In the future, I think we are going to limit it to one young child at a time, until DS is older at any rate, so we can parent them according to our ideals and not on a survival basis. Thanks again for all yoru support and encouragment.
1 me + 1 hubby + 4 kids + 5 goats + 3 pigs + 3 dozen chickens + 6 ducks = 1 crazy place