We had a critical mass of bonus kids the other night. Three of which were there for a second time. They were just gems last go round. This time...not so much.
When bonus kids come there is something called a honeymoon phase. Everyone is pleased and happy. Then the upsettness breaks loose because dude, would you want to be taken away from your mom as a kid? ...No.... So the acting out begins.
I was telling my coworker that the middle bonus kid (9 years old) --was having NONE of the Hall's hospitality this go round. Didn't want to eat, kept sneaking out to the backyard and so on. Then, in the am, he wouldn't get in the car to get to school. It went like this.
(in the driveway)
Me: "Hey dude--time for school, let's get in the car so I can drop you off."
Bonus kid: (literally turning his back on me--crosses his arms and hunches his shoulders--then giving me a backwards, stink eye glance)---
YA KNOW. I totally think that's something adults should be able to do. Like if my boss wants me to do something I can just turn my back and say no. All plain and obstinate like. Seems perfectly acceptable!!!
So I'm telling this to a coworker who is middle age and now suddenly a step mom to a 9 year old and therefore totally overwhelmed at this new mom stuff. She leans in with rapt attention and says, "What did you do?"
I really thought about it. I mean, at this point, I'm totally over being on time for stuff. Church, school, work... I have too many kids. Mine and bonus. Each kid can explode with behaviors at any time. Or have a potty accident. Or both. I don't care about being late. I don't care if this kid spends six hours not getting in the car.
So starting with that attitude, I told her I didn't fight it. There is no point in engaging with his power struggle. It's as if there was a gigantic moose in front of my car. I can't move the moose.
So I gave him options. I said,
"I can tell your mom one of two things. I can say wow! He did such a good job getting in the car this morning. Or, I can tell her that you gave me attitude."
He got in the car after that.
I talked with Mr. Hall. We are focusing our life on creating carrots for good behaviors. We are finding none of our kids, our or bonus, acts nicely for nicely. Well, sometimes but mostly they need a reason.
So that's what I did. Created a carrot. And if that didn't work I probably would have just sat in the car, surfing my phone while he stood in the driveway. All moose like.
This Easter weekend was divine. There were little animals made of fruit on the brunch tables.
I'm very blessed to have such a family.
The kids have struggled lately but my genius son is 75% better on all fronts. I left his conference skipping and singing. I have NEVER left a conference feeling happy before with that kid. It's a miracle. My daughter is showing signs of struggle but we are on it! I know some families that have no issues with their kids. All normal and chugging along. We are a different breed. And that is ok. We'll all work to get better together.
It's a funny thing, all these interventions for the kids. It's caused my husband and I to really take a look at ourselves. A lot of the smart, awkward, anxiety, social difficulties, defiant, working harder not smarter stuff comes from us. Only we barreled through it. It took years to get where we are, to blend in with normal. But, there is so much available to help the kids. We can lessen their struggle. It won't take years. We're healing now.
I can't say enough about kid counselors and teachers. They've helped us understand the complicated and super awesome kids we have. It's hard to say I don't know what's wrong or how to fix but something is not right. And if you say it in front of the right folks it gets better.
Parenting gifted kids is a whole different animal. But the way I see it, it's all part of their gifts that will explode all over as they grow up. They will grow and accomplish things I can't even imagine right now.
This is me. Doing a back squat. I back squatted 195 lbs that day.
Here's a quick story of what's going on my gym world. I'm an avid crossfitter meaning I'm one of the obsessed, hyper facebook posting, over sharing and breathless enthusiasts. Have been for 3 years. It has literally changed my life. Without hoisting heavy weights and killing WODs, I can't function as a foster mom.
My gym changed ownership. The change in ownership revealed some ugly. Ugly with the past ownership and inner workings of where I call sanctuary. Independently owned gyms are places of love and community. You go to people's weddings, hold their new babies and go out for ladies night. This is not something found at planet fitness.
Basically, we were betrayed. Some worse, some less so. I remain unscathed with no loss of money. Keep records people. Every payment you make anywhere. KEEP RECORDS. It's a community of love but business is business.
Some are out of luck. Some have significant loss of money. It's more than that though. It's the fact we are a community. Brothers and sisters don't do this to each other.
So, we commiserate. Some get super angry and swear. Some aren't aware of all the damage. I get messages daily as we begin to wrap our heads around what happened. It's a hurting place at times.
So, when I'm asked, I tell them I'm Christian so my job is to go forward with forgiveness and mercy. I already have. I prayed and forgave. And I've decided to keep chugging alone with hard work and getting after it. This will heal us and make us stronger.
I pray not for a lighter load, but for a stronger back.
Brought Mac to the doctor last week. His counselor suggested trailing a longer acting ADHD med so off to the doctors we went. His pediatrician is a chatty one. All head tilt concern and gentle laughter. Super encouraging and thoughtful with an ironman watch. Mr. Hall loves him. He loves the banter. The doctor annoys the crap out me.
It's not him. It's just in the way, all this jibber jabber. I don't need conversation. I don't need nice. I just want in and out. Especially since my 9 year old ADHD is bouncing off the walls and whenever he gets asked a question, he says, "Taco."
It goes like this.
The good doctor: "How are you today Mac? Still in, what is it..3rd grade?"
My son, in a robot voice: "Taco."
TGD: "Now Mac, when an adult asks you a question, you need to look him in the eye and answer. That's respectful."
Then he lays on the floor and starts kicking the exam table legs and I start to lose my mind.
up in here....up in here....
I realize the good doctor is trying to coach him and help me, but he's doing neither. I just need him to write out the script. That's all. In fact, this could have done this over the effing phone. It seems the good doctor is a HUGE fan of the med suggested. I guess he just wanted to chat with me. And THAT'S why Mr. Hall brings the kids to the doctor.
I prescribe them btw. Mental health meds. For adults. I know lots of stuff about them but when it comes to Mac, I leave it up to the professionals. I'm his mom, not his treatment team.
It sure feels like it though. Especially with stuff at his gifted school. I love his school. They're really pro-Mac. They love saying, "Because he's gifted...", and they're super supportive. But this school is hard work. This is new to him and he struggles. And when he struggles, he goes all taco. So, I listen to what the teachers need from him and I figure out a way to get it out of him. I refuse to let him languish because well...he is gifted.
I've come to realize Mac lives in his own little world. He likes it there. He still likes people though. He interacts at boys scouts and basketball pretty well. His heart is so huge it's probably bigger than Texas. But around strangers he freezes up and gets all Taco. His gifts and his heart get locked away. I'm ok with that. Maybe that's why the doctor bugged me so much.
Don't try and change the TACO.
The taco will is just fine and all this will morph into one gigantic, awesome young man. The young man will morph into a loving husband and stellar dad. I know this. I know God has plans for him that will surpass anything I can imagine. But for now. Taco.
So let me share rainbows of hope and goodness.
We went to hockey game this weekend. We really went for the wiener dog races. He sat the most of the time and did really well. No kicking the chair in front of him. No getting up and down or begging for food. No taco. He smiled and laughed and fought with his sister all normal like. Then, on Sunday, he popped out of bed wanting to go to church. We are trying a new, smaller church. He had a blast. Loved it! Renewed him with all sorts of energy.
I was sitting on my kitchen floor last night. Completely overwhelmed and petting my dog. We had a few foster kids for an overnight, respite care it's called. There was six kids total (our three and three bonus kids). They basically ran in a circle and yelled for two and half hours, taking breaks to inhale lasagna and milk. I cannot tell how loud that was.
It's nice getting to know new kids in this foster life. It was nice meeting their mom. The kids live with their mom which means she worked really hard to get them back from foster care. She was sooooOOOOO nice when she dropped them off. I cannot tell you how wonderful that was.
The mom was all, "sorry they're not taking their boots off" and "sorry they're picking their noses". Meanwhile, I was slack jawed and so pleased with her friendliness. She gave me 15 min of information on each kid. All worried mom who is concerned about her kids. And saying thank you, thank you, thank you for helping me out. I can't say enough about that. It was like salve.
Each kid was different. Different ways of thinking and talking. They were sweet and no matter how many kids we take care of, they make my heart blossom. Each in their own way. I can see they've been through a lot and were super anxious at times. And there were a lot of them. Even though I was overwhelmed, I was really at peace.
Not much happened. We fed, showered and movied them. Tucked them in and woke them up for school. Brushed their hair and got them where they needed to go. Mom will pick them up from school and we won't see them again. At least, there are no plans to. Mr. Hall was overwhelmed. He had a crooked smile on his face too.
The kids took a liking to us. They said, "Can we see you again?"
That is a snatch lift. I do that often. That's not me. But I did do that cross fit competition. So, close enough.
This is what I said when I called the social worker.
Me: "Hi, this is Mrs. Hall and I wanted to let xxxx social worker know we are ready to take on more foster kids but it seems xxxx social worker is not in."
A Social worker but not xxxx social worker: "OH YOU GUYS ARE THE BEST. WILL CALL YOU WHEN WE HAVE A RIGHT MATCH."
Then 10 more min of sort of weird, awkward small talk and her being super friendly and complements and support. It went well.
I was going to send an email. I even had it written up.
Hi xxxx social worker:
Thanks for meeting up with me yesterday.* I did want to update you on our discussions about helping more kids. Right now, Michael and I are discussing what we want to do. As I said yesterday, my heart is for adoption from the foster care system. Michael has been open to this idea but with the caveat of wanting not to 'just adopt' but adopting the right child for our family. And be the right family for that child!
We've been processing a lot of things that have happened in the last two years, especially with H.
We loved H, however, as we think about things we are pretty sure she had Reactive Attachment Disorder. She was never formally evaluated or diagnosed, but she had a lot of the classic symptoms of not being able to attach. She had a lot of behaviors that were high maintenance. I don't want to seem like we are complaining at all, but it really took a lot out of us and we are trying to heal/process and be mindful of this as we go forward.
Even though I wanted to adopt her, Michael was right that she wasn't the right child for our family. It wasn't up to us anyway though. I'm very sure she was placed in the right place, with family that loved her. I think I just want to adopt so bad I was sort of blinded to the truth. Luckily, I have a stabilizing husband who can help see all the sides and I trust him when he tells me to simmer down!
We also think about J and our experience with him. He was very challenging at first. His behaviors were also hard but he did attach to us and in about a year he melted right in. In fact, he was our least labor intensive child! J has family but he is a kid that would be a right fit for us and us for him!
So I'm not sure where that leaves us. We still want to be a foster family. Our kids are on board again. I asked my daughter how she felt about having another foster kid again and in typical teen fashion she said, "It'd be cool."
But like I said. I called instead.
*I met with her to drop off over 100 sz six diapers because our toddler son potty trained in 2 weeks flat. PRAISE JESUS!! but, we order diapers in bulk so we had a bunch of sz 6 diapers. Most toddlers run about size 4. You can't donate sz 6 diapers to goodwill. So, off to the county they went.
*now watch us get a size 6 diapered toddler and I retrieve those 100 sz 6 diapers.
If there was a picture to explain my son, it's that one right there.
He's been on behavior plans since 4k. Recently we had him tested for ADHD which came up flaming positive. Not.a.shock. But, it also came up positive for him being a genius. Like Mensa material. This was a shock. We knew he was smart but genius? Really?
It's going to be really tough what I have to write next and if my son is reading this, PLEASE UNDERSTAND... I'm writing this when you are nine years old. And this last six months has rocked our world with you.
He's started a new genius school which is teaching him French and Chess and Fancy Smart things I learned in high school. Again, he's NINE. He's making jokes about binary code. He discusses cloning sheep. We had a discussion about communism the other day. This school is unlocking higher levels of understanding for him and it's blowing me away. It's also highlighting his social difficulties.
My son is passionate, tender hearted and reactive. He is spirited but very introverted. He got kicked off the bus because he wouldn't listen to the driver.
He is strong willed. He doesn't like doing what he isn't wanting to be doing. He's kinda loud and dramatic. SHUT UP I KNOW THESE ARE DESCRIPTORS OF ME.
What to do though? How do we handle this kid that is not doing well in the 'cooperating with others' and 'having a hard time making friends' and 'doesn't realize other kids are making fun of him' category. And that he fights us tooth and nail about most everything and we.are.tired.
Did I mention we're opening our house up to other foster kids next month? Because ya know, we are ready...
I'm reading this wonderful book called "Raising your spirited child" (google it--it's FANTASTIC).
It seems that the crazy smart part of our son does not translate into social skills. In fact, it makes them worse. At his gifted school they have social skills training built into the curriculum. Because being a genius often comes with social issues.
I'm starting to fundamentally think differently about him. I'm setting aside our want for him to display respect and tow the line. I'm listening and responding to his emotional needs first. We can let him be angry, sad, balled up and shut down. Pushing against this is not helpful.
If he wants to go in another room to eat, I let him. If he wants to keep playing something before he does his chore, I let him. He'll need to ask first but I let him. If he wants to do origami until his fingers go numb I let him. If he's screaming and worked up because we want him to shower, I slow things down. If he cries because we are making him walk the dog I let him breathe and not force. He needs to work with his strength and genius quirks. It's his life. It's who he is. Working against that is an exercise in frustration.
But we can work with him.......that is something we're planning.....
Our kid is spirited. Like the book says, he is "MORE" than others so he'll need "MORE" parenting.
But make no mistake. This is kid is huge with heart and crazy smarts. The Lord has plans for him that I can't even imagine. I'm so excited for him and so proud.
Even if I do pray for his future wife.... she'll need to have a light heart and ninja organizational skills!!