We were heartbroken again this weekend. This time, perhaps more than the others. Perhaps just in different ways.
To say we had a rough week last week is an understatement (all four of us got sick at different times), but there were many highlights.
Last week was the first time a foster child called me "mom." At first I thought it was an accident, you know the way you accidentally call your elementary school teacher mom and you feel that tingle of embarrassment on your face as it fades into bright pink and you try to play it off like you were singing a song or something (just me? oh.). But she kept saying it. Over and over again, until I knew she meant it.
I know she didn’t mean it in the way that she thought I was her biological mother. She is very well aware of her mother (“my momma”), but somehow in a few short days she had come to trust me enough to give me that honorary title. It took me by surprise but it was strange how naturally she said it.
I’ll tell you how it came about.
We needed to get out of the house (this, I’ve learned, is clutch for parents without a designated “play room”). So where else did we go but Monkey Joe’s? [Now, if you are a parent and you have not discovered the magical wonderland that is Monkey Joe’s, get thee to a new browser tab and find one near you. Monkey Joe’s is a utopian paradise where kids can bounce around like maniacs in a safe environment while you sit in a chair in the air conditioning and use their free wifi and drink diet coke until they wear themselves out enough to fall asleep on the way home. All for the low, low price of $9. On weekdays. And the littlest littles are free. This post is not sponsored but I would not be opposed, MONKEY JOE’S.]
Anyway, what I was saying was, we went to Monkey Joe’s. S said she had been there before but I’m not sure if she was just nodding along or if she actually had. After we signed in, it was time to put her shoes in the cubby so she could go bounce (you must wear socks at Monkey Joe’s. Germs and all that.).
She shut down. I think perhaps putting her new sparkly shoes (she came with none) in a cubby all by their lonesome and trusting they would not get stolen (she had mentioned her Barbies got stolen once) was a trigger for her fear, but she told me she did not want to jump. She said she was scared.
We had already paid, and I knew she would love it, so I gently asked her (a few times) if she wanted to just go inside and look around (I would hold her hand, of course), and if she still didn’t want to jump, we didn’t have to. She finally reluctantly agreed (I told her I would put her shoes in my bag. This may have been against the rules but none of the girls wearing referee uniforms blew a whistle or anything.) and we walked in. The games excited her, but I only had a few quarters. We walked around the room before she discovered the ride-on games (you know, like the ones they used to have outside grocery stores that move back and forth at the pace of molasses for about 60 seconds if you put a quarter in?), which perked her up. One more loop around the place and she was interested in some of the bouncy houses. With a lot of “YOU GOT THIS GIRL”s and “YOU’RE DOING IT!”s she went up and down a small slide intended for the smallest kiddos.
Having gained some confidence, she then wanted to try the BIG slide. It took about 10-15 minutes of me cheering her every step of the way, making eye contact through the mesh overtop of her sister who was strapped to me, assuring her that The Other Kids were not going to bother her (the jumping made the ladder unsteady and some kind fellow parent asked her kids to try another bouncy house whilst my girl made her ascent), but she never quit, and my. brave. girl. did. it. I told her over and over how proud I was of her and how brave she was and asked her how fun it was, and she built more confidence until she was going down one particular slide 800 times in a row, each time squealing all the way down. Each time yelling “I WANNA DO IT AGAIIIINNN!” afterward. I wish I could show you the video I took. It's pretty priceless.
I tell you this long, rambling story to get back to my original story. Monkey Joe’s is where I heard her call me “mom.” At first I didn’t know it was her (sometimes it’s hard to find your kid in those things). Then, I knew it was her voice, but wasn’t sure she was yelling “mom.” But after a few times it was hard to ignore.
“Mooooom!! Look!! Mooooom!!! I’m having fun!!!!” (I love how she announced that she was having fun.)
That's her at the top!
It was such a fun experience.
And it began there. It lasted all week long. Until the last day when I gave her a photo album with photos of us to take with her. She hugged it and said “Thank you, mom!!"
I mean, come on. That’s the kind of thing that makes you want to mutter curse words at DCS for taking them away from you. Again.
I learned how to do black hair for the first time and she didn't even hate it! This photo was the second time when I was running out of hair ties to do those twists again. I secretly like the puffy pigtails better anyway.
So we are back at square one. We are taking a break to recoup. We told them not to call us for a little while because we knew we would cave and say yes when we really shouldn’t if they called, and we know we need a break. We were sick last week and overwhelmed and tired and frustrated with DCS, and after three placements in about six weeks, we just need to step back, breathe, and decide what step to take next.
We had just started to figure out how to get our other baby girl (10mo), whom I will call mini-S, to sleep better, too. It required sleeping with a light on but hey, that’s better than no sleep with no light on. Her eyes got brighter every day she was with us.
YES THAT CLOCK SAYS 5:49 AM.
So pray for our kiddos numbers 5 and 6, S and S, and their brother D, whom they now get to live with in a new foster family. They are special ones.
In other news, we got a new foster parent worker who is a DELIGHT (and the heavens opened up and light shone ‘round about us), so this gives us hope for the future as we climb back into the dark, tangled mess that is the Department of Children’s Services. Thanks, Jesus!
Oh, ALSO I texted the new foster mom for D&K (our first placement) the other day because I just can't help myself, and she said they are doing well! She even sent me photos. So kind of her. K is loving school, and D is crawling everywhere and getting so big! Glad to know they are safe and happy.
Ok that's all.