Working With Educators to Support Your Child

School has just begun, and for many of you this means a return to familiar routines and schedules.

For some of you, this means overwhelmed, overstimulated kids who come home exhausted with piles of homework or daily notes scrawled by a frustrated teacher at the end of the day.

Educating our kids is both our responsibility and a gift we’ve been given.  Many children all over the world are unable to attend school due to extreme poverty.  If your children are able to attend school regularly or receive formal instruction, take a minute to contemplate that they are blessed!  While education may be a “right” in our Western culture, make no mistake.  Your children are privileged to have access to education and to learn important skills that will give them opportunities to sustain and provide for themselves as adults.

For a long time, parents were fed the lie that they were not equipped to be their children’s educators.  They were not expected to be the ones to know their child best, have the skills needed to guide their future and certainly not to teach them.

However, a movement of ordinary moms and dads are rising up to show themselves as not only worthy but exceptionally equipped to be the best teachers for their children.

Not only do you, as a parent, know your child better than any teacher…you have skills, intuition, knowledge and invaluable life experience to share with your child.

Many parents do not want to take on the demands and responsibility of providing their children’s education, and this I understand very well.  However, do not assume this means you have withdrawn the right to speak into your child’s educational experience.

While teachers have long been viewed as the experts and authority on children’s education, I believe many children suffer academically because parents have been detached from their children’s educational experience.

Parents and teachers both have expertise, knowledge and insight that are important to a child’s education.

The beauty of a school environment is that it gives opportunity for both the specialized training of a professional educator and the intuition and practical insight of parents to combine for the benefit of the child.

So how do you work alongside professional educators to combine their expertise with your intuition?

1. The first rule is to give respect and then expect it in return.

Your child’s teachers spends hours pouring over lesson plans, academic research, curriculum expectations and learning strategies.  By placing your child under their supervision you are giving them the responsibility to educate your child in the best way they know how.  They have specific training and knowledge that will be very valuable to both you and your child, but you need to take the time to listen respectfully to their professional opinions and follow the procedures put in place.  Nothing positive will be accomplished by bullying or criticizing.

However, I would also say that it’s important to require that respect in return.  If there is something you know about your child that is not being taken into consideration, you need to make that clear.  Don’t ever underestimate your insight as a parent.  You know your child best and what may sound great in theory may not work practically for your child.  Don’t allow a professional educator to intimidate you.  A good educator will know this and ask for your input.  Every relationship needs boundary lines, and this one is no exception.

2. Never undermine your child’s teacher in front of them.

Every parent knows the feeling of their child coming home with a story about their teacher that makes you wonder what they were thinking…but I cannot stress enough…be the adult and don’t say it out loud!  There is a very high chance your child’s version of the story is not accurate or is missing some pertinent information.  If you have concerns, by all means contact the teacher, but don’t allow your child to hear you speaking disrespectfully about the adult they are supposed to respect.  They will carry that comment to school with them in their mind every day and it will lead to them finding it very difficult to respect that teacher.  Always try to help your child see what the teacher’s perspective might be and remind them that their job is to be respectful and polite, even when differences arise.  Teaching our kids the skill of disagreeing respectfully with someone is a valuable life skill, so if there is an issue that needs addressing, walk through the steps of resolving that issue with both dignity and respect.

3. Communicate.

If you begin to see problems arising with your child academically, socially or behaviourally or you are concerned about some aspect of the curriculum or classroom procedures…speak up.

Contact your child’s teacher and request a meeting where you can express your concerns and ask questions.

Use the teacher, not your child, as your first source of information.

Listen respectfully and make sure you’ve taken the time to get accurate information and can express your concerns clearly.

Make sure you know how your child’s teacher prefers to communicate, whether it be through text, email, a daily agenda or in person.

Most problems at school between parents and teachers arise from miscommunication or lack of communication.

Let your child’s teacher know that you want to be involved and ask questions regularly, as they will likely forget at the end of their busy days to fill you in on things you might want to know.

4. Give grace.

Your child’s teachers are not perfect.  They are flawed humans, similar to your child’s parents 😉

They will make mistakes.

Give them some grace and remind yourself, and your kids, that you will probably need it in return at some point!

You will never regret establishing healthy, respectful relationships with your child’s educators.

5. Do not assume your child’s teacher knows your child as well as you do.

I am speaking particularly to parents of children with learning disabilities, behavioural challenges and social struggles on this one.

While your child’s exceptionalities may seem obvious to you, don’t expect your child’s teacher to understand why your child may behave or react the way they do.  You have a context for this child’s experiences that is helpful in decoding their struggles or successes.  Don’t be afraid to share this information with your child’s teacher as needed.  If your child has a formal diagnoses of some kind, make sure your child’s teacher knows this and is given a brief but clear summary of the best ways to navigate those extra layers successfully.

I have found it helpful to create a personal learning profile for one of my children in particular outlining her ideal learning environment and style, what her needs are and what aspects are challenging for her.  I give this to my child’s teacher as early in the year as possible and let them know to contact me if they have any questions or concerns.

Don’t forget to include any information that may seem “obvious” or has been discussed multiple times with other teachers or professionals within the school.  It is very easy for information to get misplaced or lost in the transition from year to year.  Assume your child’s teacher knows nothing about your child and go from there.

6. Lastly but most importantly pray for your child’s teacher.

Teachers are important and play a large role in our children’s lives.  Their jobs are not easy and the system they are working within places high demands on their time and energy.  Many teachers feel overwhelmed and unappreciated by their students, fellow staff and parents.  Make sure your child’s teacher this year knows that you see what they are doing and that you are grateful for the time they spend helping your child learn and grow!  Pray for wisdom, patience, energy and creativity.  Pray for their hearts to be drawn toward Christ.  Pray for opportunities to serve them and let them know you are grateful for them.

It is beautiful to be able to partner with others to educate your children.  You will be amazed watching your child learn and grow, and having others to celebrate those milestones with makes it even sweeter.

I hope this school year is the best yet for you and your children!

~AF

 

 

 

Summer Bucket List

  1. Make play dough
  2. Water balloons
  3. Set up a “car wash” for bikes and trikes with buckets of water, a garden hose, brushes and soap.  OR for toddlers set up a bucket of water, a bucket of dirt, some brushes and some toy cars.
  4. Beach Day
  5. Eat lunch at a local food kart
  6. Build a lego town
  7. Go for a bike ride.  Pack some snacks, water bottles and a book for breaks along the way.
  8. Sidewalk chalk or paint
  9. Visit the zoo
  10. Go for a hike
  11. Backyard camping – set up a tent in the backyard and make lunch over a campfire.
  12. Visit your local library once a week for story time, crafts or any other special events they may have going on.
  13. Read aloud together every day
  14. Have a garage sale or bake sale
  15. Wash all your stuffed animals or doll clothes and hang them out to dry in the sun.
  16. Set up a store or hospital in your playroom
  17. Games Day – this could be active outdoor games or board or card games inside.
  18. Track and Field – organize events and hand out ribbons.
  19. Puzzles – set up a separate table so your puzzles can remain easily accessible for a few days as you work on them
  20. Plan a scavenger hunt
  21. Have a pool party with a couple friends.
  22. Spread out a blanket in the front yard and eat lunch there.
  23. Do something touristy in your town
  24. Dairy Queen
  25. Visit a splash pad and take a picnic
  26. Introduce your child to audio books.
  27. Find a summer market or fresh produce stand to frequent.
  28. Go strawberry picking.
  29. Plan your back-to-school shopping trip.  Set a budget and give each child the allotted amount to spend.
  30. Build a blanket fort together and have a snack inside it.

Moving Day

Throwback to four years ago when our daughters came home!

It’s moving day!

Yes, we are finally here 🙂  Today is the day we get to go pick up our girls and bring them home to start FOREVER together!!

It’s funny how things are never quite as you imagined they will be.

Even though I’ve been waiting for this day for so long…now that it’s finally here I don’t really feel all those emotions I thought I would.  Well…I do, but they are alongside others that don’t fit so well.

I am so excited, of course…I mean, why wouldn’t I be?!?  My daughters are finally going to be here with me, where they belong.  I love them so much and I miss them when they’re not here.  I love our weekends together, knowing that they’re here within my grasp.  That feeling of walking downstairs after we’ve tucked them in and said goodnight a thousand times and gave kisses and backrubs and cuddles…it’s amazing.  I love knowing that they’re safe.  They’re just up the steps, safe in their pink room and pink beds and pink pajamas.  I will know and hear if they are scared or lonely.  I can take care of them.  When they’re two and a half hours away…I have no idea what they’re doing or how to help.  So I can’t wait to have them here with me.

But the last few days I have also been hit by this tsunami size wave of FEAR.

From now on…everything is going to be different…and I’ve never really been that great with change.

Never again will it be just my husband and I…our little family of 2 that I know and love and am so comfortable in.  From now on we will always be a family of 4, not 2.  This isn’t really anything to be afraid of…except that I have no idea what that is even going to be like or feel like all the time.  And I will miss being a family of 2.  I am so in love with my husband, and I will miss it just being the 2 of us.  I know what it feels like to have children, because we’ve had children in our home lots already…but other times it wasn’t forever.  Eventually, they always moved on and it was just the 2 of us again.  It’s overwhelming to realize we are really at the end of this stage, of it just being us.  I know it’ll be good…and I won’t even think about it.  But I have so enjoyed  the last couple months, after having kids around so much in the past year, to just enjoy being a couple.  I will miss that.  I know from experience that having children around does not make your marriage less rich or exciting, but I do know that it’s harder.  It’s harder to find time to talk.  It’s harder to have energy to do things that are fun and crazy…just for the two of you.  It’s harder to get in date nights.  It’s harder to know every little thing that’s going on in each other’s lives.  It takes a lot of energy and time to parent…and that often means other areas can get neglected a bit sometimes.  Lucky for me I have a pretty amazing husband who is always willing to go that extra mile to make sure that I don’t just feel like a harried mama, but also the love of his life ❤

I always imagined what this kind of day…the actual day of moving our child home…would feel like.  Immediately, you get all these images running through your mind of tears of joy, hugging, kissing, smiling…perfect.  After all, there are tons of home videos on YouTube of parents meeting their child for the first time or bringing their children home.  But without having done this day yet, I know that’s not exactly a complete picture.  To be honest, I am dreading this day a little bit.  I wish we could skip over it, because I’m not sure how to best handle it.  My girls are not tiny, wide eyed, oblivious one year olds being passed over to their new Mommy and Daddy by cheering nannies.  My girls are 5 and 7, and they know exactly what’s happening today.  We have been going over and over and over this for weeks now.  Today is the day they are saying goodbye.  They are saying goodbye to the families they love.  They are saying goodbye to the only normal they know.  They will see their foster parents cry today, and they will not know what to do with those big feelings inside.  I know what it’s like to be a foster parent…and I have no idea how to stand there and watch someone else’s painful goodbye while I wait for my child to come to me.  How do you do that well?  I’m not sure if it’s more or less complicated that we’ve formed a friendship with these families over the last couple months.  Does that make it easier or harder?  I think that once the last goodbyes and hugs are given and we are strapped in the van on our way home…we’ll all be fine.  We’ve done that part a thousand times now.  But it’s just that inevitable moment where you have to watch your little girl give her ‘Mommy’ that last hug and kiss goodbye.  There is no pretty way to cover up that pain.  Right now, they don’t understand why this needs to happen.  They’re excited, they’ve bonded and they love us…but they don’t understand why it really needs to happen.  Especially my 5 year old.  It’s not fair that to get one thing she loves she must give up another.   Those feel like adult decisions, not something a child should have to grapple with.

But…that is the reality.

I’m nervous.

I’m scared.

I’m excited.

We will get through today…and maybe it will be better than I could ever hope 🙂

Tomorrow…on the first day of forever…things will feel pretty normal.  The girls will wake up around 6:30 am, start giggling and chattering to each other and creep downstairs once the alarm goes off telling them they may get up.  We will eat breakfast…probably Fruit Loops…and go for either a walk or a bike ride.  They will play with their dolls and maybe run in the sprinkler if it’s warm.  We probably won’t be thinking about forever or goodbyes.  In the next week sometime, when they start feeling homesick, we will call and talk to their foster moms and tell them all about what we’ve been doing.  I’ll send emails and pictures whenever I think of it, to let them know we still value the love and energy they gave to our daughters and let them see their smiling, happy faces…because that is such a gift.  Eventually, after maybe six months or a year, when we know it won’t do more harm than good, we will go back and visit.  Maybe we’ll play at the park together or just hang out in the backyard.  We’ll build the tentative first straws of a new relationship.  One day at a time we will become a family…us 4.  The girls will eventually have that first day where they call me Mommy every time they talk to me.  One day they will be able to talk about how they came to be here, in our family, without that shadow of fear and confusion in their eyes.  We will start our own traditions, build our own memories and life will become normal.

I’m ready to begin that.

So…if you read this before 1:00 pm today, June 24, 2014…please say a little prayer for us.  We could use some help today.  Mostly pray for Akeisha and Alexa…because more than anything I wish we could become a family of 4 without them having to go through this pain and loss.  They’ve already dealt with more pain and loss than is fair.  Pray that they will be able to do one day at a time, and that they will feel safe and loved…always.

For the next few months we’ll be doing lots of hibernating here…spending as much time as possible just making sure we know who our family is 🙂  Busy starting forever.

Cheers

AF

10 Wishes for my Daughter

Dear Daughter,

There are so many hopes and dreams I have for you tucked away inside my heart.

I know I don’t tell you these things, but I hope one day you’ll understand just how much of your mama’s thoughts and prayers were invested in your life as you grew.

Watching you grow is both terrifying and beautiful.

I love seeing you come into your own, even while I stand gasping for air at the edge of our nest.

I would give you the world if I could,

but because I can’t these are…

My 10 Wishes for You

  1. I wish for you to always feel beautiful in the eyes of those you love most.  I mean the kind of beauty that makes you glow inside and that lights up your eyes with happiness.
  2. I wish for you to learn the power of saying no.  Your heart bends toward nurturing and serving and pleasing those around you.  It is breathtakingly beautiful…but it can also be your curse.  Learn to say no to the things not meant for your story.
  3. I wish for courage when your heart is breaking; strength to stand up again and dust yourself off.  Life will break your heart sometimes, Babe.  The hardest part is choosing to believe that those painful moments are meant to build character, perseverance, hope and beauty inside of you.
  4. I wish for kindness and gentleness to reign in your heart, and that you would hold fast to those qualities.  The world would love for you to believe that you need to fight hard and conquer it all…but kindness and gentleness are the fruits that will grow peace inside yourself and teach you wisdom.
  5. I wish for you to have at least one friend who you can always be yourself with.  Someone you don’t need to filter your words with or try to impress.  Someone you can be honest with, and someone who will give you honesty in return.
  6. I wish for you to find love.  A soul mate.  A man who will carry your heart gently in his all the days of his life and love you unconditionally.  A love that will teach you to understand the height and breadth and length and depth of your Father’s love for you.
  7. I wish for you to enjoy your own company, and not be afraid of solitude and quietness.  Loving yourself is the first step toward loving those around you well.  It’s in those quiet moments of rest that you will hear the Spirit’s soft whispers in your heart.
  8. I wish for confidence to follow your dreams, pursue your passions and be yourself.  You are enough and those passions and dreams were placed lovingly inside of you by your Creator.  Little glimpses of Himself in you.
  9. I wish for people to love you as much as I love you…the real you, with no conditions attached.  You are enough, sweet girl.
  10. I wish for you to find your purpose and peace in the knowledge of your weaknesses.  The world would love for you to divide your soul in a thousand pieces and places trying to do it all, have it all, be it all.  I wish for you to find rest in the God breathed purposes your Designer entrusts to you and know you are doing what matters.

I hope you know I will always be here for you.

I will not always understand and sometimes I will hurt you in my attempts to love you.

But know that I will always be so proud of you and nothing you do could ever make me stop loving you.

Love,

Mom

-AF

Love Multiplies

They are less than 6 months apart.

Everywhere I go people ask me if they are twins.

I smile and say, “Not quite.”

They glance back at me, puzzled, and his little ears pick up the new word.

“Twins!” he exclaims.

I laugh and keep walking.

They are brothers in every sense, except that they have different biological parents.

They share a room, books, toys and clothes.

They share memories and siblings and for now…parents.

They share the same hazel eyes and sandy brown hair.

 

“It must be challenging raising another child that is so close to your son’s age,” she says to me as we are washing dishes side by side.

I tilt my head sideways, thinking.

Is it?

It’s challenging when they are fighting over the same car, the same book, the same car seat, the same seat of the double stroller.

It’s challenging when one does not want to sleep and pokes the other awake; when they both need to be potty trained.

It’s challenging when I need to go shopping and there’s only one seat in the cart so one toddler has to walk, the shelves easily accessible to his eager hands.

It is challenging when my son learns to shout “No!” and throw himself down just like his little playmate.

It’s challenging when they get in each other’s way and hit each other and scream at each other and both end up in an angry, sobbing heap on my lap.

But those moments just feel like parenting.

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They are tricky, but not impossible or unlike any other young family’s experiences with two children close in age.

What I think about more is how incredibly full my heart feels every day watching the two of them play.

From the time my son was very small, my husband and I always knew we wanted him to have a brother.

It feels like a boy should.

Someone to play hockey with him, wrestle, and generally make a ruckus with.

And though it may not be forever, right now my son has a brother.

I love to watch them play side by side.

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They dig in the mud, stomp in puddles, run in that unsteady toddler gate chasing each other.

They topple over the back of the couch and giggle uncontrollably as they grab each other’s feet and pull one another to the ground.

My son adores his ‘big’ brother and follows him everywhere.

It doesn’t matter that he gets shouted at for wrecking the carefully lined up cars or pushed to the ground for touching a sandcastle.

It doesn’t matter that he gets water dumped on his head in the bathtub or snacks sneakily stolen from his bowl.

That one little boy has changed his life.

dscf5496.jpgHis life is so much more interesting and full of joy and life since O has come to stay.

While his big sisters go off to school, there is still a buzzing little ball of energy flying around the house; creating, exploring, chattering and laughing.

Love only multiplies.

This I am reminded of over and over and over again.

I try not to think about what it might be like for my son to lose his brother, because this is a reality for us as a foster family.

But even in that, I believe that these moments are worth any pain we may face down the road.

It is Little O who helped my son make the most progress with his motor skills and speech after his surgery.

It is Little O that taught him how to ride a bike and blow bubbles and pull the cushions off the couch.

It is Little O that makes him burst into that contagious belly laugh that fills up my heart with happiness.

It is Little O that prays for him every night.

When one more comes we don’t lose, we only gain.

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Love only multiplies.

When you think there might not be enough, suddenly your heart expands and you realize there is more than you had before.

It doesn’t always happen overnight…for a while you feel like strangers are in your home.

But suddenly, you look back and can’t remember what it felt like to be 5 instead of 6.

Suddenly, the days he’s visiting his Grandma are oh so quiet.

Suddenly, you see how full and fun and happy your life is because of that extra little person.

And this is the beauty of love;

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It only multiplies.

Little O filled a gap we didn’t even know we had, and we are grateful every day for his presence here with us.

Little O shares a lot of characteristics with one of my daughters…and this brings challenges to their relationship.

They both have a whole lot of feisty, spirited life tucked inside of them and it takes a very small spark to start a huge fire!

However, it was this child of mine that missed him most when we spent a week apart from him.

“I miss him so much, Mommy,” she would say to me every day.

Without him there, we felt a little incomplete.

And it is he that can bring the biggest smile to her face when he runs to her with his little arms outstretched, begging for a hug before she leaves for school.

Love only multiplies.

If you’re afraid that there  might not be enough to go around,

that your children might suffer,

that you might not be able to love the way you want to…

remember this.

Love only multiplies.

“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.” [1 Thessalonians 3:12]

-AF

 

8 Things I Don’t Do That Other Moms Do…and I Don’t Feel Guilty

We can’t do it all.

We all have limits to our time and capabilities.

Sometimes as moms the lines get a little blurry and we find ourselves trying to turn ourselves and our families into people that we just aren’t in our desperate attempts to do it all.

I’m learning that while it’s healthy to be open minded and willing to learn, it’s also really important to know how to prioritize your life and just say no.

The Mom guilt will kick in and you will feel like a horrible person…until you stop and think about all the things that you are doing for your family.

If it’s just not that important to you or it raises your stress level to the point where you are grouching at anyone who moves, it might be time to just say no!

Here are 8 things I just say no to:

  1. Decorating Birthday Cakes – we all do it.  Child’s birthday approaches.  Mom scours Pinterest for the perfect decor, party and cake ideas.  Child tells you their dream birthday cake.  Mom does more research and blood pressure spikes.  A week before the birthday Mom scratches ‘make cake’ off her list and calls DQ instead.  To me, it’s just not worth it.  I don’t do decorating.  I have tried and it doesn’t turn out well.  I will spend the money to have someone else do that for me.
  2. Making Slime – Girl moms, you know what I’m talking about.  Made from glue, Borax, flour….you name it.  Homemade slime is all the rage.  I just don’t do it.  I don’t even have a good excuse, I just hate it.  I hate the mess, I hate it laying around for weeks, I hate seeing my kids sitting there playing with it, I hate looking up recipes for it…I just say no.  I am that mom, who just spoils all the fun and says they can do it with the babysitter or Sunday school or friends.  Not with me.
  3. Bathe my Kids Daily – I used to do this.  We used to have baths every night or at least every other.  Now…well…the goal is every other night but let me tell you it sure doesn’t always happen and I’m not going to sweat the small stuff.  With 4 kids in the house, I just don’t care that much.  I love tucking clean, shampoo smelling little bodies into bed at night but if their feet are still dirty and hair full of sand they sleep just as well.  I’d rather let them play longer than clean them all up just to get dirty again tomorrow.  As long as it’s more than the once a week bath I had as a kid, we’re good 🙂
  4. Buy organic – I read this article once explaining how the label ‘Organic’ can be very deceiving as sometimes it simply means the product was not exposed to any legally restricted chemicals and can therefore be just as harmful or more as it may just have been treated with a new or not yet regulated chemical.  Ever since I stare at the price differences and I just cannot bring myself to buy the organic products.  To take responsibility for myself, I am just plain too lazy to do the work to investigate into how I can know whether the label I am reading is accurate or misleading.  I buy lots of fruits and vegetables, lean meats and stay away from too much canned, packaged or processed foods.  I cook homemade meals regularly and avoid sugary desserts and snacks.  This is how I attempt to feed my family of 6 without going crazy and I’m ok with it.
  5. Sort my laundry – Ok, I do this sometimes but not always.  There are days when I haul it all down and sort it by darks, lights, pinks, fancy clothes and dirty jeans.  And then there are other days where I just take all one kids stuff and stuff it in the machine.  Two hours later I’m folding it all and putting it back in their drawers and my child now has all their clothes cleaned.  I very much doubt it’s going to do more harm to the clothing than the way she slides on her belly on the grass, rubs up against the rock walls she’s climbing and smears Nutella all over the front of her shirt!
  6. Essential Oils – I had really good intentions.  I even bought some off a friend and they’re sitting with a diffuser in my linen closet.  I listened to all the benefits and agonized over which oils might help my FASD children focus, which oils might heal my foster son’s dry skin, which oils might increase brain growth in my son who went through a brain tumour resection last year.  I wondered if lavender would help my daughter sleep better and if oregano would heal my cold sores.  But I just couldn’t bring myself to spend the money and chase after a cure for realities we have fought hard to accept.  No oil is going to cure my children’s neurological differences or erase their trauma or help them sleep perfectly every night.  When I really stop and think…I know this.  And while I certainly believe there are huge benefits that have been proven, it’s not for me.  Just like I don’t do yoga, take Vitamin D all year or eliminate sugar from my children’s diet…I don’t do essential oils.  And I’m just not going to feel guilty about that.
  7. Meal Planning – Again, I tried this.  And I loved the part where you sit down with a fresh new notepad and pen and start writing down your favourite recipes and planning it all out.  But then real life happens and I’m just not in the mood for spaghetti tonight or we decided to go out for pizza instead of making homemade chicken noodle soup or it’s just too dreary and rainy to enjoy a chicken salad with chickpeas.  I also found that I spent a lot more money at the store each week if I planned out all my meals versus flying by the seat of my pants and using whatever I had in the house to concoct a meal.  For some people this works and is a lifesaver.  For me, I just don’t like it and it doesn’t fit my style.
  8. Mend Clothes – Honestly?  My husband keeps a needle and thread in his desk drawer and he mends the buttons on his pants when they fall off.  I just can’t be bothered!  It’s ok, he laughs and me and rather enjoys his little mending sessions so it’s not adversely affecting our marriage if you’re wondering.  My daughters bring out their dresses with ripped bows and falling apart doll clothes to their grandmothers or our neighbour up the street if they want them mended because they know if they ask Mom, it just won’t happen.  I would rather buy a new one than repair an old one.

So there you have it.

The things I don’t do.

No regrets.

No guilt.

Just no.

What things do you just say no to?

~AF

Why Reunification Matters

It’s what everyone wants to know.

Where is his family?

Why is she in foster care?

Doesn’t anyone love them?

How could a mother or father abandon their child?

I can see it in their eyes.

Pity, judgment and confusion.

“They’re better off with you,” they say.

“I don’t understand how a mother could do that.”

“Doesn’t that scare you?”

I wish I could show them the other side of the story.

I wish I could describe to them the struggles of growing up surrounded by addiction, poverty and domestic violence.

I wish I could capture the joy on my foster child’s face as they run into the open arms of their mommy.

I wish I could show them how he cries every time he has to say goodbye to his Daddy, and the way his daddy has to turn away blinking back his own tears as we walk out the door.

I wish I could show you the bags and bags of clothing Mom has given me or the toys Dad brings…their desperate attempt to try to fix things.

I wish I could show you the pain I see in their eyes and the longing for some understanding.

 

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The amazing thing about love is that it thrives even in the most unlikely environments.  Even surrounded by chaos, it takes root deep within hearts.  When yanked up, it bleeds out pain and raw anger at the injustice of it all.

You would be surprised to know that most parents of foster kids are a lot like you and I.  Moms and Dads who love their kids.

Sometimes love is not enough.

Love isn’t always enough to conquer addictions and poverty.

Love isn’t always enough to change the trajectory passed down through generations of abuse and loss.

Love isn’t always enough to heal the wounds of abandonment and rejection.

So much grace is needed to see past the behaviours to the cause.

For a parent who is at the end of their rope, social support programs are sometimes enough to pull the pieces together.

If  you know you are out of options, you will be willing to try almost anything.

But it takes a lot of courage to accept that someone else might know how to raise your children better than you.

It takes a lot of discipline to tear apart the fabric of your life and try to implement completely foreign patterns and habits into it.

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I don’t know many parents who would react well to being told:

“You don’t know what is best for your child.”

“You need help raising your child.”

“You need to change major things about your life to be allowed to continue raising your child.”

“You need to move.”

“You need to break up with your partner.”

“You need to attend support groups once a week.”

We ask big things of these parents.

And we are right to…but it doesn’t make it easy and it’s important that we understand what we are asking.

From their perspective, they often feel someone is trying to rip apart their family and ruin their lives.

It’s hard not to feel attacked and lash back in destructive ways.

But under all that, most of these parents love their kids desperately and just need some support to pull together the pieces of a life that has disappointed, wounded, ensnared and deceived.

We often make the mistake of setting unreasonable goals for these parents.

We want instant results.

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But real progress usually happens over time, with lots of support, plenty of chances and grace.

Sometimes the children will suffer during the interim…as they wait for their parents to become healthy enough to parent…and this feels unfair.

But I’m beginning to see that it’s so important that we don’t rush things.

At the end of this story, I want to be able to look that child in the eye and tell them I did everything I could to help salvage their family.

It’s so important that we, the foster parents, are the ones there to offer grace and let these moms and dads know that someone is in their corner.

I am still working at becoming this kind of foster parent.

They are often intimidated, frightened and bitter when they meet us…so it’s a big shift to show them that we are not the enemy.

But if we can…

Well…we might just be able to be the babysitter they call when that little one returns home.

We might just be that friend they text, send photos and vent to on a difficult day.

We might just be that ongoing support that every parent needs through the long days of parenting.

We might just get beach days and walks and playdates at the park.

We might never hear from them again, except to watch them grow from afar on social media, their eyes alight with happiness through the camera lens…

and in that moment…

even when it’s obvious that not all is perfect…

we will know it is right and good.

God came up with this perfect design and called it a family.

The blood bonds that run through our veins are powerful and precious and should be fought for fiercely!

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I know that it doesn’t always work.

And I know that it’s a bloody, awful mess in the process.

But if it works…

well…

if it works…

we have just done something extraordinarily beautiful.

It’s called redemption.

~AF

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