Tammy at I Must Be Trippin' wanted the foster care panel to write about foster care and holidays last week. I was a lousy panel member and never managed to work up a post. Largely, this is because I've done nothing different with my foster kids over a holiday than I ever do. They are part of our family and they just get worked into the mix. I had no idea what to write.
But today I see the error of my thinking.
I have done a lot of things differently.
With Pumpkin I had to keep things simple out of developmental necessity. She didn't understand language. I couldn't ask her what she had done before. I couldn't try to meld any of her past traditions into ours. Everything was trial and error. Some things she seemed to understand. Some things were completely new. We found out quickly that Pumpkin understood birthdays – complete with presents, cake and candles. She knew all about that. That was fun!
But Easter....I don't think she had ever done much. When it came time to hunt eggs I couldn't do it as we always have. In our house, in years past, the Easter Bunny wrote a note to the kids saying how many of each kind of egg they could find. For example, there would be a list that said: 4 big eggs, 12 little eggs, 1 special bowl of goodies and 4 peanut butter eggs. Pumpkin never would have understood that.
I pondered things over and over and decided that Pumpkin did sort of know her colors. It wasn't consistent but I knew it would be easier to direct her to only eggs of one color. She would be able to hunt eggs with assistance – but she could do it. So the eggs were color coded. Herman got purple, TT got blue, Bart got green and Pumpkin got yellow that first year. (Thank goodness Easter eggs traditionally come in six colors because we added pink for Dolly and green for Dude the next year.)
When Dude and Dolly came I had to keep things smaller. I couldn't really explain what Thanksgiving was to them. They just had to experience it. So many things that we did were brand new to the children. I don't think they had ever experienced a birthday party. They had never done Halloween. They didn't know who Santa Clause was. Everything was new!!! And because they were just learning English, most explanations just flew over their heads.
So we kept it simple that first year. I picked out their Halloween costumes for them. Thanksgiving was just a day when our neighbors came over to eat with us. I didn't talk about Santa until right before Christmas. I didn't make a big deal out of the presents. We didn't do any parties (much to the dismay of our licensing agency). We kept it simple. They were so easily overwhelmed. We did what we always did – my forever kids didn't miss a thing – but we kept it simple.
I've been having so much fun today though!!
The kids know a bit of what to expect.
Last night at bedtime I did what I always do with the cherubs. We read books. Then I turned off the light. I sang "Jesus Loves Me". I sang a few more songs. We prayed. I sang the lullaby I sing every night. And then we talked about what the next morning will look like.
Dolly asked me if we were going to watch TV. They know that on "no school" days (Saturday anyway) they get to come downstairs in their jammies and watch cartoons. They LOVE it! I told the cherubs that we would probably watch TV but it would be a parade. Now I knew that the word "parade" is still foreign to them. They didn't know what we would be watching. I tried to explain though. I said there would be singers and dancers, giant balloons, floats, bands and more. Then I said, "And at the end of the parade Santa will be there." I said the final goodnight and I walked out of the room.
About 7:00AM Dude and Dolly woke up. I heard their little feet padding up and down the hall as they went to the bathroom. Each child went back to their room though and crawled in bed. (Typically only on cartoon mornings do they get to go down in their jammies. They have really learned our routines well!) I got out of bed and went into their room to say good morning.
With sparkles in her eyes, Dolly looked up at me and said, "We go watch the parade Mommy? And Santa come today Mommy?"
The pure joy in her eyes has made me cry multiple times today. She recognized characters in the parade. She got excited when the bands played songs she recognized. And the way she waved back to the TV when Santa came...it was priceless! Everything was NOT new to her today. It's been amazing.
Today I celebrate with my friends and family. I am no more thankful today than any other day. I do truly try to live a life of thanksgiving. I am thankful for all the blessings every day. But I will add, like so many other foster moms are saying today, I'm even thankful for this foster parenting journey. It has stretched me. It has nearly ripped me to pieces. But I'm thankful I've been a part of it. I'm thankful. So very, very thankful.