Thursday, October 31, 2013

How this has affected my kids - Part 2

Today I'm going to write about Bart and how he has responded to being a foster sibling.

Bart is the baby of our forever family. He's never struck me as being a "third child" though. Bart is headstrong, loud, and incredibly independent!! Bart is much like Herman x1000. Bart too "goes with the flow" quite well.

We discussed fostering with both TT and Bart before we did it. We talked about the good things and the stuff that might be more difficult. At the time I know that both boys didn't understand. You really can't explain fostering to anyone. It is something that must be experienced.

Our first placement was MissArguePants and her sister TurtleTurtle. Bart was five and in kindergarten when they came. You'd have to go back in my archives to read about the girls. The short of the story though...those sisters rocked our world! They had been horrifically abused in more ways than training could ever prepare us for. And because they were closer in age to TT and Bart, they impacted their worlds tremendously.

Bart remained positive through it all. But it was difficult. The constant tantruming took a lot of energy to contain and TT and Bart didn't get the attention they were used to. For the most part though, Bart just rolled with the flow. We all breathed a sigh of relief when they left.

Then Pumpkin came.

Pumpkin is the same age as Bart. Developmentally though, Pumpkin was a toddler when she came. She could barely walk and she only spoke about 25-50 words total (and very few of those words were "spontaneous").

Bart LOVED Pumpkin. He simply adored her and he was fiercely protective of her! When Pumpkin started school she was in the self-contained special ed classroom. The teachers reported that Bart would make extra stops into the classroom throughout the day to check on Pumpkin to make sure the teachers were caring for her correctly. Quite the opposite of Herman, Bart hugged Pumpkin and tried to engage with her all the time. When school started after Dude and Dolly came it was no longer practical for me to walk Pumpkin in to class in the morning. She could not do it on her own of course. Bart immediately stepped up to make sure that Pumpkin got to her classroom safely every morning. Bart never saw her disabilities - he just saw his sister. It was beautiful.

Bart got knocked out of his role as baby of the family when Dude and Dolly came. It strikes me as funny when people get super concerned about maintaining birth order when doing foster care. When you add members to your family - you mess with stuff no matter how old the kids are! For example, Dolly was used to being the oldest and when she came she fell to 5th in line. Bart was used to being the baby (for the most part) and he was thrust into middle child.

Bart was jealous of Dolly from time to time. It created friction - but nothing that wasn't easily handled. For the most part, Bart just rolled with the flow. The longer Dude and Dolly stayed, the more cohesive of a family we became. Bart was an amazing big brother to the kids and he loved them like they'd been with us forever.

And then they left.

Grief was thick.

Mr. Amazing and Herman somewhat stayed in the background - neither one knowing exactly how to handle the strong emotions that had taken over our house. Bart, TT and I were quite vocal in our grief.

I got the idea from a FB friend to put up a interactive feelings wall. I used the six stages of grief on each of the colored cards. Bart, TT and I each made a white card with our name on it. (Mr. Amazing and Herman didn't want to participate.) As things have happened during the days/weeks/month since the cherubs left, we've moved our names around to mark how we are feeling. Bart's name has been back and forth through all the feelings. One day he had pushed his all the way up to "acceptance". Then, something triggered him and the next time I looked at the wall he was back under "anger". It's been very healing to express our feelings this way. It's sparked some excellent conversations and it has also allowed for us to share how we feel without having to talk about it.

We're a month out now from when they left. Bart is still sad...but he's moved on. I got a call asking us to do respite next week. It's for a 5yo little girl, a 3yo little girl and a baby boy. I intentionally didn't agree to anything until after I talked to the kids. I intentionally told them that I feared having a 5yo girl in the home might be difficult because it will remind us of Dolly. Bart thought about it for a second or two though and said, "I don't care. It'll be fun, Mom."

Bart is healing appropriately. In fact, I think it's about time that I can take down the cards on the feeling wall. We're all just bouncing back and forth between anger and depression or acceptance for the most part. Our anger is toward The System. We're all angry. But I think it's safe to say that Bart accepts the reality that the cherubs aren't coming back.

Bart shares my passion in wanting to help kids and families. I'm proud of him and how wonderful of a foster brother he was. If for some reason we decide to do this again, he'll be right there next to me with a smile on his face ready to welcome someone new into our home.


Deb said...

What a great brother he is. Sounds like he has processed it all pretty well.

Annie said...

I like the feeling wall. I wish I'd thought of it a year ago.