As a foster parent, I understand that despite the sometimes horrific situations that bring children to me, those children still desire their bio parents. They love them. They want them back.
Under no circumstances should I ever talk bad about the bio family. These children identify with their family of origin. If I say something bad about their mom, I'm saying something bad about them.
I will speak truth. I tell Captain that his mother didn't keep him safe and that's why he's living with me. But I don't tell him that she's a self-centered person who only keeps posting about missing one of her children on Facebook right now and went and got a face tattoo last week. I don't tell him that his mother is a bad person for not keeping him safe. I don't even talk against the evil perpetrator in this case.
However, I do have to do things like help Captain brush his teeth.
He came to me with six silver caps in his mouth. I watched him brush his own teeth at first and he spent more time playing in the water with his toothbrush than he did brushing his teeth. So, I told him to start brushing and I'd finish up. Boy did he look at me funny when I stuck my fingers in his mouth and made sure his back molars got brushed.
He didn't understand.
I had to explain what cavities are. I told him, because it's truth, that his teeth weren't being taken care of the right way before and that's why he has silver teeth. I told him I need to help him brush to make sure he doesn't get more.
I didn't say a single bad thing about his mom. But how is Captain processing this?
Either his mom is bad because she didn't take care of his teeth. Or I am bad because I'm brushing his teeth for him.
That's hard for a five-year-old to process.
It's the same with vegetables. Every time I tell Captain that it's my job to keep him safe and healthy, I'm sure he thinks about how his mom didn't keep him safe and healthy. This is hard to comprehend. As a result, Captain spends a lot of energy trying to convince himself that he's eaten vegetables before.
I don't know if it's right or if it's wrong, but I call Captain out on this one. He doesn't like vegetables at all! He also hasn't recognized a single vegetable except carrots and green beans. And both of those came with an immediate announcement of, "I don't like those." So when I ask Captain what foods he ate for breakfast with his mommy, because I'm honestly trying to figure out what this kid likes to eat, and he answers, "vegetables," I call him out. I tell him, "Captain, I know you didn't have vegetables for breakfast. When you're ready to tell me what you did have, I'm here to listen. I want to feed you foods that you like."
Captain knows he should be eating healthy food. He's heard it at school and now from me. But his little soul has to process why his mommy never fed him healthy food. If he is supposed to eat vegetables, how come his mommy didn't feed them to him? One of us must be right and one of us must be wrong.
Without saying a negative word, I'm sending him a very strong message about his life before foster care. Imagine how he feels when I tell him every single time we get in the car that not only does he have to sit in a car seat, but he also has to use his seat belt?
I'm pretty sure that seat belts weren't a priority in his old home. With so many children five and under, there are few vehicles that would have accommodated everyone. I haven't tried to sleuth this one out, but I have to assume that they just rode in a regular car sitting in the seat not buckled up. Especially since he still doesn't understand that he has to buckle up every single time he gets in the car!
So when I tell Captain it's the law for him to be buckled up, he realizes that his mommy broke the law every time he didn't fasten a seat belt.
It's important for me to not talk bad about Captain's family. It's also important for me continue brushing teeth, feeding vegetables and fastening seat belts. So it's REALLY important for me to continue to tell Captain that he loves his mommy and that he misses her. He needs to have his honest feelings validated and he's having to process so much right now. If he did seem mad at her, I would validate that too. But he needs to know that it's OK to love his mommy each and every day and he needs to know that even though our worlds are incredibly different, my home is a safe place to talk about loving his mommy.