They have this blessed thing in foster care called respite care. When we signed up with our agency, we told them we would do long-term family care, emergency care, or respite. Our girls are with us as long-term care (meaning more than a few days), so we are currently not available to provide respite or emergency care because we now have no more room. But now, the agency encourages us to take advantage of respite care.
Big Daddy was very adamant about us not using this service. (Easy for him to say–he’s at work all day and taking 3-hour bike rides in the evenings while I’m cleaning up pee accidents and managing mini-meltdowns!). His logic was that we would never have sent our own kids to a stranger for a weekend. I could understand his logic, and I know that these poor kids have been shuttled around enough in their young lives. I had no intention of sending them anywhere until they were comfortable here and knew that we’d be back for them. But I realized also that anyone selected as respite caregivers had been thoroughly screened (as we were) and had clearances. Our agency seems very stringent in its requirements. Also, we had grandma and pap-pap to give us a break with our kids, and we could find other suitable non-family members to babysit our own kids. My mom is 20-some years older now with a heart condition and could never keep up with my sweet three-year old, my dad is no longer with us, and we are only allowed to leave these kids with people that have clearances. My boys fill in enough when I have to run out here and there, but Youngest Son is now back in college and Oldest Son just stops by to do his laundry sometimes between his work gigs all across the country.
I guess foster parents frequently use respite care early, when the “honeymoon period” is over. I’ve heard this term often since being involved in foster care. At first, the kids are adjusting and maybe on their best behavior, the parents are just so excited and happy to finally have these young lives in their home, and everything is hunky-dory. The kids’ case manager even asked me early on if I needed a respite weekend. We were fine and I said no. These kids are pretty normal kids and although they’ve kept me very busy (have I mentioned that I’ve lost about 8 pounds since they’ve been here despite the fact that I’ve done hardly any formal exercise AND have eaten more fast food than normal), I haven’t really needed the mental health vacation that I’m sure some of the more saintly foster parents, who are brave enough to take kids with serious problems, would need.
But I did need a break. Bonus Baby is in preschool now, but when she’s home, she requires constant supervision. We’re totally in love with her, but she’s very demanding and likes a lot of attention. The only thing she’ll sit still for momentarily is the one very irritating episode of Barney (God help me!) about bugs which is on On Demand until the end of August. The few times she’s been quiet are the times I found her slathering my insanely overpriced Bath and Body Works sunscreen all over her tiny body, or pulling all the diaper wipes out of the container. Big Sis has finally realized that she may be here longer than she thought she would be, and sometimes lashes out at us in frustration. Although in our heads we understand the conflict she is going through, it really burst my bubble the first time she told us she doesn’t want to be here. Her first loyalty is with her birth family, which is normal, but we’ve tried so hard to make sure she has fun that it still stings a little when she gets mouthy or says hurtful things. I know it’s not about us, but hey, we’re still human.
So, although respite is not meant to be used as a babysitting service, when my best friend from middle school wanted to have me, hubby, and my mom over for dinner and drinks at her home with another friend from high school this Friday night, and Youngest Son needed our help moving the rest of his furniture into his big dorm room on Saturday, I decided to take advantage of respite. I had a wonderful time with my friends on Friday (even though my friend seemed hell-bent on putting that 8 pounds back on me with her wonderful dinner and appetizers), enjoyed every moment of my three-mile walk in scorching heat on Saturday and spent way too much time sleeping in and even taking a nap. I tried to redeem my decadence by using the steps instead of the elevator to carry Youngest Son’s lighter-weight possessions to his 4th floor dorm room.
We’re picking the girls up at 5 today. I hope they had a good time. When I dropped them off, the usually clingy Bonus Baby was too engrossed in all the new toys and baby dolls in the pretty girly room to give me much more than a quick hug good-bye. Bonus Child chatted to me the whole way there and gave me a big hug before I left. When she’s not trying to reject us, I know she actually kind of likes us and despite her Dr. Jeckyll moods, she does have a good time. I can tell by her girly giggles and when I hear her singing along with the Justin Bieber videos (God help me again!) that we’ve found online.
I’m just hoping these respite parents are still as excited about having the girls visit them as they seemed to be when we first got there. We know all about those honeymoon periods. I’m hoping they’ll be more than willing to take them in November for the high school reunion weekend. Future daughter-in-law has offered to babysit that weekend–but she’s a busy girl. Besides, there’s an open bar and I know I will not feel like waking up at 7:00 am the morning after to “Mommy! I want to watch Barney!” Ugh!