In 3 days, the foster kids that we've had since October are going back with their mom. I'm conflicted.
For starters, I'm glad that the kids can reintegrate. From what I've noticed, a lot of kids just never go back. These guys have only been in care since September, so their mom has worked super hard towards reintegration. I hope things will be better after the "honeymoon period". But I'm worried. It's hard to change 13 years of parenting strategies and coping mechanisms and habits in 6 months. Plus, everytime the kids have gone for a visit, they get new stuff, nobody fights, nobody yells. It's like a sterile hospital environment, and soon the whole family will have to deal with the real world: school, homework, behaviours, financial issues, babysitters, chores, etc. And they will all have to figure out how to navigate these normal events differently than they did before. Old ways of doing things aren't going to work. Old, unhealthy habits will have to be switched to newer, safer ones. Social workers will be in and out of their house often, making sure things don't go back to the way things were. But old habits die hard, and there's a part of me that feels they'll be back in the system within a year. I guess we will see.
I'm going to miss the routine of kids. I have a set time when I wake up, we have a routine before bedtime. Meals are more structured, and I will have to do the chores we've had the kids do. My husband and I will have more time for each other. There will be far fewer doctors, mental health, dentist, and other various appointments. There will significantly less things to fill out my day.
It's weird. As a stay-at-home, my day is cut up into sections. Before school, during school, after school, and bedtime. Once the kids are gone, that changes to wake up, do whatever, dinner sometime after my husband comes home. Everything will be a lot less rigid without the kids.
I'm happy they're leaving because I'm sick of the fights. I'm sick of everything being a battle. I'm sick of fighting to get the 10 year old in the shower. I'm tired of explaining that turning your underpants inside out does not make them into a new, clean pair. I know that there will be battles with every kid we bring into the house. But new kids means new battles. New kids means new ways of seeing things, of doing things. I feel like we're in a rut with these two, because there is only so much we can accomplish.
With biological kids, it's understood that the parents are there to guide them until they're adults (and then keep on truckin'). But as a foster parent, everything that we can teach, or show them, or model is shadowed by how their parents did things. And not just that. But by how their parents do things on visits, and once they go back home permanently. If homework wasn't important to birth mom, then it is a lot more difficult of a struggle in a foster home than if it was routine to do homework after school. It feels sometimes that we're competing with bio parents for room in the kid's head. The bio-parents win every time, in case you were curious!
As our guardianship of this family ends, I'm starting to think of the next bunch of kids we'll get. Things are progressing towards the family we've expressed interest in adopting. My husband and I have talked about it, and we're not going to get any long-term kids until we know the end result with the other family. We'll do respite care (basically 2-3 day babysitting other people's foster kids), with new kids every few days. Which will be a whole other routine!
So here I sit, 3 days before the kids go away forever. And for right now, I'm OK with their leaving. I hope we've made a difference in their lives. At the very least, I hope we didn't screw them up more!