Monday, November 4, 2013

Supermom and that foster mom you read about in the paper

We had a family team meeting for Pterodactyl's transition to moving to her grandma, and it's still slowly but surely happening.  There's a general goal set, but no exact date for the move.  Some things are so in between.  I want to transition her out of swaddling, but I don't want to change up her sleep habits right before moving.  I consider starting solid foods with her, but figure I could save that as a first that grandma can share with her.

I knew birth family interactions would be complicated, but I'm still overwhelmed by the awkwardness of it.  I want to show how I love Pterodactyl deeply, how I have tried to do my best to make sure that she had a start in life that was full of love and security.  When I'm asked if she has a coat, I feel the need to explain why she's not wearing a coat, with a clumsy explanation of how I use blankets instead because the recommendation is that you should take off coats before putting babies in car seats anyway.  Then I feel the other end of the spectrum, that I'm trying to win a parenting war and think I'm the deserving supermom to have Pterodactyl.  I don't know how to express "I never wanted to steal your kids from you."  The same impossibility that I live out, loving a baby as my own and then giving her away, I have to somehow express.  I take excellent care of your daughter, your granddaughter, but I also let go with politeness and a smile.

Also, this is all going down with the grandma in Spanish.  We did have a translator at the meeting (who was absolutely amazing, translating five seconds behind people like closed captioning), but the rest of my communication with grandma has been in my second language and outside of my culture.  I'm learning I have a vocabulary gap in baby-related matters and have been scouring the dictionary.  How do I say she likes to be worn in a carrier?  Portabeb├ęs, is that really the word?  Am I showing off again if this isn't a cultural norm for her?  Why does the word I looked up for swaddling blanket show Google images that look like a SIDS nightmare?  Now am I being the foster mom she read about in the newspaper who was doing it for the money?

I know it hasn't been awful.  I know I haven't been called names and I've never felt unsafe.  But I feel like in every word and every look I give, there's no right way to be this person I have to be.  My pastor recently spoke about how he was the pastor of a funeral that was 98% African-American, and he is white.  He knew with something so culturally entrenched as a funeral, he would be making cultural mistakes all over the place, even with decades pastoring a multicultural, multiethnic church.  He decided to be humble and honest, accepting he could probably do a B- message at best.  That's a bit about how I feel.  At best, just playing this role has a high likelihood for failure.  There are successful foster parent and birth family relationships.  Maybe it can be learned and I have much to learn.  I want to be a champion for the birth family, but I'm not sure they'll believe me.

4 comments:

  1. It's so nice to find another foster mom in the early stages. Such a difficult line to walk... transitioning kids out of foster care. I've never thought about having to teach someone about your baby's preferences/routine/needs while worrying about coming across as superior. Add to that the language differences... not fun. Praying for peace as you navigate it all. You've probably already tried this, but there are some great voice translator apps if you have a smart phone.

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    1. Kelley: I enjoyed reading your journey starting foster care! I was just there with you this spring! Thank you for the prayers. I don't have a smart phone, but I had never thought of voice translator apps, interesting. My Spanish skills are pretty good, but I always second guess them when it gets to difficult or awkward conversations. I can talk about what I'm doing this weekend, but I stumble at talking about how to take care of Pterodactyl without sounding condescending.

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  2. Christina, you can definitely foster good communication with the biological family, even with interpreters involved. May I suggest you send notes or updates with the child having used google translate first? Or use photos to show what you mean. Photos will help put bio family at ease and it builds a bridge when you are trying to connect with them about the child. The common language of all races and ethnicities is love, and you both have a love for this child...

    I have personally worked with families that have great relationships between foster and bio family, and those that won't even speak to one another, and I can tell you - children ALWAYS know either way. Outcomes are so much better for all parties when there is a positive relationship among caregivers. Okay so I just wrote a book about this subject... My heart goes out to new foster parents...it takes a special person to love a child until they can return home or go with a family member. My prayers for you and "Pterodactyl" as you go forward.

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    1. Thank you for the encouragement! I definitely want a positive relationship with all of the bio family, I just have trouble knowing how to make it happen. I can be shy and tend not to express how much I value and care about the bio family. I think I've learned some things from this experience that will hopefully help with future relationships in future placements. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.

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