Sunday, July 20, 2014

Date nights in foster parenting

To start with, getting babysitters is hard for us even without being foster parents.  Our only family nearby is my brother and sister-in-law, who live 45 minutes away.  They have been able to help at times, but the distance is a factor.  So, since we had Dinosaur, we've relied on swapping with friends and hiring sitters from friends' recommendations, or teen kids of people at church.

Enter foster care, and our agency requires babysitters to at least 18 years old and have a background check done.  There go all the less expensive teens as options.  It also makes it really difficult to have a sitter that sticks around for awhile.  We've cleared three in the 18-25 age range, and two have graduated moved on to other things.  If we could have a responsible 15-year-old babysit, he or she could stick around a few years.  The third babysitter has her own child now, but she is still willing to do child care sometimes, and she is awesome.  Unfortunately, she can't drive, so for evening dates, one of us has to drive her home, which is not the most romantic ending to a date.  We live with it, though.  I'd also like to continue swapping with friends, but they haven't swapped back much, so I feel like I'm taking advantage of them.

A woman who sings in the church choir with B had gotten on the topic of foster parenting with him once.  Later, she went up to him and said that she felt led to support us more, like providing babysitting and the use of her house on a lake for family.  He got the forms to her, and she spotted me in church today and emphasized all the ways she wants to help us out.  This is incredibly awesome.  I have to turn in her forms, and hopefully we'll be able to go on some more dates more easily.

In the meantime, we've tried off-and-on to do a weekly date night with lots of at-home dates, as inspired by 52 date nights.  We were pretty good through last summer and fall, but it slipped once we got to the holidays and then had Beetle with us.  At-home date nights are also tough because by the time we get kids in bed (especially in the summer) it's 8:30.  We're about ready for bed at 10:00, and sometimes it's hard not to just claim that time for what we each want to do on our own.  And this is the best-case scenario; when we've had a newborn in the house, watching a show together while one holds the baby and hopes the baby doesn't start screaming is as good as it gets.  I'm also bracing myself for when we're placed with an older baby or toddler that is used to staying up very late.  Plus, in general, the foster care life for us has switched up our routines so regularly it's hard to really commit to a weekly date.  But we'll keep trying.

We keep going back to our list of at-home date ideas we made, and that has been helpful.  At this point, I think we'll just keep repeating ones we enjoyed and throw in some new ideas now and then.   I'm trying to make it a point to enjoy our balcony during these summer evenings.  We have all winter (and most of summer and fall here) to huddle inside and watch TV.  So, we sat on the balcony and repeated one of last summer's date nights last night, playing a Would You Rather... game.  We used some questions we found online and added some our own.  We cracked each other up and got into ridiculous debates.  It was good fun, and I even learned a few new things about B.

More dates we may repeat soon:
  • Watch videos we've taken with our camera.  We often take them, but don't back and rewatch them.  Fun to see the kids younger and doing things we've forgotten they did.
  • Make an easy dinner for the kids, then enjoy a fancier dinner on our own after they go to bed with candles and such.
  • Play a board or card game (we still haven't found a 2-person game we both really enjoy, so maybe we'll borrow a couple from my brother and sister-in-law who have a ton and try them out one night)
Dates we haven't done that I hope to do soon:
  • Backyard picnic
  • Read the same book and have a two-person book club
  • Create new playlists for road trips
Dates that were hilarious but we probably won't repeat because they're outside our gifts and talents:
  • Paint each other's portraits
  • Find dance lessons on Youtube and learn together
Anyone have more ideas to share?  How do you manage couple time in the middle of foster parenting?

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