This weekend was my second time as a respite foster parent for the weekend. Last time I had a teenager - which was actually surprisingly wonderful. This weekend I had an 8-year old. And what a HUGE difference it was!
Oddly enough, my second foster child had the same name as my first - that made it easy for me to remember who I had with me!
The 8 year old here with me this weekend suffers from PTSD. I'll let that sink in a second....he's EIGHT. And has PTSD. Most people think of PTSD as somethign that happens with soldiers coming back from war. But this boy has it - at age eight. You can imagine the horrifying life that he's had thus far that would cause someone so young to suffer this disease.
As a result of his traumatic life, he's got some issues he's working through. Like how he doen't like other human children. At all. And he doesn't respond well anytime you try to suggest he needs to do something that he does not want to do. Like sit at a particular table at McDonald's. Or stop playing for some reason. Or go to bed.
Working as a therapeutic foster parent means that I don't get to be grumpy because I'm tired after a long day. It means I don't get to display my true emotions and just snap and say: You're going to bed now and that's that-good night! and walk away. It means you can't just walk away from the child when they are being a typical sleepy kid, throwing out excuses why he shouldn't go to sleep.
It means I have to always have patience. And always be kind, no matter what.
These might seem like things that all parents should always have...but speaking as a parent, and having talked to other parents - the reality is that most parents don't always maintain their patience and kindness. SOMETIMES you snap. Sometimes you just shut the light off and walk away and know that the child will be fine, even if they cry themselves to sleep. This sounds harsh, but I can't imagine there are parents who haven't had one of those days...
With therapeutic foster kids...you don't shut the light off and you don't walk away. Ever.
So last night, I listened to this boy cry about how he's starving. And then he was so thirsty he couldn't stand it. And then he was trying to convince me that this was not his bedtime and I was putting him to bed way too early. And then he wanted to call his mom (I offered to let him). And then he just WAS NOT TIRED. And then it was too hot. And then it was too cold. And then the blanket was scratching him. And then it was too dark. And he didn't want to read. And he didn't want to lay there. And he didn't want ANYTHING.
He was really afraid to sleep alone and insisted that I stay closeby. Which meant I was captive in my bedroom (five feet from his door) until he went to sleep. Which took over an hour last night. And it wasn't a quiet hour. It was a lot of "Kay, are you sure it's my bedtime?" and "Kay, are you still in your room?" and "Kay, when are you going to sleep? How many minutes from now is that?"
It's exhausting being nice all the time. I guess this comes naturally to some people?