Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Blog starts today


So, I've decided to document my foster mom story here for several reasons:

1) to keep a record of the journey for the future when my memory isn't so good (i.e., next week);
2) as a way of keeping my sanity, by putting the crazy thoughts in my head somewhere
3) to inform/amuse/annoy (your choice) my friends and family

To protect the privacy of the fam, I will use aliases. Hubster is Tevye (a nickname my mom and I gave him when we first married), the boy is Taro, and the girl is Naomi. Also to protect the privacy of the children, details about their birth parents will not be shared.

So, we adopted Taro (age 10) 7 years ago. So far, so good. He seems to be a normal boy: whiny, hates homework, addicted to video games and silly shows on TV, prefers western food to Japanese (except he loves natto, the nut). He is also very much the product of early institutionalization: reactive, still wets the bed, wants as much control over the environment and schedule as possible ("Where are we going? How long does it take to get there? When will get we get back?", etc. ad infinitum).

We'd been weekend fostering Naomi (age 11) for about a year and a half. She was usually helpful and sweet, although there were times when she seemed broody and didn't want to do anything. We were told to act normally and not do anything extra special for her, probably so that she could see what she'd be getting into if she agreed to join our family. Her psychiatrist, caseworkers, and caregivers all agreed that she'd be better off with us, so urged her to become a member of our family while still in elementary school, so that she could spend one year getting used to being with us before entering the horror that is elementary school.

Even before she moved in last Saturday, I could see that we would have to keep an eye on Taro also. He was already starting to show distress at having to share us with someone else, although he wanted a sibling (preferably a little brother, however). He seems very sensitive to injustice (as he perceives it) -- if we pay a little too much attention to Naomi, or she gets something he doesn't, he'll let us know by behaving in a way that shows he wants extra attention until he feels balance has been achieved. Preferred method: whining about EVERYTHING.

The other night, for instance, Taro was doing a pretty bad job of washing the dishes. All the while, he was muttering, "I wanted a brother. I don't want a sister" in a stage whisper loud enough for Naomi to hear. After making him re-wash a few items, I told him I'd do and sent him out of the kitchen. After I finished, I sat with him and he chatted about this and that, happy to have my undivided attention.

Last night, too, he was whiny and wanting Tevye's attention, I think because Tevye, Naomi, and another girl had been out in the park for a few hours. There was a lot of yelling and crying. I asked Tevye to give me a ride to the gym and asked Taro if he wanted to go in the car with us. He said yes, as I knew he would. He sat in the front next to Tevye, quiet and well-behaved. After Tevye picked me up I explained that Taro felt an imbalance in attention, and that he had to be mindful of that. Often the two boys act like a pair of goats butting heads, not knowing the other's motivation.

Naomi is pretty open and honest with Tevye, but it's taking longer with me. I'm not sure if it's because I'm foreign and don't speak Japanese that well, or if it's because I'm the mother-figure she's never had and she's going to take longer to trust me. She hides her feelings well, and sometimes I get the sense that she's doing things to please me, like doing a puzzle game this morning while I watched, rather than because she wants to do it. Frankly, when left to her own devices, she'll read a magazine, play games on her 3DS, organize her stuff, or sit and do nothing. When she was visiting on weekends, she seemed to enjoy helping me with baking and I'm trying to teach her to knit, but she didn't want to help with anything or do anything with me yesterday. And I wonder what she expects from me! (I try not to think about that too much, though. I'm prone to self-doubt at the best of times, and I need all my strength and wits about me!)

It's hard for both Tevye and I when she's doing nothing, because I think we feel we should be entertaining her or getting her to do something. We were told not to push her and to just let her get used to the new situation. It's hard for all of us, I think. She doesn't have any friends yet and school doesn't start for another week.

We thought the kids had a breakthrough over the new year's holidays -- they enjoyed playing together and talking to each other when we were in the hot spring hotel, but that's maybe because we were in a neutral space. Now, I catch them eyeing each other and not in a friendly way. "Wary" would be the word I'd use.

This morning, I felt a mixture of guilt and relief when I left the house for my office. No reason for guilt -- Tevye is off work until school starts and prefers playing with kids than hanging with adults (opposite of me); relief, because when I'm in my office, I listen to music or the radio, rather than "I'm bored!" I did print off some yahtzee score pads and instructions and templates for making "Angry Birds" balloons, though...