We finally got a routine down with H. It took 8.5 months and then all of a sudden, 2 weeks ago, everything started to click into place.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t completely smooth sailing, but we were doing reasonably well, all things considered.
But alas, peace in our home is clearly not meant to be. Because this week, Pre-k started assigning homework.
Now don’t get me wrong. Education is awesome. The bees knees. Quite possibly the one thing that can break the cycle…
But the addition of “the homework routine” is quite unwelcome.
In the orientation, the teacher said “oh the kids just LOVE doing homework. They get so excited to show you what they are learning in school.”
I guess coloring pictures of ducks just doesn’t do it for our four year old.
He’s more of a Transformers guy. Or maybe Avengers – the way he Hulked those homework sheets across the table when (after an hour of coaxing), in complete exasperation, I told him that he was stuck doing homework the next 13 to 17 years.
But I told him not to worry. The time would fly by and then he’d be done with homework and would just get to work every day for the rest of his life instead.
He screamed “BUT I JUST WANT TO PLAY!”
He may be angry about the homework, but I must say the honesty is honestly quite refreshing.
And for the record, H, I feel the same.
P.S. I’m excited to share that I just learned in a foster parenting re-licensing class, that you CAN share pictures of kids on social media, so I’ll be posting some of my favorites on my personal Facebook page later this afternoon. I will not be putting any on my website or on Instagram, however. So, you’ll only be able to see the photos of this adorable kiddo if we’re Facebook friends.
How do you define love? It’s honestly not something I’ve given much thought until this moment. I never really had to, I suppose. Growing up in the church, I remember hearing “God is love” a lot. But I never had to think about it, because I’ve always had it. Because I am privileged.
How To Define Love
If you actually look up the definition, it’s “an intense feeling of deep affection”.
It’s a feeling; an abstract concept. It’s not a physical, tangible, “let’s show it off to the neighbors” kind of thing. So how do you explain it to a child?
I’ve come to the conclusion that you can’t. Not accurately or effectively, anyway. Because love is taught through actions and by building trust with another person. A strong bond forms, that eventually turns into love.
But what if there’s no trust?
What if the actions of others around you are erratic?
What if you’re 4 years old, and you can’t read, and you certainly cannot break down abstract concepts and you can barely color inside the lines of the heart shapes in your coloring book?
Then what is Love to you? It’s “mommy is gonna buy me a blue transformer next week.”
In other words, money CAN buy love.
How Do You Teach Love?
So how do I explain that “your mommy loves you but…love is spending time with each other. Love is being kind to each other. Love is consistency. Love is keeping you safe. Love is teaching you how to function within society. Love is teaching you that there are rules. And establishing consequences when those rules are broken.”
Love is everything that you didn’t have.
So we try to teach (cram) 4 years worth of life lessons into the short time he is with us. Kindness, consistency, self-worth, laughter, truthfulness. We are trying to teach him all of these things, yet I am filled with such anger.
Every inch of me rages. From the moment I wake up in the morning to the second I fall asleep at night, there is a dark cloud of hate that churns inside me. Every core of my being wants to fight: the system and the lawyers and the case managers and the therapists and the parents and judges and the politicians… because it’s all broken. And we are all failing.
I want to help. I want to “be the change I want to see in the world”. I want to make a difference.
But how do you teach a child love, when you’re so filled with hate?
Can he sense it? When he hugs me, does he feel my heart race? Am I just one more “do as I say, not as I do” example in his life?
I hope not. Because as much as I hate this system, I love this little boy… even if I can’t define it.
This is a guest post by my sister, Rita Spann. She’s hilarious. For more of her laugh-out-loud content, follow her on Instagram: @ritas.digest
I can’t believe it’s only been a week. I’m watching H pretend a chunk of cheese is a pirate ship at the dining table. He’s taking a brief break from playing to scarf down some lunch. His legos are spread out all over the living room, there’s a tent set up in his bedroom and there are crayon marks on the coffee table. Lucy and Thomas’s home is now officially a kid zone.
Having a front row seat to this seismic shift in my big sister’s life has been wild.
Becoming a Parent
This time last week, Lucy and I were putting new sheets on H’s bed. She said “Should I have washed these? I mean, I guess I’ll probably be changing them soon. I think little boys are pretty dirty.”
I said “But don’t kids take baths every night?”
Lucy responded “Ugh. I think so. That seems pretty excessive. But I don’t know, they are pretty low to the ground…”
When Thomas got home that night he got started installing a baby gate at the foot of the stairs while Lucy read a book about raising kids who have experienced trauma called “The Connected Child” out loud to him.
Between my sister the planner and her husband the doer, they were going to be as ready as possible.
The Truth About Parenthood
I think the truth is, no one is really ready for parenthood regardless of the circumstances. I realize that this isn’t a particularly hot take, but bearing witness to H’s first week here and watching Lucy and Thomas learn-on-the-go has brought that fact into glaring focus for me. Figuring out what to feed him, teaching him to wash his hands, setting up a bedtime routine. They’re doing an incredible job, but I mean, how can anyone know how to do all this stuff? But once you have a kid and it needs to eat, and be clean, and go to bed, it turns out you have no choice but to figure it all out.
And now that I’m on the topic of “having no choice” and “figuring it out on the go”, I happened to have an opportunity to rise to the parenting challenge myself this week.
H arrived last Friday. We three adults played with him and got to know him all weekend and then Lucy and Thomas went back to work on Monday. H couldn’t start his new daycare until after MLK Day so I happily volunteered to spend the day with him.
We woke up and said goodbye to Lucy and Thomas and I made H some scrambled eggs, bacon, and apple juice. He was eating his breakfast and watching a cartoon (allowed on weekends and, if I’m babysitting, holidays) when all of a sudden he jumped up and said “I have to go to the bathroom!” and darted full speed out of the room. I ran after him and by the time I got on the scene his pants were down and he was peeing in the toilet, liquid poop was shooting out of his butt, and he was bawling.
Poop-splosion: A Part of Parenting
Nothing in my life so far equipped me for this situation.
I had literally no idea what to address first, the tears or the poop. I took a deep breath and opted for tears.
“It’s okay buddy! Accidents happen. Let’s get you out of these clothes.”
I stripped the still sobbing kiddo down and set him in the bathtub.
“It’s okay buddy. We’re gonna get you all cleaned up!”
Gagging, I mopped up the bulk of the poop so I could get next to the tub.
“You don’t have to cry H, we’re gonna get you all cleaned up.”
I turned the faucet on, stood him up, and poured cups of water over his little legs and scrubbed him down. Once I got him cleaned up I ran the bath water and he sat down, stopped crying, and started playing with a toy boat. Tears handled, I got to work cleaning and disinfecting.
I told H “You see, no big deal. But next time we’re going to go to the bathroom earlier, aren’t we? We’re going to go in the toilet, not the floor, right?”
After the impromptu morning bath we took a walk with the dog, went on some quests, played hide-and-seek, ate lunch, and had a generally excellent day all around. And just before Lucy and Thomas got home there was another poop. This one solid, and in the toilet.