Our Imperfect Lives


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In the Home Stretch

We can see the end of the tunnel – the completion of the process of becoming eligible foster parents is in our sights. Our first two home visits (well really three as we ended up having to split our one-on-one interviews with the social worker into two separate visits) are as they say “in the books!” Next up is our final visit, which we will hopefully set soon for the next week or two, and then just paperwork on DCF’s side.

Our last two visits with the social worker were different because she met with us individually, so we’ll each give you a brief, and I’m sure riveting, account of our experiences. First up, since she had the first one-on-one meeting, is Meg:

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This is my first attempt at blogging (I usually act as the editor) so bear with me. The purpose of our individual meetings with our social worker was to shed some light on our individual experiences, perspectives, concerns, and so on. What I have found surprising about this process is how detailed some of the questions were.

When asked about my fondest childhood memory I had to say summer camp. Not that the rest was unpleasant, but camp was my favorite place. I have always enjoyed being independent, so living on an island and choosing my own schedule of activities (usually sailing, archery, crafts, swimming, and outdoor education) was the best. There was something simpler about camp friendships – maybe due to the lack of phones, hair dryers, make up, boys…? In fact, I still dream about being at camp pretty often – even though I last attended as a counselor in 1998. I hope we can (afford to) give our kids a similar opportunity.

When it comes to parenting I imagine our kids will have more “baggage” than we did and will therefore be more challenging to parent. We didn’t really have rules or punishments that I can recall growing up – but we didn’t push the limits too far either. (Did we?) I think one of the most important values that I learned about parenting from my parents was the importance of spending time together, and I feel very lucky to have so many great memories – whether at home, museums, camping, or spending time with our cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. We were lucky to have so many people that cared about us. We are lucky now to have so many friends and family supporting us as we become parents.

Last, but of course by no means least, is Marcy:

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Well my one-on-one was short, sweet, and pretty dull. I generally don’t have much to say, particularly to people I’m not close with, but I also have a tough time looking back at my life and picking out singular moments as being the happiest of my childhood or the toughest. Thankfully my sad attempts at self reflection shouldn’t have any effect on our abilities to become foster parents.

I had a happy childhood. Like everyone I had fights with my siblings, I skinned my knees, and I had bouts of getting teased at school – but nothing that I can look back on and say, “Oh, that was a very difficult time to overcome.”  The mythical idea that high school was a torturous experience wasn’t true for me, I rather enjoyed high school. I loved being a high school athlete and I had a small but great group of friends – many of whom I’m proud to still consider good friends.

I also struggled to answer questions about my parents’ parenting methods and how my methods might differ. This again comes down to my recollection of my childhood being pretty great – I don’t have many, if any complaints. I think I turned out pretty well rounded and the same pretty much goes for my siblings.

It is interesting to note that our social worker observed something Meg and I have recognized for a long time, which is that we balance each other out. Meg is the “ying to my yang.” Things that I struggle with are often her strengths, and vice versa. We’re a perfect match in so many ways.

 


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One Down Two to Go

Last Thursday we had our long awaited first home study visit.  It was more or less what we expected. We were asked to answer a lot of personal questions about our relationship, how we interact, how we deal with conflict as well as questions about what we foresee our parenting style to be and more.  Many of the questions were difficult to put our answers into words, but we trudged through the hypotheticals and self-examinations.

While we discussed our perspective on our relationship the social worker probably came to many of the same conclusions on her own by simply observing how we answered the questions and interacted – Meg answered most of the questions and I filled in anything that I thought was left out or simply confirmed what she said. It was likely pretty clear that Meg is more of the talker in the relationship while Marcy tends to listen more; Meg is more of a type A take control person while Marcy is more laid back and willing to follow if she doesn’t disagree with the situation.

We discussed that we envision our parenting styles to reflect how our parents raised the two of us. We both had mothers who were the disciplinarians and developed more of a structured life while our fathers were more laid back. Marcy tends to reflect our fathers’ attitudes while Meg’s personality is more indicative of how our mothers acted.  We were both fortunate enough to have two parents who cared for us and were involved in our lives and we absolutely intend to be the same way with our children.

In addition to answering a number of very personal questions we were given a bit of homework to do – a Family Preference Checklist. The check list is essentially a list of potential physical and behavioral problems a child might face and our task was to go through the five page list and try to decide if each of the items were something we’d consider accepting in a child or not. The list included everything from a heart murmur, to a paraplegic, to down syndrome or a child that lies from time to time.

We checked off the majority off the items as “willing to discuss” but left off the more serious items as “least acceptable.” We don’t want to get in over our heads with a child/children’s needs but we also want to keep our options open. We don’t want a social worker to not consider us for a child/children simply because we didn’t check off a certain box on a sheet.

We’re making a lot of progress in this process towards becoming eligible foster parents. Tomorrow we have our second visit of the home study which will include each of us having a one on one meeting with the social worker. Then we’re really in the home stretch.

We’re also making progress in our process of preparing our house for a new addition to the family. We’ve started putting down our new floors. Right now it’s like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle as we’re laying out all of the pieces. Hopefully tomorrow after our home study appointment we’ll be able to start nailing down the floors in the first room we’re tackling.

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We’re moving ahead at full speed now!


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Now Begins the Hard Part

Well, Saturday’s MAPP class should have been the hard part. We discussed some of the traumas that potential foster children could experience; we specifically spoke in great lengths about emotional trauma and sexual trauma. Now to think about and discuss these horrific experiences being perpetrated on a child is sickening, but its easier to handle when one, you’ve done some research and know ahead of time this is a reality for many children in the care of DCF, and two, because generalities and theoretical are always easier to stomach than the real thing.

In reality – if we are placed with a child that has experienced anything like what we discussed in class it will be a grisly truth to face. We can’t say for sure how any child will act after living through such traumas or how we as foster parents/adoptive parents will fare in helping the child to cope and live in a safe home. But, we imagine at least dealing with the generalized and theoretical in class will leave us better prepared.

Of course, we won’t have all the knowledge needed to handle the hurt and damage of a child who has suffered through the unthinkable, but part of the foundation we are trying to lay through taking part in these MAPP classes is learning more about where we can turn to for help. We have great support systems in our family and friends but for these particular situations we’ll have to go beyond our normal reinforcements (although we are fortunate to have an experienced social worker in our group of friend).

While we did find our last class to be challenging, the truth is we’re finding our homework to be a bit more difficult. The assignment seems simple enough – complete a packet (about an inch thick) answering questions about yourself, your family, your home and your expectations of fostering/adopting. Simple, right? Not so much.

What years of your childhood were your favorite? How about your least favorite? Not sure? Neither are we! We were both lucky enough to have pretty happy childhoods. We are fortunate to have loving and caring families. We even both have happily married parents who have been together for decades.

So, we racked our brains, took a stroll down memory lane, and answered these questions plus a myriad of others. We chronicled our work experiences and our relationship.

Next it was onto questions about parenting…. what childhood age do you imagine you will enjoy parenting the most? The least? What do you think is an effective discipline tactic? When do you think it’s OK to spank or physically discipline a child? Really, is that a trick question? What person in their right mind would think of raising a hand to a child who has already gone through so much?

We’re not really sure how many questions we’ve answered or how many hours we’ve  collectively put into this homework assignment but we’re certainly going to be glad once we hand it in! We’ve joked that if all parents had to complete this kind of survey before starting a family, we would have a lot fewer pregnancies. In all seriousness though, this survey (as we’re sure it was intended) has made us think a bit more about what our childhoods were really like and what changes we’ll have to make when we bring a child/children into our home.

But if we’re being really honest, this process is probably only going to get harder… but anything worth having in life isn’t going to be easy.