Foster Parenting and “Grace”

How do you define grace? For my wife and I, grace is an act of unwarranted favor or mercy toward our foster children. By the definition of foster parenting itself some might consider my wife and I to be showing grace. But for our two foster kids we are definitely displaying grace.

I am not germaphobic. But having foster kids definitely adds a new level of yuck to our home. On Sunday… I watched the two boys (age 3 and 5) all day. At 6 p.m., one of them “accidentally” fell off the toilet… into the bathtub, and deposited poop in the bathtub and on our bathroom mirror. My level of anger was probably a 9 on a scale of 1 to 10–with 1 being everything is awesome… and 10 being Mount St. Helens. I was so mad I could barely speak when I saw the natural art in the bathroom.

What happened next? My wife said she would take care of it, and she graciously allowed me to go to the living room while she cleaned up the natural art in the bathroom.

Then the day after the impromptu art show, we took the boys to the Oregon Zoo. It was my first time taking children to a zoo. It was fun to watch them observe many of the animals Monday. While I watched them enjoying themselves, I thought to myself my wife and I are gracious to the boys for taking them to the zoo the day after the bathroom fiasco.

Today (Tuesday) the three-year-old had a meltdown. An impressive two-hours and 45 minutes, screaming for half of the time… kicking the wall… and calling us names. The young one actually hit/kicked my wife repeatedly, and my wife will most likely have bruises from the meltdown. This was after we took them both to see the movie: The Nut Job.

As soon as the three-year-old calmed down and started to eat dinner, the five-year-old melted down. He took the books on the bookshelf and shoved them all onto the floor. He then screamed and yelled for several minutes. It was insane.

My wife calls it “passing the baton”… because it is difficult for them both to be good at the same time. But it is also very rare for them to both be mad at the same time. Typically one displays bad behavior… and the other displays good behavior.

Tomorrow I expect we will do something else nice for them. Grace is being nice to a person when someone else does not deserve it. Grace is not always easy… especially with two high maintenance kids who lie, punch, kick, throw things, and poop/pee in their underwear when they are angry. But my wife and I are still gracious toward them.

How gracious could you be when two people who are angry at the world take it out on you?

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Curing the Pathological Talker

One of our kids rambles. If there is a moment of silence then he must break it. He is almost six. The ramblings are very similar to this:

“The sky is blue…”

“Hey… why is the sky blue?”

“Did you know the sky is blue?”

“I think the blue sky is blue…”

“Look over there… the sky is blue… blue sky over there…”

“What color is the sky? Is it blue?”

“The sky is blue… I think… did you know that the sky is blue? I knew the sky is blue.”

And on, and on. He knows the answer, but has to keep talking about it. It’s not just that he is talking without stopping… it’s that he stays focused on the same topic, but doesn’t even seem to pay attention to what he is saying. Many times he answers the question that he asks in the next sentence.

Today on the way to the grocery store…

“There’s rain… hey… it’s raining…”

“It’s rain out there…”

“The trees are wet… there’s rain on the trees…”

“The ground is wet… hey, there’s rain on the ground…”

“The trees have rain on them…”

“Look, rain on the trees… because it’s raining, so there’s rain on the trees.. the trees are wet…”

I’m not trying to impede Freedom of Speech… But is this pathological talking a problem? What do you think? What would you do (other than buy earplugs)?

Marathon Training Day 524: The kids keep kicking me in the knee

Training for a marathon is a challenge. Tonight I accepted the challenge, officially, by registering for the Eugene marathon. Last December I had to walk a lot in the Seattle marathon because of the hills and my injured foot. Therefore I want another crack at a full marathon to see what I can really do. Thus… the mostly flat 2014 Eugene Marathon.

As if training for a marathon (and to finish under 4 hours) wasn’t a big enough challenge… I also deal with two foster kids who kick me in the knee. It is the right knee. Always the right knee. One of the kids is almost four, the other is a little over five. Both have anger issues which means they deal with their emotions in a physical manner. They don’t always intend to kick me. Sometimes they are angry and just kicking/flailing… and my right knee is unfortunate enough to be in the way of the tantrum. But other times they intentionally kick me. Whether it is on accident or on purpose they kick me in the right knee.

Does that mean I am not in a mentally healthy position when I wish someone would occasionally kick me in the left knee?

Anyway, the next price increase for registering for the Eugene Marathon is February 28th. That meant I had to figure out if I was committing to the marathon now… or waiting and paying a higher price later. The decision has been influenced by the right knee. I have not trained much because my right knee is normally a little tender from the kids’ kicking. My guess is most marathon runners do not factor kicks to the knee when they decide whether or not to run a marathon. Anyway, I did register for the race tonight.

And that is where I am. I am a foster parent… and a marathoner. It never occurred to me that I might not be able to do both. But it never occurred to me that someone in my home would kick me in the knee on weekly basis. Yes the kicks hurt… but not enough to cause serious damage. The knee is tender but not swollen.

I have also been mule kicked in the right ankle by one of the kids… and that hurt like #%!!

Anyway, overall things are going well in my world, and I hope you are not getting kicked in the knee! Thanks for reading!

Five-year-old called my wife a stupid @$$#$%3

So foster care. Yeah…

“You’re an asshole!” is what our five-year-old chanted in his room today. He was in the middle of a three star meltdown shouting “You’re an asshole!” Yes, there are levels above three star meltdown.

In addition, he called her a “stupid asshole!”

“I want my daddy!” is another familiar shout. Along with the very popular “I hate you!”

And of course, “You’re not my real mom!” has been said a few times.

My wife handles it well. These are not childhood tantrums. At least not entirely. These meltdowns are linked with the emotional trauma these boys are processing from their former home. In our house they have broken lights, thrown toys, punched, kicked, and spit. If you have never had an almost four-year-old hit you with a wood block… well… it hurts.

Both boys are violent, most likely both dealing with child PTSD. My wife loves them both anyway. She deserves a Gold Medal for foster-momming. Whether or not they stay much longer depends on if we feel our animals can be kept safe. We have three cats and a dog… and if someone is going to move it will be the boys.

My wife compared this experience to “Helen Keller” and counts little victories when she has them. At least she can stay positive!

What do you do with Kids that hit?

As you know my wife and I are foster parents. We are still relatively new. My wife has been doing this for a few years… and I started last year. We had two cute toddler boys who went to different families in December 2013. One boy was adopted out, and the second went to a family who most likely will adopt him.

This January two new boys were put under our care. Both boys are old enough to walk and talk but not old enough to start kindergarten. Most foster kids have emotional baggage so it is not surprising that these two boys are dealing with some stuff. But these kids hit. They hit each other. Hitting each other is normal (kind of) because they are brothers. But they also hit me. They hit my wife. Sometimes they hit even people they don’t know if that person irritates them.

We put the boys in time out or send them to their room when they act out. They are not big enough to hurt (a lot) when they hit my wife and I. But when they hit it doesn’t tickle. No we cannot go hulk on them. In addition, many kids who come into foster care have already had someone go hulk on them,

What  nonviolent parenting tricks do you know for kids that hit? Please share your wisdom below!