This morning after Jared dropped Christian off to visit his father he called me on the phone and said, “I feel so bad. I handed him to his dad and as I was walking away he just kept looking up at me with his puppy dog eyes, kind of like What’s going on? Where are you going?”
I feel bad, too- but what can we do?
I felt guilty enough when we used respite care for our recent vacation. Although we knew Christian was in capable hands we worried that he might think we were abandoning him.
So, to make things feel as “normal” as possible for him while he was in a new environment with strangers (and to make it as easy as possible for the woman providing respite care for us) I sent his favorite blankets, toys, and binkies, and wrote an extremely detailed list of his daily schedule including his bedtime routine, nap times, and feeding schedule.
Overall Christian did pretty well while we were gone, but the foster mother providing respite care for us reported that he didn’t stick to his nap routine: instead of sleeping all the way through his morning nap which is typically his longest nap of the day, he would wake up after a short time. I guess he missed sleeping in the nursery in his own crib.
Of course, there’s no way of knowing what’s going on in a baby’s mind. Who knows what he thinks on days like today when he has extended visits with his parents: We drop him off in the morning and he spends 4 hours with his dad and then he spends 4 hours with his mom. Then we pick him up in the evening and bring him “home”. It’s like musical chairs- or rather, musical parents who are all caring for one child being shuffled around.
So why does he see each parent separately? Well, the latest update from Christian’s caseworker is that they were thinking about getting back together and had actually dropped the no-contact orders against each other. However, both the caseworker and the Guardian Ad Liteum feel that it would not be in Christian’s best interest to have the parents meet together with their son, which is why they do their visits separately. In fact, if they get “caught” visiting together then the visits will be moved back to being supervised at the DCFS Office.
Extended visits (meaning more than just the court-ordered weekly hour-long visits) started about a month ago in preparation for him returning to his parent’s care. In fact, the Permanency Hearing is exactly one month from today and I don’t see any reason why the judge wouldn’t order Christian to be placed back into his parent’s care since they’ve both been doing everything required of them in their Service Plans.
At first the extended visits started out as two hours a week for each parent, now we’re up to four hours each, and starting next week we’ll probably start moving up to six hours each (which is basically the whole day) and finally we’ll make the transitional overnight visits. I’m unsure if his caseworker will recommend having extended or overnight visits for more than just once a week but I sure think it would be beneficial for everyone- especially Christian.
My hope is that in the next month Christian will be start feeling more “at home” in his parent’s homes than he does in our home. Or in the least I hope he starts making the connection that his parents are his mommy and daddy rather than just “the guy that plays with me once a week” or “the lady who watches me” when I’m not at my “regular” house.