Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Visits & Two Mommies

Today marks 15 days (I started writing this post a couple of weeks ago) that George has been in our home. In this short time we’ve had home visits from the CPS worker, our Resource Family Consultant, the ongoing caseworker (twice), and George’s Guardian Ad Liteum, (his personal attorney). I was particularly surprised that his GAL not only called us, but actually wanted to come to our home and meet us in person and see how George was doing. When she called me on the phone and explained who she was I was so surprised that I told her “Wow- in four foster placements you’re the first GAL to actually contact us!” She laughed. Of course, in an ideal world wouldn’t a professional want to meet the client they’re representing, especially when that client happens to be a child and it’s their job to advocate for what is in the child’s best interest? Anyway, it was definitely a first for us as foster parents.

George has also had four supervised visits with his caregivers since being in our care. He had to wait a week for his first visit but in the last couple of weeks the judge over his case ordered that visits be twice a week for one hour each rather than the usual one-hour once a week visit.

Visits with parents are interesting- especially the first visit. I am always a little nervous with what to initially expect but I think it goes both ways: George’s parents were polite and they appeared to be more intimidated to meet me than I was of meeting them. They even asked my permission before giving him a sucker. [Which is nice considering the fact that there are vending machines full of pop and candy in the DCFS lobby and whenever I would take our first foster placement to see his parents each week they would fill him up with so much pop and candy that he wouldn’t want to eat dinner when we got home.]

Anyway, the thing I was dreading most about the first visit was George’s reaction to having to leave his parents and come “home” with me. Based on his night-time separation anxiety I was expecting the worst possible scenario on his part- kicking and screaming and howling for his parents. Instead, after the visit was over he calmly looked in my direction and pointed towards me. When I picked him up he didn’t protest but just came to me like it was the most natural thing in the world.

“You’re kidding me!” I thought. No tears? No tantrums? I was extremely relieved. I think the caseworker was expecting to see tears and protests on George’s part, too, because she later commented on how nice it was to see him go to me so easily. At each subsequent visit George has been happy to see his parents, but he doesn’t seem to mind saying goodbye to them either.

At the first couple of visits his parents, and his mother in particular, were misty-eyed when it was time to say goodbye. Sometimes his mom will have a look on her face like she’s about to burst out into tears but she’s trying hard to maintain her composure. I think of times in my life when I’ve felt the same way and I feel bad for her.

A couple of weeks ago the inevitable awkward moment happened when George called me “mommy” in front of his parents for the very first time. I hated to see the look of pain in his mother’s eyes as he said it, but at the same time the smile he had on his face as he said it filled me with a sense of pride. I felt justified for all of the times I’ve spent the last couple of weeks tucking him in bed, wiping his nose, changing his poohey diapers, bathing him, feeding him, reading to him, etc. Even so, I still felt a little guilty when I caught a glimpse of resignation and defeat on his mother’s face because, after all, she’s the “real” mom, right? And I’m just the foster mom. (Technically neither one of us count as his “real” mom if you consider that neither of us are his biological mother).

Anyway, I was filled with a sense of mixed feelings and wondered, “How should I be feeling in this situation? Guilty? Prideful? Relieved?” All I know is that I didn’t like seeing the expression on his mother’s face and I felt a sudden and urgent need to say something . . . ANYTHING . . . to break the awkward silence looming in the air. So I gave out a very forced, nervous laugh and I blurted out, “I guess he has two mommies!”

Further silence. “I’m an idiot- did I really just say that?”

Rather than breaking the ice, my sudden announcement about two mommies seemed to amplify the awkwardness in the air. But what could I have done about it, really? George has been calling us “mommy” and daddy” since a couple of days after he was placed with us. Oh well, it could have been worse- I could have snorted when I laughed.


Lynn said...

I remember that awkwardness when we had a similar experience with our first foster son (when we did this back in Iowa). My take on it - the kids can call me whatever they want. I'm not going to correct them. Especially not the little ones!

At the Family Group Conference with our most recent placement, one of the girls leaned out and around her bio mom, called me "mom" and asked me to help her with something. Granted, she has never really lived with her bio mom and doesn't "know" her at all. But it was rather awkward.

jendoop said...

I think I'm out of the loop - So George is visiting with caretakers that aren't his parents? Like kinship placement or fost/adopt family?

I also assume with visits so frequent they anticipate him returning soon?

Mary said...

jendoop- they're NOT his parents, (birthmom is in jail) NOT a kinship placement, NOT a fost-adopt and NO, he won't be returning to them for six or seven months- I'll get a post up soon (hopefully) explaining things.

Anonymous said...

To solve that for us, our son calls us Mom and Dad, and his birthparents are Mommy and Daddy. We stuck to it religiously at first because to him there was a big difference (he was 3.5 when we adopted him). He doesn't remember life outside our family anymore so it doesn't come up often, but whenever it does, they're still Mommy and Daddy.

You're George's Mom, even if it's just for a little while. It would be weirder if he was calling you "Foster Mom!"