Monthly Archives: February 2009

providing respite

Where I live, it is pretty much impossible to find respite care…unless your kids are in “the system.” I’ve gone to “MIKID” meetings– which stands for Mentally Ill Kids In Distress–and even they told me there are basically no respite providers in town. It can be exhausting parenting a child who has not one, but at least 3 diagnoses, and if you want to go somewhere to take a break, good luck.

One night Jeff and I tried to go out for dinner and we hadn’t even been gone for 45 minutes when his cell phone rang and it was Taylor telling us to come home asap because his younger brother was “losing it.” He informed us he was sitting on Ben. “Sitting on him! Whatever on earth are you thinking?” He claimed it was the only way he could keep him from physically damaging property or people.

Even though Ben has improved quite a bit over the past year, he still isn’t a child whom you can trust to let out of your sight. He steals…including from stores if given a chance, so I have to pat him down whenever we leave a store. He doesn’t do it because he has an evil streak; his brain pretty much has no impulse control, so if he wants something, he sees no reason why he can’t just take it.

He also isn’t much for respecting boundaries, so he wanders through neighbor’s yards, and takes things from siblings’ bedrooms. Yesterday I caught him in Alyssa’s bedroom looking around for her I-Pod. Yes, he is deaf, but he also loves to listen to music through his cochlear implant. When I verbally chastised him for being in her room yet again without permission, he let me know that it was her fault because she had forgotten to lock her door. Yep…that’s the way his brain works.

There are days when I would love to just run away from the 24/7 care that Ben requires. Yes, indeedy it is 24 hours a day because he often wakes at night to get into trouble as well.

Even though Ben can be tough to handle, he has one quality that I find quite endearing. He loves babies and always has. When he was only 5 I caught him picking up a total stranger’s one month old baby out of her carseat when we were visiting a church congregation 2 hours from our home. His love for babies is one of the reasons I am enjoying providing respite care this weekend. Even though I pretty much will never find respite care, I can provide it for foster children, and for the next 5 days we are taking care of a precious 3 1/2 month old little girl.

She’s just a tiny little thing, still wearing 3 month size clothes. None of my kids were ever that small at 3 months. I think by then they were all wearing at least 6-9 month sizes. She’s a good, good baby, though, who coos and grins and laughs and who easily went to sleep tonight without so much as a squawk.

Ben came home from school today and could hardly stand it that she was asleep. As soon as she was awake, he wanted to hold her and love on her. Something about babies brings out an incredibly gentle side in him and he tenderly stroked her soft, downy hair as I let him hold her this evening. When I put her down on a blanket for some tummy time, he was right by her side, gently touching her face and talking to her.

Just as therapy animals are healing to patients in hospitals and nursing homes, babies are very healing to Ben. He is so much happier and so gentle when babies are around, that I have discovered that providing respite for a baby also provides respite for us from some of Ben’s issues.

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Grieving for a child I never met

grieving
You might wonder how it’s possible. I didn’t used to think it was until it happened to me. I was recently sent a referral for a child, asking us to consider whether or not we would be interested in adopting her. Our licensing worker thought she would be a great match for our family and the odd thing is, she is the perfect match I used to joke about.

When we felt led to adopt again, I used to laughingly tell friends that the perfect child for our family would be an African-American deaf girl. That way Micheline could have the black sister she has always wanted and Ben could have a deaf sibling as well. I never really even considered the possibility that a child that met both of those parameters would be offered to us.

When I opened up the referral in my email, I gasped audibly. That is how beautiful she is. She’s just a young one–in preschool–and has a face that could be a child model. Her referral makes her sound like a dream child: loves to snuggle, likes to climb into your lap, mostly always happy, gets along with other children, etc. How could I possibly turn down a child with her description? There must be something they are hiding, I thought to myself so I contacted the director of her preschool since it is the same school that Ben
attended when he first arrived home from China. I asked for her opinion on this child. Same glowing reports, but with the added phrase, “She would be perfect for your family.”

So why does my gut tell me “no”, and why did I with much sadness turn down her referral and tell our licensing worker today “I don’t think she is meant to be ours” ? For me, it all comes down to following God’s plan for my life and when I prayed about her—and boy did I pray about her–the answer came more than once, “not this one.” Three times since last week I tried to turn down her referral and before I hit send, three times I saved my email as a draft because I just couldn’t do it.

Maybe I just needed to meet her in person to decide, I thought.
After all, the director welcomed me to drop by and observe her while she was at school, and her foster mother was totally open to the suggestion. And yet, every time I thought of going ahead and forwarding our homestudy to be considered as a possible family, I felt a gnawing uneasiness; every time I asked the Lord to confirm that I should indeed pass on this child, I felt peace.

But she’s gorgeous, I would rationalize…and smart, and emotionally intact and picking up sign language rapidly. All of that was told to me by the director, including the “she would be perfect for your family.”

And then I had to stop…and listen. Does the director know the end from the beginning? Does she know all of the ins and outs of my family and what this child will be someday? No, but God does. And He is telling me, “not this one.”

So today as I showered after sending my regrets to our licensing worker, the tears flowed easily. I don’t know why I do so much pondering and praying in the shower. Perhaps because the water can wash away tears easily, or perhaps because the warm water is a healing balm for both body and soul. All I know is that I am grieving deeply today for a child I have never met.

Maybe God knows this child’s needs at some point would be more than we could handle or maybe to fulfill her destiny she is meant to join a different family. I will probably never know. I could love this child. I could love this child easily, but as I look at her sweet photo, the answer comes to my heart that she is meant for someone else. Knowing it didn’t take the sadness out of my decision, but once the email was sent, I did have an inner calm and peace that
was not present before… and that is all that I can ask for.

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