Monday, August 8, 2011

Missing the Person I Used to Be

Last weekend Jen, over at Couldn't Make It Up If I Tried, blogged about all the things she used to be before she became a mom to a severely traumatized kid.  She mentioned how she grieves the losses she's experienced as a result, and how she wishes she could be the person she used to be.

I think many foster and adoptive parents can relate to what she's saying.

For many of us, our children become all-consuming.  Their needs, their behaviors, and the therapeutic interventions required often take a lot of time.  For many parents, things often feel like there is nothing in life besides the basic must-dos, such a work and maintaining the house, and the ever-increasing demands from their damaged children.

It feels like a cycle that never ends.  Get up.  Make sure child is ready for school.  Get child to school.  Work.  Fetch child from school.  Manage child's behavior.  Deliver child at appointments.  Manage child's behavior.  Make dinner.  Manage child's behavior.  Go to bed, exhausted.  Do the same thing day after day, dreading weekends and holidays because it means even less of a break and more challenging behaviors.

The tougher the child, the less parents meet their own needs.  For some, it's not uncommon to go weeks or even months without seeing friends, taking time for themselves, or doing something that doesn't involve talking or thinking about their troubled child.

It often feels true here.  It seems that my wife and I spend most of our non-work time either talking about, or dealing with, our child's needs and behaviors.

So it's been a very interesting experience having her away at respite for a few weeks.  Unlike when we sent her away to boot camp last summer, we haven't had regular status updates or contact.  In many ways, this has been a more complete break than last year.

Rather than spending every minute dealing with our child, FosterEema and I have been rediscovering each other and the things we like to do.  Prior to this break, if it wasn't work or family finances, we mostly talked about Danielle.  Now that she's gone, we've had time to watch marathon sessions of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and we've enjoyed getting into some pretty deep conversations about the existential questions created by Commander Data

Now I'll be the first one to admit that there is no real point to having these conversations, since Commander Data doesn't exist, and the creation of a sentient artificial life form is probably decades, if not centuries, away.  Still, we are having a lot of fun.  These are the kinds of conversations that my wife and I used to have before we started doing foster care, and it has been a long, long time since we've been able to have them.

Like Jen, I miss the person I used to be and the life I used to have before we had children.  I had a lot more fun, and I didn't have to take things so darn seriously.  I didn't have to keep medications in lock boxes, or install locks on my bedroom and office doors to keep everyone safe at night.  I didn't have to worry about the answers to scary, hypothetical questions that keep me awake at night.

I miss walking around the house naked. I miss unscheduled mealtimes, and being able to eat what I want, when I want.  I miss being able to do things, without pre-planning, or worrying about how my child will react to the unexpected change.

But most of all, I miss being able to have fun, without worries, guilt, or fear of later payback.

1 comment:

  1. Glad you're getting the opportunity to have some fun with FosterEema. Every couple deserves that kind of break, but you need it more desperately than most, I think!

    Jealous of the ST:TNG marathon sessions. I'd like to do some of those, but Mr. December isn't fond of it and it's less fun watching alone.


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