I'm not a perfect parent or any sort of parenting expert.
In fact, I've been paralyzed with fear that I'm doing everything wrong as a foster parent, to the point that I virtually shut down. Between my terror that the kids would go away and my terror that they might be better off doing so, I felt lost. Have you ever been there? If you have, I promise there's hope. If not, count your blessings and say a prayer for someone who does ... because there are millions of us out here, and there's probably someone very close to you and you don't know it because they're so ashamed that they can't talk about it.
I found comfort in an unlikely place — a talk by Elizabeth Gilbert about her book Big Magic (which I still have a hold on at the library, so I haven't actually read it). She was talking about living a creative life, and that the worst voice you hear is the one that comes complete with Voldemort sound: "Who do you think you are?"
She said if you take out the creepy voice, it's a pretty straightforward question. And if you have an answer, you can just move on. It had been a couple of months since I heard her that I realized I could use this when I feel overwhelmed as a mama. So I came up with an answer:
1. I'm the one who's here. I may not be perfect, I may not be able to connect my kids with their culture the way a Native American foster parent could, but I showed up when no one else did. And I keep showing up.
2. I love my kids. No matter how hard a day I've had, I can look at my kids and say honestly that I love them. Even when they're screaming, even when they won't use the potty, even when they sneaked the brown sugar while I was using the potty and I lost my mind a bit, I love them. And I love them even more when they're putting on dance shows and popping out of their hiding places before I even get there during hide and seek and when they draw me pictures and sing songs when they think no one is listening. I love them.
3. I'm trying to show them Jesus. There's a fine line here, especially because my kids are foster kids, but also because I don't believe shoving my religion down my kids' throats will help them embrace it when they're older. So though I do take them to church and we talk about Christianity at home, my goal as a parent isn't to make religious clones. It's to help them want to follow Jesus.
That's who I think I am, and that's what I tell that voice when it comes calling. Who do you think you are?
But like I said, I'm not parenting expert. Not even close.
So here are a couple of places I've found real help with parenting my sometimes challenging children. I'm not affiliated with either of them. They've just been a lifeline for me on days when I wanted to give up. And they've made my home a more peaceful place with happier children, which has meant a happier home altogether:
Heather Forbes is a licensed clinical social worker who has adopted two children herself. She's honest about the challenges and has done lots of research about what trauma does to the brain. She has real handles on how to help kids stay regulated. The hard thing is that means staying regulated yourself.
I find Dr. Laura Markham's advice at Aha Parenting slightly more practical. It's geared for all kids, and she has some great activities to help repair your relationship with your kids if it's been broken.
Between these two, I feel like a sane person again. They both have encouraging newsletters. Heather Forbes will send an encouraging message to your inbox every day for 90 days, too.
There's also this amazing article, Model Graciousness, from Robin Einzig at Visible Child. Robin moderates a Facebook group full of people trying to be the best parents they can be. I don't agree with everything there (or anywhere), but I've rarely found such a supportive, thoughtful community.
Do you have any resources that have helped you as a caregiver? Please share in the comments!