Foster Care Lessons

We had just finished swimming lessons, and we were loading the kids into the momobile to head home for dinner.  Our older foster son was goofing around as per usual, and then he looked at me laughed and yelled “you’re an idiot”.  I was shocked.  I was hurt, and I could not believe those words had just come out of his mouth.  I immediately reacted angrily and snapped at him, “what did you just say?”  his face turning quickly to a frown he said “nothing”.
Now I was mad, he knew it was wrong from my reaction, but did he really know what he just said?  Did he mean it to hurt my feelings?  Probably not.  I mean he is 3, he has endured many things in his little life and heard things he shouldn’t have had to hear.

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For the last 4 months, he has been in our home, we have tried to model respect, love, kindness, and for the most part I thought we were doing a good job.  He certainly isn’t allowed to watch any sort of TV that has language like that in our home.
As I told him I didn’t want to hear another word come out of his mouth until we got home (3 minute drive) and that we would talk about this when we got home he just looked at me with sad eyes.
The thing is, I try so hard to raise this boy right,  always thinking about the trauma he has endured.  Always trying to give him the benefit of the doubt.  That is why it hurt so much when he said that to me.  I took the 3 minute drive to calm down,  and during that time my daughter spoke up that he called her something mean today too while I was making lunch, and they were playing in the other room.  I asked him if this was true.  He lied which is his usual reaction when he knows he did something wrong.  I asked him quietly to tell me the truth.  Did he say those words to his sister today too?  He nodded his head yes, and looked down.  We got home and went to his room to talk about it.
I told him how much it hurt my feelings, and how mean those words were.  I asked him to try and remember where he learned that, and had someone said that to him?  He said he just learned it by himself, which of course isn’t true but he probably doesn’t know where he picked it up.  He could have overheard it playfully on some TV show at his birth parents house, or maybe he has heard it being screamed at someone he loves.  Either way, this was a teachable moment for us both and it reminded me of the behaviours that happen after visits.  He had spent all morning with his birth parent, and it is hard to transition back and forth.  Transition to different standards of parenting.
Life is a lot for him.  He has to worry about so much, things that a 3 year old shouldn’t have to worry about.  So instead of taking it personally I thought back to my foster care training, and realized he probably just wanted some individual attention from me.  He wanted to test my love for him.

So after our talk, we promised not to use those words again, because they are like fire on our tongue. Then we talked about the bucket filling story.  If you haven’t read this book, it is a great resource for children to teach them about kindness to others. I highly recommend it. {affiliate link}

He apologized and gave me a hug, and after a few minutes of sitting to think about what he did, and why it was wrong he was back in the living room playing, running and laughing.  I sat there watching him, and remembered back to this morning when he woke up and said “mom you look pretty, I love you.” and my heart melted for him all over again.
I try to find the silver lining in his behaviors and try not to take it personally.  If you are reading this and you have been hurt from a foster child, and you feel like you want to give up, just know there is always a silver lining. Hold on to that.