Spend Time with Your Children!!

One of the children that we have cared for as houseparents and that we continue to help as a daughter has a son that is 26 months old.  They live in the house we own and we care for him when his mom is at work.  He calls me B-poo, why B-poo and not Grandpa I will never know, because my wife gets to be Grandma.  Next to his mother I am his favorite person and some days I get the top spot in his life. 

He loves spending time with us and his mother, and we all love helping him learn stuff.  He walks, he talks in complete sentences, he knows every one of his body-parts, he knows some of his colors (blue, yellow, red, green, & white, he peddles a tricycle, and loves driving his little green battery powered tractor I bought him for his birthday and until today I thought we was just another normal boy. 

Today I met a young man that is about one month younger than my grandson but I was sure he was at least a year younger.  His mannerisms seemed much more immature, he only knows two words (Blanket and the name of a very popular yellow square shaped animated sea creature), and his motor skills are way behind where my grandson’s are.  I learned that his parents don’t spend a lot of time interacting with him and he spends a great deal of time by himself in front of the TV. 

He was an adorable child, and we hit it off pretty well.  His aunt was somewhat amazed at how he took to me, she said he is usually very shy around new people. I very much enjoyed playing with him. 

I have however, been unable to get him off my mind all day.  I am absolutely amazed at the difference between him and my grandson.  I honestly feel very sad for this young child, but it has reinforced in me the importance of personal one-on-one interaction with the children we care for, whether it be our birth children, grand-children or the children entrusted to us.

Please keep the following points in mind:

  • Televisions do not provide interaction.
  • We can’t teach the children if we don’t spend personal one-on-one time with them.

Go spend some time with your children, you will be surprised by the results.

Busy, Busy Days!!

I am very sorry for the lack of posts but it is nearing the end of the school year and we are totally swamped with things to do.  We have 10 children in our cottage that attend 7 different schools, though we are the exception at the home we work at, most only have to deal with 2 or 3 schools.  It seems that every school has to have a spring program, field trip, field day, parent’s luncheon, end of the year party, etc.

There are two days next week when my wife and I will be criss-crossing town attending 6 different activities.  Life is real busy.  We have also been pretty busy with spring time Public Relations events and children’s choir events.  We have 3 children on the home’s travelling choir. 

On top of that I have been dealing with spammers and hackers on the forum and blog.  As the popularity of the website grows so does the number of attacks.  I will never understand why people are so insistent on destroying other people’s stuff.

I am working on some things and reading another book (though it has been almost two months and I am still not finished with it), so hopefully I will have some more to post here soon.  Let me end with this funny story:

This morning at breakfast our 6 year old boy came out with his shirt on inside out.  My wife noticed it and pointed it out to him.  Our 9 year old girl without missing a beat told him, “Johhny (not his real name), it’s OK to wear your pajamas inside-out to aggravate Ms. Marjie, but you can’t go to school that way.”  It has been a major fad in our cottage for most of our children to wear their PJ’s inside-out for about the last three months. She has suspected they were doing it do annoy her (She is so proper), now she knows for sure.  The rest of us find it funny.

Promises Unkept

One of the biggest mistakes a new houseparent can make (and to be honest – I made it twice) is to walk in to a new position and say, “Hi, my name is (name here) and I will always be here for you.”  For a very minute fraction of houseparents that may be true but for the vast majority it is not.

The first facility I made this mistake at was in Wyoming at the first place we worked.  We were there for almost 2 years.  I developed some good relations with many of the children and really wanted to be there for them.  What I didn’t count on was that our career goals would change. We left some children that we had made promises to, that were hurt by our leaving.  Though we kept in E-mail contact with a few of them for a few months; it’s really hard to be there for somebody from 1500 miles away. 

With that facility even if I had been able to keep up my side of the promise, the home is now closed and I would have been forced to leave anyway, thus again having to break my promise. In that part of the country houseparenting positions are few and we surely would have been forced to leave the area.

I next made the mistake at the second facility we worked at.  It was a basic care facility in Texas and we really did plan on being there for a very long time the day we arrived.  It was run by the denomination that we were members of and I was studying to be a pastor in that denomination.  I was hoping to eventually become the director of the home.  What I wasn’t prepared for was the administrative turmoil that was taking place at the time and that we would only be there 5 months.

I have been a houseparent for almost 10 years and there are still some broken promises from years ago that still haunt me today.  I hear about a child that I knew way back then and wonder how it could have been different had I stayed.

This last weekend was a fishing retreat that all the boys and housedads from the home I work at get to go to.  It is sponsored by a local camp and consists of several members of the community that sponsor our boys and spend the day fishing and sharing time with them.  It is a really fun time and the boys look forward to it every year as do I.  The only problem I have with it at all, is that usually several of the sponsors tell the boys that they are going to come to the home and visit them.  Maybe pick them up and go fishing somewhere or look into having them come and visit at their home.

Unfortunately very few of them actually follow through.  Not much needs to be said about the disappointment the children show when these promises are broken.  I imagine it is somewhat similar to the disappointment they have when we do the same.

The point is this:  When you start a new position it is totally appropriate to be dedicated to it and to work as if you will be there forever, just don’t tell the children that is what your plans are. Besides their first response will be something like, “We’ll see”  Don’t make promises you may not be able to keep.  Care for the children as if you will always be there for them, just never promise them that you will be.

The home could close.  You could find yourself in an unresolvable conflict with the administration and have to leave. You could have a family crisis that could force you to leave or any number of other reasons.

The children we care for have had to deal with broken promises their entire life, from their birth parents and family, from the system, from care providers, etc.  There is absolutely no reason we need to add to that disappointment. 

My response to children today is, “I am here for you now, and will continue to be there for you for as long as I am able.”  They really appreciate my honesty.