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Friday, September 13, 2013

O'hana

O'hana means family. It's also a way that families live in Hawaii. Extended family in one house. We did our own little family trip and lived as one family for a weekend.

We own a timeshare (This is how I can afford to travel as much as I do. Afford being a relative term as if we didn't have a time share I wouldn't have to work.) and all of our resorts are set up like condos. Separate bedrooms, kitchen, laundry, living room. It's a great way to travel with friends and family and we often will take family with us when we go places. 

Hubby had long suggested that maybe we would get to the point where we could go up to Wisconsin Dells with the kids and their mom. I always thought he was crazy. (I think my exact words were: Are you on crack?) She hated us. We hated her. She would then tie strings to letting the kids see us. I just felt like it was too risky. 

Maria (I've landed on a blog name for the Fab Four's Mom!) really seemed to reach out. And as she was generous I figured we could be too. I'd long since felt she needed a parenting coach and since its was hard to do this over the phone I figured, why not? What's the worst that could happen? 

I figured the worst would be boundary issues. Or maybe she would hate us. She really got on board with allowing the kids to see us so I figured we'd just go for it.

I'm glad we did. It was a great weekend full of learning. Us learning about her. Her learning some more parenting skills, and the kids learning that we were a united front. I actually felt kind of bad for the kids. With so many adults all on the same page it was hard to be sneaky.

Gabby and Mr. Mohawk didn't have too many issues happening. They seemed to just enjoy being with everyone. Gabby did complain about JB but that was mainly because she was being pushed out attention-wise and it was easier for her to be mad at JB than it was for her to be mad at LM. 

JB had been having a particularly tough time. She had made some false accusations against Maria (How do I know they were false? She claimed there was no food in the house. Problem being that LM gained like 15 pounds since the move. And I'd been there and seen the food.) and had been throwing tantrums so severe the police were called. Three times.

We had seen the kids the Monday before we left and set the consequences for the week that they would miss pool time for issues until we left on the trip.

Apparently this was still not enough for JB as she managed to steal laundry money to buy ice cream. Unfortunately, Maria didn't connect this incident with a consequence and when JB asked for a milkshake on the way up she gave it to her.

So there was a lesson about logical consequences. If the kid steals for dessert she gets no dessert. And when she lies about it when asked the punishment gets doubled. There was no dessert the rest of the weekend for JB. She ended up with almost 2 hours of sitting watching the rest of the group go off to the pool. And we left her with Grandma who gave her a second lecture. 

Very quickly we sized up one major problem that Maria had asked for help with.  Why was JB acting out so much? Little Mama. LM was attached at the hip to Maria. Literally. Maria went left, LM went left. Vigilant watch of her Mother was taking place and the moment any other child needed her, LM edged them out.

LM has been having stomach pain. Maria has taken her to the doctor and none of the tests show anything wrong. The first night we got up to the resort at bedtime and LM complained of pain and asked to sleep in Maria's room.

Maria asked if I was okay with it because she was worried about her during the night being in a strange place. I told her it was her decision but ok because she felt LM was sick. (I did not believe for a second she was in that much pain. And I wasn't about to point out the kid had been to the resort 5 times previously.) and it was midnight and we still needed to go to the grocery store so I wasn't about to argue. I reiterated that it was not appropriate for adults and children to sleep in the same bed except on occasion like vacation or illness (guidelines from our state). Since this was both she allowed it.

The next day LM was fine. We discussed with Maria that now all the kids were going to expect to sleep in the room with her. She was shocked that within 20 minutes ALL of the kids in some way asked about the sleeping arrangements. From that point she hung on every move we made. Asked for help. And then put it into practice.

I also told her she needed to protect her own privacy and alone time. The poor woman was sleeping on a couch for months with no space of her own and here was the biggest bed she'd ever seen and she couldn't even enjoy it. In fact, I lectured LM about allowing her Mom space and respecting her time.

Maria couldn't believe I stood up for her and how important that made her feel. In fact, she attributed the weekend with us as the turning point in her being able to parent better and gain control of the household. She got to see that we could be strict and the kids would still love us. She also got to see the kids try to work the other adults and how they all backed us up.

We spent a great deal of time learning more about each other. And while the language barrier at times was hard to overcome, we managed. It was a relief to us that Maria was willing to trust us. And it was great for the kids to see they would still be included.  My Mom refers to that weekend as the "great experiment" as it could have failed miserably. But it didn't. In fact, is was one of the top five most important things we did as a Foster Parents to the Fab Four.

I have to brag on my family again because they went right along with our crazy plan. Pretty much didn't bat an eye. They also went out of their way to make Maria feel welcome and included. I am grateful for all of them as without them, us being foster parents would not be possible.


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