Making the Most of Visitation: When you try to parent a child two hours at a time

plan

From the moment an infant is placed in your arms, twenty-four hours seems to never be enough to get all of the things completed that you scribbled in crayon on your to do list. Feed the kids. Clothe the kids. Teach the kids. Play with the kids. Clean the kids. Kiss boo boos. Then repeat! Where does the time go and how do all of those moms actually get it all finished without losing their jobs or their minds? It’s simple, they plan. Maybe the plan is in crayon and maybe the day never goes exactly according to the plan. Shoot, maybe the plan is not even written down. But there is a plan and somehow, just somehow, at the end of the day, the kids are fed, clothed, taught, entertained, cleaned, and kissed as the parent prepares themselves to start over the next morning.

Now, I am not certain what other people receive as a visitation schedule once CPS has entered their lives, taken their children, and given some stranger the right to drive around with your children and hover over you as you try to squeeze in a day or week’s worth of parenting in a brief time, but for my daughter, she was given two hours three times per week (I was allowed to attend one visit per week as the responding grandmother). SIX hours per WEEK! How could she possibly parent and show that she could parent in six hours per week?

She parented the same way she did when they were home! She planned!

Let’s break this down. Feed, clothe, teach, entertain, clean, and kiss (check for boo boos). Now, the aspect of repeat was stolen from her but she could manage to get in at least one round of these in two hours.

Feeding, that was easy as most of the visitation places in our area were restaurants. Occasionally, we would be able to go to a park where she would take a picnic or the library where we would sneak in snacks depending on the time of the visit that day.

Clothing was a bit more complicated as they were obviously dressed when they came to the visit but it is important to check their clothes for the way they fit (children grow fast!) and do not forget the shoes. On a few visits, we would actually go to Walmart or the mall and purchase an outfit or two.

Teach!! This is a big one. There are so many ways and things to teach our children that we would naturally incorporate into the daily routine if they were home. For instance, we now sing ABC’s when we are in the car or count as they “help” to load the dishwasher or put up toys. But let’s face it, these opportunities are minimized during supervised visits. We opted for teaching sign language during each visit. As their cousin, Gloria, has Down’s Syndrome, her therapist was teaching her a new sign each week. We would then teach the sign to Clarabelle and Elliott as a way to both teach them and create an understood bond between the cousins even during their separation. Whatever you choose, just make certain that the teaching serves as a bonding moment for you and your children.

Entertain! Again, this comes pretty easy in some settings but there is one major problem that so many people encounter.

PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY!!!!

Be all in during this two hour period. If you are at a McDonald’s playland, then play. Take off those shoes and race them to the top. If you are at a library, read to your child or find the puppets. If you are at a park, push that swing or catch them on the slide.

THIS IS NOT A SPECTATOR SPORT! PLAY!!!

Clean! Okay, this one is a bit harder to do on a visit for obvious reasons. But it is possible to show your ability to do so. For instance, make certain your child washes their hands after going to the bathroom. Wipe off their faces after they have finished eating. Readjust their hair bows. Change their diapers. Make sure that they are clean!

Kiss and Check for Boo Boos! This is very important. Your child should be looked over at the beginning and end of every visit. If there is the slightest bump, bruise, or scrape, mention it and ask the provider to speak to the foster parents. Most of the time (all of the times in our case) the foster parents were able to state exactly what had happened. However, had we not have looked and asked it could have easily been said that it occurred during our two hours. Be diligent!

Notably, there are so many more aspects of parenting than these discussed here but these were the primary focus of my daughter’s plan for each visit. As I stated in my post, Who are they to Judge? Providers of Supervised Visitation the visitations and the providers are the key to your case.

Make every moment count!

“Gigi”

 

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My kids love McDonald’s nuggets, and that’s okay!


As parents, we try so hard to be like those “instagram moms.” You know the ones I’m talking about! That one mom who always seems to have her stuff together, house is always spotless, kids are always dressed to perfection with neatly styled hair and somehow manages to get them to eat ricotta stuffed mushrooms with balsamic glaze at dinner time.

Now, I don’t know about you guys, but I envy those mothers. I’d be lying if I said my children have never eaten popsicles at breakfast and still had on their pajamas while they ate cake for dinner.

There is one habit that we all know and love and probably try our hardest to avoid..

The drive-thru. 

We’ve read the articles and heard every bad thing anyone can say about the horrors of fast food. That Instagram mom who probably fed her kids fresh, organic, hand made baby food? She has probably whipped through those horrid places a time or two.

I mean come on, you’ve been stuck in traffic and it’s a half hour past lunch time. The kids are screaming that they’re hungry and you’re still 20 minutes away from home.

If your toddlers are anything like mine, they automatically recognize those giant Golden Arches. Two words are shouted when they come into sight: “CHICKEN NUGGETS!” Let me tell you, my daughter usually eats like a bird and absolutely loves fruits and vegetables. But this child, this little, tiny, 3 year old child can put away more chicken nuggets than a grown man. She gets so excited when I pop open that box!

They’re just so easy! Cool ’em down, pass ’em back, repeat. And come on, who could possibly resist the crunchy goodness that is the chicken nugget. No matter what you hear, what you read, you can’t resist the taste!

So to you, Instagram mom, I solute you!

And to you, drive-thru mom, I feel you!

None of us are perfect at this crazy thing we call parenting. But at least we’re doing our best. And if your best is drive-thru nuggets in the car and not chicken tetrazzini? Then that’s okay too!

-A.

Going To The Beach: Before & After Kids. 


Before I had children, going to the beach meant packing for a weekend trip because we lived up north.

15 different outfits, Lots of makeup, Hair products Selfie stick, and Plenty of cute shoes.

Now that I live down south, we are able to make day trips to the beach. But my packing seemed to double in size! ” How is this possible?”one may ask!

CHILDREN. 

The sand toys themselves are enough to fill your trunk. And they insist on bringing every single one of them. And then you have the snacks. So many snacks. Then there’s the sunscreen, little swimmers, extra clothes, diapers for the drive home. Not to mention the drinks. And back up drinks. And backups for the backups.

It’s still a little over an hours drive to the beach so it’s necessary to take an extra potty break with a toddler who insists that she doesn’t have to go and then pees as soon as she sits down on the potty.

Then when you try to get ready after getting them ready, you have to listen to “can we go now” “are you ready now” “hurry up let’s go!” “Can we go noooooooooooooooowwwww?”

So you end up just throwing your hair in a ponytail and tossing a worn out sundress and your old flip flops and heading out the door.

Because you have kids. And it doesn’t matter what you look like anymore.

I’ll be back later for an update on how the beach day went! Wish me luck!

-A.

Who are they to Judge? Providers of Supervised Visitation

One of the first things that I read online about supervised visitations filled me with fear and anger regarding these people who would be hovering over our shoulders for the unforeseeable future. These “monsters” who would tell us what to do and judge our ability to interact with my grandchildren, according to what I read, were only there to gather information to sever our relationship with them.

This idea made us so nervous that we could barely enjoy our visits at first!

All we could think was “who are they to judge? They do not even have children. They are still in college! They do not even KNOW us!”

The answer to the primary question, the one that everyone online kept asking “who are they to judge,” is simple…THEY ARE EVERYTHING! 

You will NOT hear from your worker! You will NOT hear from the GAL! The judge will NOT watch you with your children! The DA will NOT attend these visits! The foster parents will NOT report about your activities with your children.

The ONLY person who will know how you spend your time with your children is the provider of your supervised visitation. The ONLY person who knows how much you love them is the provider of your supervised visitation. The ONLY person that knows how much your children love and need you is the provider of your supervised visitation. The ONLY person who can look at the judge and tell them whether or not there is any true cause for concern is the provider of your supervised visitation.

You do not have to like them. You can hate what they stand for. You can be disgusted with the organization where they are employed. You can have lots of emotions. But DO NOT question their authority because, like it or not, they can make or break your case.

We were fortunate to have (our third provider) who honestly paid attention to the time that we spent with the kids. If your provider does not seem to take note, then speak to someone about a change but do so respectfully. Work with the providers of supervised visitations. Take their advice. Ask them for advice. Show them that all that matters to you is the safety and well being of your children. If they are going to write a journal of your visits (and they will) give them something positive to write. They ARE JUDGING because this is their job. When their judgment is read, make sure it is in your favor.

Keep in mind, they only know what they are told about you, CHANGE THEIR MINDS!!!

Whatever it takes, bring home your children!

“Gigi”

Making Sense of Diversity: Toddler Talk

ant

So yesterday, Clarabelle and I were sitting on the back porch just chatting away when she reaches over to pick up a toy and notices that there is an ant crawling across it. Her first reaction was to shake it off of the toy but then she stopped as she watched it crawling around to place itself back on the top and said, “it wants to play with me!”

Of course, I told her we do not play with ants or any types of bugs and this through her for a loop with her nearly three-year-old obsession with the word “WHY.” I explained that bugs do not play like people do and that it is best to just leave them alone. This was met with “WHY” to which I responded, some bugs have germs and some bugs bite. This was met, again, with “WHY” to which I responded that bugs are just different than us. This, stopped her in her tracks as she took the role of explaining that “everyone is different so who can I play with?”

Uhmmmmm, kids do not see different as bad! I repeat, kids do not see different as bad!

They learn this from us. Kids do not believe that someone or something being different should stop them from being friends or playing together. Kids do not know understand that grownups had to make a word (diversity) to understand that differences are a good thing.

Just play!

“Gigi”

 

Hold your Apologies: What not to say to the family of a Child with Down’s Syndrome

gloria 2
First Day of School!!!

Can you imagine, you are holding what you believe to be the most perfect child in the world. She has blonde hair like her mother, hazel eyes like her father, and the cutest little dimple on her chin. Now, the lady in the next room also has her “perfect” child and recognizes that your baby does not have brown curls like her new bundle of joy… “Oh, I am so sorry,” she says! SORRY FOR WHAT? Sorry because your child is different from hers? Sorry that she believes her baby to be superior to yours due to one characteristic? Sorry because she does not understand having a child with blonde hair?

Can you imagine how you would feel? Immediately you would jump to defend your precious new gift or perhaps you would be so shocked that you could not even find the words to say. Are there even words to say? To need to apologize, one would have to have done something wrong. In order to empathize, one would have to have experienced something similar. To need either of these responses, there would need to be something wrong!!!

Of course, this situation would not happen in the newness of a labor and delivery wing so I will go beyond the color of their hair. Moving forward, let’s look at high school graduation. The little blonde girl graduates at the top of her class while the brown haired baby with perfect curls finishes her high school career among the middle range of her classmates. While the blonde may deserve congratulations for her hard work, the brunette would not expect sympathy. She completed her studies and did so respectfully. How would you feel, if someone offered sympathy because your child was “just average?”

What about glasses? Braces? Stuttering? Speech difficulties? A freckle? Birth mark? Do you apologize to the parents of these children? Do you say, “I am so sorry that your child is different than mine?” Do you say, “I’m sorry that your child has less the ‘perfect’ traits?”

Of course, you don’t because that would not be NICE! That would not be ACCEPTABLE!

When my granddaughter was born, we all stood around the nursery noting every little finger, every little toe, every cry, every smile just as the other families did for their new additions. We were elated that she would soon come into our home and brighten our lives forever. We prayed together when she was on oxygen. We leaned on one another when they mentioned flying her to a larger hospital. We waited together to hear the doctors tell us that she was going to be okay. And she is! She is better than okay. She continues every day to laugh and learn, grown and amaze us. She is PERFECT!

Yet, for some reason, when one of the family says, “she has Down’s” the immediate response, without exemption is “Oh, I’m sorry…” and we want to yell “WHY?” We are not sorry that your child has blue eyes or straight hair. We are not sorry that your child has freckles. We are not sorry that every time your child learns something new the whole family does not celebrate. We are not sorry that your child’s first steps or clearance from a heart doctor did not send you straight to the bakery to pick out a cake. Instead, we are thankful that your child is perfect in your eyes and would like for you to know that Gloria is perfect in ours.

 Happy Birthday, Gloria! 

A Race To The Finish Line 

There is nothing wrong with her. She is in excellent health and is moving along the developmental chart at a steady pace. The pace may not be the same of your child, but your child’s pace is not at the same pace as someone else’s child. And they are NOT SORRY!

I get it, you may not know what to say. You may have heard scary things about Down’s Syndrome. You may think that this is some form of life threatening situation and that your heart felt “I’m sorry,” refers to the inevitable loss of her ability to have any quality of life. I get it. You do not know about it so maybe your apology is for your lack of awareness. I do not know a thing about raising a child with red hair. I have no clue about freckles and sensitive skin. But I am not sorry for the parents who have children with red hair because this is a beautiful characteristic of their perfect child. I feel no need to stare or apologize but, if I really felt the need, I would ask respectful and caring questions like, “what brand of sunscreen do you use to protect his/her beautiful skin tone?” or “what type of conditioner makes their hair shine like that?” I could even accept questions like, “Do you have extra health care concerns because of this characteristic?”

To apologize to a parent because of a single characteristic that makes their child unique or special is not only disrespectful but also hurtful. Families of children with Down’s Syndrome are simply families with children. Please think before you speak and, if you cannot compliment or ask a question tastefully, then please just smile.

 

Normal is unattainable for anyone! Special is in our DNA!

“Gigi”

CPS Stole My Peace Of Mind. 


Have you ever had that weird feeling that you just can’t shake? Like someone is watching your every move?

We talk about how scary going through the process of a CPS case is. We discuss the feelings we had during the last year and a half of our lives. Supervised visits? Talk about someone breathing down your neck! Which is especially horrifying when you know you haven’t done anything wrong. When you can’t even change your child’s diaper without someone standing directly behind you, watching your every movement.. that’s enough to make you feel like the lowest person in the world.

But what happens after?

After the case is won.

When the “congratulations” slowly stop.

When the kids are tucked safely in their beds every night, one room over.

When you get to go back to making snack plates and cleaning up spilled cereal.

I’ll tell you what happens. At least for me. Every. Single. Fall, smashed finger, bump, bruise, or skinned knee, causes an overwhelming amount of fear and paranoia. Enough to make even someone with an iron stomach feel like throwing up.

Every time my children walk into the store with a bruise on their shin I find myself searching the crowd for wandering eyes. Anyone who could possibly notice (while it may be something so small that only I  can see) and report it.

Every time there is a knock at my door I am petrified to open it.

Every time I’m at the mall or take the kids to McDonald’s I can point out who is on a supervised visit and my heart aches for those families.

Not a day goes by that I’m not scared.

Not a day goes by that I’m not thankful to have my children home with me.

Not a day goes by that I don’t pray for the families going through what I did.

CPS stole my peace of mind. Because of this system, I can no longer feel 100% at ease in my own life. But the babies are home. And that’s all that really matters in my world.

-A.