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!