Living the Life of Foster Care and Adoption

Bonding and the “other kind” of a blended family

Bonding and the “other kind” of a blended family

Welcome to our Story: Woven together by choice. Strengthened by love. Tested by everything.

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When I was a kid in the 70s the Brady Bunch was my favorite show. I can remember anxiously awaiting for Friday nights at 8 p.m. when the weekly airing of the Brady bunch was on television followed by the Partridge family. A perfect dad, with three boys, and a perfect mom, with three girls, get married and raise a perfect family.

We all know that blended families are far from perfect, but this is the vision one conjures up when they hear the term, blended family.

In our home, we have a different kind of blended family. A family where kids join without their father or mother. Where all the children can be considered step-siblings, and both parents are stepparents. It’s a unique situation and brings about a whole different set of circumstances.

This is the home of fostercare and adoption where it is possible that no person in the family is blood-related.

This uniqueness makes bonding quite difficult. No new child is coming along with their parent, who has already formed a relationship with the new spouse.

When a child enters my home as either a foster child who will be here temporarily or a foster child who I will adopt, the first person they are attempting to bond with is me. They don’t have a dad that they are bringing along. They are all alone and placed with a stranger. They have no idea if they will be safe and they wonder if they will be cared for and loved. Once they find out that they are safe and cared for, they may not even want my love. Sometimes they are just too afraid to take the chance to trust again.

Then there is another dimension added to this type of blended family. Siblings. These kids become step-siblings, though unlike the traditional blended family, once my kids are adopted, they all share the same last name.

Two brothers, one white and the other black. Blended family through adoption
He just wants to be like his brother

The problems that foster and adoptive families find is that by bringing in a mixture of kids from various circumstances and backgrounds, they don’t necessarily bond. Sometimes, they don’t even like each other. It’s like adding oil and water together. They just don’t mix.

Every time a new child was dropped off at our doors, my oldest, R, experienced a lot of stress. This new child was stealing all of my attention. Yet, at the same time, he didn’t even really like me. When I tried to spend time with him, we would always argue. So when a new child came into the home, he treated him pretty badly.

However, when my youngest, E, came to live with us it was a whole different story. He was just a baby. Six months old. R seemed to view him as a helpless little boy who needed to be nurtured and cared for. He almost seemed to feel as though he was taking the place of E’s father which is not a good idea.

It is important, especially for a single foster mom of boys, to maintain the authority in the house and not let kids become parentified.

This means they feel and act like they are a parent to the younger kids. He always took on the role as a protector of E.

When my middle son N, came, R did not see him as a child needing to be protected. For some reason, though my middle child was just 3 years old, R still saw him as competition. Because of this, I had to be watchful during interactions between the two. R knew how to torment N emotionally, and N was very emotionally needy and insecure, so he was wounded very easily.

When I had a little girl as well as the three boys, N latched on to her and for a while they were inseparable. They were one year apart in age and became best friends. As time went on he realized that she would not be staying forever but would return to her own family and he slowly distanced himself from her. This was his way of protecting his heart from the coming loss.

Family isn't always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs. The ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what.

I also had a child who, when I walked into the shared bedroom to break up an argument, I found him with his hands around my other child’s throat choking him. This child was only three at the time, but this was all he knew. He came from an environment where there was a lot of physical violence, and in his experience, when people argued they choked each other.

For this reason, and for reasons of emotional taunting that I would sometimes see between kids that were not biologically related, I had to put Wyze Cam 1080p security cameras in some of the rooms. They actually are pretty inexpensive and worked the best out of all the cameras I tried. You may think this is pretty extreme, but when you have kids coming from every kind of illegal environment you can think of, it is sometimes needed for protection from each other as well as a safety net for the foster parents themselves. When you foster older kids who have had all kinds of trauma, they can sometimes conjure up false accusations in order to get their way.

My children know they are there so it is not necessarily a spy cam. It just helps me check the facts when kids start accusing each other of a variety of things. It also helps to keep them in line. Since they are aware that cameras are there, it could deter them from doing something they know they should not be doing.

So, when thinking about all the disconnected pieces that make up our blended family, I wonder, how are we supposed to bond? Will we ever feel like a normal family who has lived and grown up together or will we always feel a sense of separateness?

My toddler came to live with me when he was a baby. I feel like he is my son and I am his mom. When I’m with my middle son, he is just so precious and so cute; I am so happy to be his mama. With my oldest, well….we have been together the longest. We have skateboarded together, surfed together and traveled together. We have such history together that I have a special closeness with him that I don’t yet share with my other boys.

As a family, we feel separate. Like four different puzzle pieces trying to join together. They don’t make a whole identifiable family picture. We live in this world and we function as a family unit but we still seem like a bunch of individuals joined together. Kind of like people who share a dormitory at college. We have a relationship and we care about each other but there is still a separateness. At least that is how it felt, until today. Something happened while I was in the middle of writing this post that solidified the picture for me.

Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.

You see, yesterday I was sick. Real sick. I was so nauseated that I could not get out of bed without having to run to the bathroom. My oldest, R, was in charge.

E, my sensory challenged toddler has slowly been getting worse with his behavior. I’ve been told that if I think the terrible twos are horrible wait until he hits three! And N, after having been picked on by R for so long, does not really want to listen to him. Yet I needed R’s help desperately. He had to be in charge no matter what.

Boy at the beach jumping in midair

As I laid in bed sick to my stomach, my head pounding with every beat of my heart, I cried out to God for healing in my life. I also question Him. If you’ve read some of my other posts you know that I have been out of work since E was kicked out of daycare because of a Sensory Processing Disorder. So by this point, I felt like I had hit bottom. I knew God was there but I did not know when He was going to help.

In this time of crying out to God, He opened my heart and showed me something. He showed me glimpses of the day as it unfolded while I was lying sick in bed. How R took E outside to play because N did not want to go with him and E is too young to play outside alone. R willingly changed E’s diaper several times even though he normally wouldn’t touch a dirty diaper with a 10 foot pole! Or when R helped N with a game on his tablet; how he got them water when they were thirsty and fed them lunch when they were hungry. My oldest really stepped up to the plate and took charge of his family. Our family.

At one point, I told my oldest that I had contacted the church to see if they could help in case I was still sick the next day but he told me not to call. “No, Mom,” he said. “I can do it. I can take care of the kids. You don’t have to call the church. I can do it.”

This is the same kid who did not get to ride his scooter all week and was really looking forward to us going to the skatepark that day. The same kid who missed his basketball game because I was too sick to take him. He didn’t complain. He didn’t even bring it up. He just took charge because we were his family and this is what families do.

God showed me something through this sickness. We may all come from different backgrounds; not one of us sharing the same bloodline. But we are family. A blended family that has finally, after several years, connected. This feels good.

So how about you? How are things going in your blended family and what issues do you struggle with? I’d really be interested in seeing how you feel in your connections with your children. Please comment below and share this post to Facebook or Twitter. It may help someone else feel not so alone.

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