Adoption= Witness Protection (Chapter 2: Reclusive Parenting)

Here’s something they don’t tell you in foster care classes: when you bring abused children into your home, you also have to avoid the abusers. Easy-peasy, if the kids are from Chicago and you live in Montana. When you live within a few miles, you have a choice. Move to Hawaii (yes, this happened…sadly, it didn’t happen to us) or stay away from places those parties may frequent.

Let me back up.

Prior to the kiddo’s arrival, I had a serious problem. A habit. Not crack, not weed. Not even CHOCOLATE. It’s shopping–but it’s definitely not what you think.

I don’t max out credit cards. I love hunting for deals. I was once applauded (not kidding) by a crowd of strangers at a local grocery store for saving 80% of my bill.

If I can get almost-new for almost-free, I am thrilled. If I can get NEW for almost-free, I’m even happier. And I was having an affair with Walmart. The first step in getting help is admitting you have a problem, but I didn’t think going to Walmart more than seven times a week was a problem. Getting help was not on my to-do list.

The second step to getting help is quitting cold turkey.

Everyone shops at Walmart. Everyone. Cute little grandmas, homeless guys, families with eight children, construction workers, young couples, bargain hunters…everyone. Including the people who used to house your newly arrived foster kids. And their biological family members.

This became crystal clear to me the first time I took them to Walmart. Suddenly, gazing at the crowd milling past us, I realized that if we ran into a family member, any of the following could happen:

1. The individual may take the children’s mental, physical and emotional well-being into consideration, be responsible and keep walking.

2. The individual (who had not been taking the children’s mental, physical or emotional well-being into consideration thus far) may approach us.

2a. The individual may hug the children, thank me for caring for them, and walk away.

2b. The individual may create a scene or even attempt to take the children.

I work as a recruiter, and “past behavior predicts future actions” is my rule of thumb when determining whether to hire a candidate. Unfair stereotyping or not, option 2b seemed the most likely, based on the information I had about the bio family’s prior behavior.

I left the cart full of groceries in the aisle and towed the kids straight to the car. Strap in. Let’s go. NOW.

(My apologies to the re-stocker…at least I hadn’t gotten to the frozen section yet.)

Thus ended my love affair with Walmart. Cold turkey. And I don’t mean the lunch meat I left in the cart.

For the next twelve months, Hubby and I took turns watching the kids at home whenever shopping was necessary. We went only to school, church and a local family restaurant (and even there, I scanned constantly for bogies). We spent free time time playing in the yard or the house, watching rented movies and playing board games. We didn’t talk about the kids on social media. We didn’t even tell extended family about the kids for almost a year.

We attained an unbelievably high level of appreciation for families in witness protection.

Their earliest years were spent in a much smaller environment, so the kids never even noticed, but the constraints were very difficult for Hubby and me. The toughest part was not being sure it would end.

A few things that help:

1. Explain the situation to those close to you. Most people have never seriously entertained the though of bringing a child into their home. They can’t even imagine your circumstances. Almost everyone will be interested and thankful you’ve shared, and will be willing to do what they can to help.

2. Don’t feel you have to explain to everyone. Honestly, over-sharing is my downfall. Strangers and those on the edges of your circle may be interested, but if they aren’t a key part of your lives, skip the details.

3. Get a babysitter. YOU NEED A BREAK. Don’t try to be “the strong one.” You are a better caregiver when you care for yourself. It’s not selfish; it’s survival.

If you’re in a similar situation, please remember that it won’t last forever. I once heard comedian and singer Mark Lowry say his favorite Bible verse was, “And it came to pass…” (Luke 2:1, I believe). It came to pass–it did not come to stay. Eventually, you move, or the kids get older and change, or you adopt them and realize that if anyone tries anything, the law is your friend. You stay aware, still have eyes on every stranger, still get raised eyebrows from your mom when you won’t let her take your kids to the mall without you. But know that it gets easier.

On the bright side, I lost 15 lbs thanks to the stress of being constantly vigilant, and I saved approximately $4,283.12 at Walmart. Or rather, not at Walmart.

Maybe one of these days we can use that money to move to Hawaii.

About Casey

Adoption = my life. I'll give it to you straight. Success, failure, truth.

Posted on August 10, 2014, in Adoption, Parent and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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