Visitation Day Blues: Kid Edition

As we all piled for our morning cuddle on the couch the kids asked what the plan was for the day. I told them, “Don’t forget, you guys need to pack your backpacks with quiet activities, today is visitation.”

Captain, my oldest asked, “Is it the one where we go to the coffee shop?”

“No, that’s the other visit. Today is the one where you need to sit quietly in the car in the parking lot so your baby sister can sleep while the baby is visiting with his mom.”

Both my preschooler and kindergartener groaned. This is the least favorite day of the week. We eat an early lunch, every one goes potty, and we load up into the van and head to the other side of the county for our fosterling to visit his mother for an hour. Because of when it’s scheduled, my little ones end up stuck in the car for two and a half hours. I don’t like it either. Trying to keep my older kids quiet and occupied so that my youngest can get some sleep is stressful. On good days, she gets half of her normal length in nap. On bad days, it’s a 5 minute nap and a whole afternoon of meltdowns. It’s not easy on our foster baby either. Some how it always works out that he gets awoken to go to the visit or awoken once we get to the visit. Lots of interrupted sleep usually equals a very long day with lots of crying, nap fighting, and fussiness for him.

“Mom, we don’t like this visitation day! It’s boring!” I sighed as the day had just started and the complaining was already starting. Milkman looked at me sleepily from the corner of the couch where he spent the early morning after a very early wake up call from our foster baby. We trade off nights, so I actually got sleep last night, but I couldn’t say the same for my sweet husband.

As much as I wanted to reply, “Stop complaining, too bad!” I realized this was a teaching moment. “You know what guys? I don’t necessarily like this visitation day either. It’s stressful for me trying to ensure every one is quiet in the car. But… Well. Do you know why we do this? God says that we need to care for orphans and widows. Do you know what a widow is? It’s someone who has lost their spouse and has no one to care for them. Do you know what an orphan is?”

They looked at me blankly.

“An orphan is someone who either doesn’t have living parents, or their parents cannot currently safely care for them. The foster children we’ve had in and out of our home are considered orphans. So we actually have a really important job, because we are obeying God when we care for foster children. We don’t just do this because babies are cute— even though they are! We do this because we love them, and have a duty to obey God, and this is how our family has been called to obey. And one of the jobs of foster families is to make sure foster children get to see their parents.”

They nodded slowly. Well, the older kids did. My youngest, Peachy, was dancing around like a wild maniac to Celtic Christmas music. Never a dull moment.

Milkman chimed in, “Can you imagine if you only got to see mama and papa two hours a week?? You would miss us so much and we would miss you so much, right? The baby’s mommy wants to see her baby.”

I continued, “Exactly! And that’s one way we can serve his mommy, too. She loves her baby. So I know that visitation day is kinda lousy and boring for us. But it’s a sacrifice we make together as a family to obey God and to serve the baby and his mommy. Can you understand that?”

“Yes, mama.” They replied. I’m sure they didn’t feel super happy to go on with the plan for the day, but at least they now knew there was a valid reason behind their boring day ahead.

Sometimes teaching moments are hard to come by, and sometimes they fall perfectly in your lap, like it did for us today. My kiddos do sacrifice a lot for our family to continue fostering. While it’s not as much as Milkman and I have to, it’s a decent amount for very young children.

I hope they know, for as long or short as we have to foster, it’s not just something we do for the heck of it. It’s something that takes self sacrifice. It’s something that is hard to do. It’s something that takes giving up our schedules, preferences, and desires. It’s certainly not something we do for praise from others or accolades. But, most importantly it’s something that we do in love and obedience— together. As a family.

of skulls, skalliwags, and babies

I didn’t grow up in a family that glorified death.  We had a realistic view of death, and death was a real part of our lives and my growing up.  I remember seeing my first casket as a very young child.  My Great Aunt Doris’ husband had died, and I was being held by my papa as we walked past the casket.  I saw many open caskets as a kid and a teen.  We went to a lot of funerals.  We went to a lot of wakes.  The reasoning is three-fold I suppose.  Part of this had to do with being a part of a very large family, particularly on my mother’s side.  We had a lot of extended family, and when you know a lot of people, there are going to be a larger amount of people dying in your environment.  Another part of this had to do with being a pastor’s kid.  My dad performed a lot of weddings, services, and indeed, funerals.  The last reason why I have been to so many funerals, was because my parent’s always told my sisters and I,  that if you are available, and you knew the person or the family of the person who died, you should do everything you can to attend their funeral.

My mother, who is perhaps where I get a bit of my morbidity (Sorry for ratting you out mom, but a woman who channels Morticia Addams, is just not the norm for most moms! Haha!), talked about death a lot.  However, she would be the first to tell you that her reasoning for talking about, and even longing for it sometimes, is not based in morbidity, rather in a desire to go home to Heaven.  She talks about brain tumors less and less since having grandkids, and talks more of the perfection of God’s timing in all things, even so she never made death seem scary.  It was always talked about as a homecoming, because of her faith, she has something to look forward to when that last breath escapes her lungs, and she gets to say goodbye to back pain, housework, and the things of this world, to meet her Maker.

Death is not a scary thing to me, really.  Now the PROCESS of dying?  That is another thing altogether.  I am terrified of dying in my sleep, I think that you must be in a horrible state of panic if you are sleeping peacefully and then you can’t wake up as your soul departs and your body fights to stay alive.  I’d rather be shot in the head in my sleep, or something nice like that.  Don’t even know it’s coming, and BAM!  You’re in Gloryland!  But that’s a topic for another day.

Why do I bring all this up, and what does it have to do with anything, particularly relating to kids?  Well, as many of you know, I am expecting a baby boy come March.  As I have been picking out décor, and drooling over baby clothes, as so many first time moms do, I am drawn to all things black, red, skull, and pirate related.  I have had a long love affair with accessories and décor in that vein, and even my wedding had a pirate flair.  I wore a red, black, and white dress for goodness sakes.  Being a So. Cal kid, and spending a lot of time at Disneyland, my favorite ride has always been Pirates.  Peter Ustinov in Disney’s Blackbeard’s Ghost?  One of my first (of many) old man crushes.  My room as a young adult woman was not plastered with Brad Pitt or chic design.  It had (and has!) rich colors, maps, way too big prints of old art in gaudy ornate frames, a ship’s wheel, and candelabras.  I listen to a lot of metal, and like both my parents, I dress primarily in black.  I love scary movies and books, and Dia de los Muertos art is some of my favorite.

Naturally, when preparing to dress and adorn a baby, my eye is drawn to tiny skulls, little pirate boots, stripey baby clothes, big krakens, leather jackets, and Jolly Rodger baby blankets.  I think baby blue is an abomination to my son’s masculinity, and pastels are anything but stimulating for his surroundings.  I have come under some scrutiny for such likes, and my husband, whose tastes are FAR different from mine, and I have had no few talks on the matter of love for such “dark” things.  As baby showers are planned for me (I am so thankful for such loving women in my life!) the big topic seems to be “Are pirate crossbones acceptable for a baby shower!?”

I must ask a question to those who think that other décor for baby is acceptable.  Noah’s Ark?  Oh my gosh.  Man becomes exceedingly sinful, God decides to destroy the entire planet and kill everyone but 8 people and a couple of each animal, then those 8 people and countless smelly animals have to stay in a boat for over a year.  Let’s make a nursery theme for Junior about God’s judgement on the earth! YAY!  Okay, another, how about safari.  You wanna talk about scary??  Lions eat people.  I mean not every day, but they can.  And elephants?  Some of the most dangerous animals to come face to face with if you are in the African wilderness.  Let’s not even talk about monkeys.  Holy cow, those things are scary. Fairy tales?  Have you ever read the real Snow White or Goldilocks?  Terrifying.  Fairies or mermaids?  Those chicks are dangerous!   And how about clowns?  Let’s put it this way, the sight of clowns has been known to send me into tears and dry heaving.

I do know that pirates were bad guys.  I don’t think we should glorify death.  I don’t want my child to be morbid… okay, maybe a little.  I don’t want my child turning into a Satanist.  I don’t want him to be a self-absorbed emo kid.  I know full well that I could expose him to all the things I love, and strap him to a chair at age 12 (because as much as I love Tim Burton, my kids aren’t allowed to watch him til they are older) and make him watch Nightmare Before Christmas, and cry with me when Jack ruins Christmas, take him on Pirates 3 times every time we go to DL, and read him lots of Grimm’s fairy tales while we listen to Rachmaninoff, and he might still turn into a preppy kid who likes to play golf.

Fact of the matter is, when you are a baby, you have to wear whatever your parents put you in, you are at their mercy for style (Which is why my mom and I made him a ridiculous looking bunny hat, which will make him look so incredibly stupid and cute), and he can’t say anything about it.  There is a fine line, and I don’t want to cross it if the other side of that line is glorifying evil and death.  I don’t want the little man to be afraid of his surroundings.  I want him to have bright and cheery surroundings, and to be surrounded by love and happy people.  I want to be half as good of a mother as my own mama was, and give him lots of attention and teach him about everything from our faith to morality, cars to music, character to the dangers of women (hehe!).  I want to teach him about death and life, pain and joy, suffering, and merrymaking.  I want him to know and love the Lord has his father and I do.  I just don’t think that putting him in a black t-shirt, jeans, a little Jolly Rodger bib, and black converse is going to keep that from happening.

So, if you disagree, that’s okay.  I don’t mind.  If you’d rather get him a pair of ducky slippers than a vampire teeth pacifier (thank you, Uncle Ronald!) then I will be more than grateful.  Every person has their own convictions to follow, liberties and limitations, but as long as we are united in the important things, that’s what matters.  I can’t wait for him to experience the diversity in the personalities, culture differences, and surroundings in which he will be raised!