Harry Potter is at Hogwarts and getting sorted into his house. The teachers and head students are getting everyone settled into the Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin houses. The chapter focuses on the students and specifically Harry’s anxiety and emotions surrounding his introduction to his new school. If you read the kids’ discussion that coordinates with the chapter of the Sorcerer’s Stone, you know that the Fink kids chose to talk to other foster/adoptive kids about the first night in a new home. Again… a lot of emphasis is placed on the fears of the kids in this situation. What does it look like for the adoptive/foster parents during the first night?
My wife, Margie, recalls the whole situation and relays this thought to me. She remembers being an elementary school teacher and being nervous about the first day of school. Oh sure, there was excitement in the air too. However, there is a lot of responsibility in caring for someone else’s child for the majority of the day. There can be numerous personality and behavior obstacles in addition to academic obstacles to overcome. Courage came in knowing that the FULL responsibility did not lay on her shoulders, and that children would go home to their caregivers at the end of the school day.
Our first foster placement had similar emotions. Margie and I (Darren) were overjoyed to be welcoming two kiddos into our home. We had activities and toys ready to be introduced to them and had a special dinner in the works. In contrast to the positive emotions, there were some major butterflies in both of our stomachs. This would not be like our teaching experiences. We have never had our own biological children, but I imagine these jitters are the same as parents expecting a new baby. You keep asking yourself, “Am I really ready for this responsibility?”
The children were dropped off by their caseworker, who had to run off to her next appointment. We were suddenly thrust into parenthood without any information about these two new strangers in our home. However, the afternoon and evening went quite nicely and then the night came.
We congratulated ourselves on a great day and for getting everyone to bed successfully. Now we had to figure out how to get kids into daycare when we didn’t have any information on the kids like last names or birth dates – the 5 year old didn’t know her social security number – imagine that! We had to discuss and plan how to deal with the experiences the kids were exposed to in their home. We had to think about getting one kiddo to a specialist for a rare genetic disease. All the while we are talking about logistics there is the same fear and question, “Are we really ready for this?”
In the midst of those fears we hear a blood curdling scream from a bedroom. I race to the room where the yelling is originating to see a child thrashing in bed. I hold the child in my arms and assure them everything is alright. Even though they have awoken, they continue to scream as though I should be seeing a dagger coming form their belly. Finally, the screaming stopped, and the child went back to sleep. That was my first introduction to night terrors.
I would like to report that like Harry, things were completely wonderful the next day. It was actually the beginning of a slow trial by fire through the foster care system that was worth the journey.
What Would We Do Differently?
- Take the week off work – even if we could have worked out the details with daycare, I think any foster/adoptive parent needs AT LEAST one week of uninterrupted bonding time.
- Become a hermit – Most people immediately want their friends to meet the new child. Don’t do it! For AT LEAST a week just keep it down to the immediate family. The bonding time with the new child is huge.
- Simple, not special – Do whatever you can to simplify the first week with the new child. Instead of thinking of special meals, plan ahead of time to make frozen dinners that just have to be heated at home (don’t eat out because that violates the previous suggestion).
- Set the bar low – Do not assume that you are going to be super mom/dad. Simply assume that you’re going to get to know the new child better. If you learn something new about them for the day, it was a successful day, and you need to celebrate. Don’t belittle the small victories.
Now It’s Your Turn:
- Seasoned Foster/Adoptive Parents:
- Comment below on your first night experience with your child.
- Use the comment section below to give people who are thinking about adopting/fostering advice for preparing for a child.
- Share any thoughts or ideas that you had about this chapter.
- Pre-foster or Pre-adoptive Parents:
- Use the comment section below to share some of the fears and questions you have.
- How are you planning to get the most bonding time with your new child the first week?
- What do you think about the idea of becoming a hermit for AT LEAST a week with your immediate family?
- Share any thoughts or ideas that you had about this chapter below.