Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Still "honeymooning"?

A foster parent trainer once told me, "There is no such thing as a 'honeymoon.' It is 'observation and assessment.'"

The training was on RAD, but I think it applies generally. A honeymoon is a vacation at the beginning of a marriage. In theory at least, and perhaps in practice, both are deeply in love. Everything each does is motivated by care and love for the other. And that is not what the first days, weeks, or months of a placement is like.

The beginning of a placement is not like that. As parents we often feel a deep connection and love for our children from the very beginning. We may start to feel it the first time we saw a photograph or read a short description. I think those feelings, which I also experience, are not the same thing as love based upon actually knowing a child, but that is a different topic. The point is, we as parents, sometimes feel like we are on a honeymoon at the beginning of a placement because we are full of warm fuzzy feelings and everything seems to be going so well. The children or youth however are NOT on a honeymoon. They are not floating on a cloud of warm fuzzy feelings. They are carefully walking through a mine field, waiting for the deluded, infatuated adult to get real so they can find out what life here is going to be like.

So the other day when someone asked me if we were still on "honeymoon," I stopped to think about how I was behaving. Gary has lived here exactly six weeks. I have had some days that were not as good as others. I have been a tiny bit grumpy, but not much. When Roland and I have had a disagreement of any kind we have gone back to the bedroom to talk about it. When I
"correct" Gary I still treat him like a guest. For instance today I said, "Gary, it's okay to take the portable phone to your room when you want to talk to someone, but I really need for you to put it back on its cradle when you are finished." To which he replied, "Oh, okay. I was just about to bring it back."

In six months I may very well say something like, "Gary! Where is that phone?! If you don't stop leaving it in your room you will not be allowed to use it at all! I mean it. Put it away NOW."

So, are we "honeymooning"? Well, I'm still on my extra-good behavior, and I imagine he'll still waiting to see what we are really like.

It's a process.


  1. I agree. I've mostly fostered quite young children, even babies, so with them there is not that "honeymoon" period anyway, just a 'getting to know you' time, particularly when they are preverbal, and still a sense of treading carefully, as you work out what bothers them, comforts them, triggers rage or sadness, and working really hard to get those bonds of attachment happening as quickly as possible. But the few times I have had older children come into my care for a while, I found it very unsettling, as we tiptoe around each other, working each other out. There's an art to the whole process; it sounds like you have it. Think I'll just stick with the littlies. Cuddling on the rocking chair and pummelling playdoh together are easy foolproof methods for me - don't think they'd work with a teenager!

  2. I guess I hadn't ever thought of how the poor kid feels about it. Although, we had a RAD kid and we NEVER got a honeymoon with her. I do think though, the "honeymoon" period serves another purpose. I like to take the time to really take stock of why I like this kid, what they do that is charming or cute. I then pull those times out when they are being horrid, to remember there are some things I really, really like about them.


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