29. Constantly Learning

Hello! Mama S here. Today I wanted to talk about something that most people forget when they think of the kiddos in our home. We haven’t had them for any of the years leading up to them joining our home. That seems so obvious, but that simple statement leads to a deep discussion. One that Mama A and I have at least once a week. As these kiddos have not lived with us before, we don’t know what they have and have not learned. Example. P came to us never having been shown how to brush her teeth. She is a pre-teen. This was obvious the first time I saw her brushing her teeth. We ended up getting into a routine where she mirrors what I do when brushing my teeth every night. Movement for movement. My brush is on the left side moving side to side, so is hers. Her eyes fixated on my brush to make sure she is doing it right.

Another example, this one took us almost 3 months to figure out. She has always come out of the bathroom after bath time sopping wet in her PJs. Her hair dripping all over the place. FINALLY last night I asked her if anyone had ever shown her how to use a towel. Seems an odd question to ask a pre-teen, but sure enough, the answer was no. I took her to the bathroom, grabbed a towel and “dried” myself off over my clothes. Legs, torso, arms, face, hair, the whole shebang. She was mesmerized! Last night was the first night that she came out of the bathroom not dripping!

Those seem like crazy things to have to teach to a pre-teen, but that is real life. Taking it one step further. If no one has taught her how to brush her teeth or use a towel, who taught her how to critically think? Process ideas? Empathize with people? Relate actions with consequences? Wash dishes? Take care of personal items? Talk to friends, family, strangers? Talk on the phone?

That last one blows my mind. Every phone conversation she has I feed her what to say. P has never learned the ability to carry on a conversation. Before we started stepping in, the conversations were each party saying something then the other party saying something different. A series of random statements mushed together!

I encourage you to think about this. Re-read it a few times. Process what it would be like to have someone in your home that is at this level at the pre-teen stage. Once you are there, think about what bite of the elephant you want to take. (I love the adage of how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time). You can’t change EVERYTHING about a person in a month. It takes YEARS! This is why I get frustrated with people when they give me parenting advice. I want to shout- “Your kid had you showing them things from day one… we are starting this journey past the 3,000 day mark!” We are focusing on the most important things first and will get to the rest later.

So, if you are looking in thinking that we should focus on X, Y, or Z. Comparing our kiddos to their peers that are close to them in age. I encourage you to remember that we are starting with the basics. Teeth brushing, using utensils (which almost all the kiddos we have cared for have come to us not knowing how to use), using towels, reading and understanding time, and basic kindness. We will get to the other stuff in time.

I leave you with one question. If you had to be moved away from everyone and everything you know, new people, food, smells, new everything, and you were then forced to change almost every aspect of who you are as a person, how would you react? How long would it take for you to change what you have been taught for the last 2, 4, 10, 15, 20, 40 years of your life? Think you could do it? I encourage you to change your dominant hand in EVERYTHING you do for 24 hours. Every task. Come back and let me know how it went. I’m truly curious about how that goes. That is one example of changing a tiny thing, and we (society) expects these kiddos to change everything about the way they think, act, and behave instantly because they live in a new house.

Until next time,

Mama S

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4 thoughts on “29. Constantly Learning

  1. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again…what you two are doing for this child and the others who have been in your care or will be in the future is absolutely amazing and beyond admirable.
    Thank you for sharing this. I don’t think I’d have ever thought that fostering children would entail having to work on basics like this. So much respect for you both.

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  2. This was just excellent. Although I haven’t experienced this in my home, I have in my classroom. Every day I teach or have discussions about things that shock me. Today I gave out toothpaste and toothbrushes to a student who shares a toothbrush with his day. I have a feeling I will be teaching toothbrushing tomorrow. I will follow your example – “movement by movement”.

    It takes a village!

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