I’m learning to fly. It is a brand new skill, like learning to read.
In four months of practice, I’ve had four instructors. Akin to having four kindergarten teachers in one semester. Each with their own preferences and pet peeves.
Yesterday, I had my first lesson with teacher number four. I felt nervous, fumbly. After we ran through the pre-flight checklist, my new instructor pointed out mistakes I’d made and said over and over how disappointed he was.
Mistakes, absolutely. But disappointed?
The word rang in my ears. And then it struck me. This must be how our foster kiddos feel.
They are shuffled from parent to parent, often three or four in as many months. Each parent has distinct pet peeves and preferences: Shoes off in the house; Plates cleared after dinner; Toys put away before bed.
And often, some of the first words these precious kiddos hear are “no shoes, please.” Or “why didn’t you?” Or “have you yet?”
They don’t know what they don’t know.
Though it was tough to hear I’d disappointed my instructor, I’m an adult. Flying is a voluntary hobby. I pay him. I could even fire him. I can separate his disappointment from other relationships in life.
But kiddos don’t have those privileges. Growing up isn’t voluntary. They can’t fire foster parents. It’s hard to separate parental disappointment from other feedback. Hell, they may not receive feedback from anyone else.
With all this in mind, I thought about how I’d want to feel if I was a kiddo just moving into our home:
And I realized I’d want to feel:
1) Safe (To repeatedly see, hear, and feel that I’m safe.)
2) Encouraged (To be recognized, abundantly, for all the things I get right…and try to get right.)
3) Comfortable (To be near familiar things: movies, music, foods, teachers.)
4) Respected (To be treated kindly even when I mess up.)
5) Loved (To know I am valued regardless of how I perform.)
From here forward, these five things are what I’ll try to reflect to our foster kiddos. Even when it’s hard. When I’m tired. When expectations are far from met.