Attack Llamas and the most awesome name in the world
The day that my daughter came to our home was a crazy one. Why wouldn’t it be? That is the backdrop of my existence. Always this shy of crazy. So one month before the 25th birthday of my oldest son, my husband and I were hitting the road to drive two hours away to pick up a teenager. We had spent the week prior trying to make all the pieces fall into place so we could bring her home. It was a lot of work and a lot of people working toward the goal of getting this young lady into my home.
I have been a mom for 26 years. My oldest will be 26 in two weeks. When I had him, I was a senior in high school at the time. Yeah, I probably should have mentioned I was a hot mess as a teenager. Wild. I made my poor mother question her sanity. Everything comes around. Because now I am a mom to three teenagers. So much angst. So much drama. A lot of amazing.
So I guess this part of the story starts with the laughter of a small child and my concept of wanting an attack llama. An attack llama (?!?!)- you say while questioning my tenuous grasp on reality. Yes. I want an attack llama. Ok let’s veer off the road of my foster/adoption story for just a second. Just imagine donning your Sunday best for a stroll through town. A beautiful and majestic llama walking at your side. You run into someone you dislike and with one word, Felix the Attack Llama just hauls off and spits right in the face of your enemy. Brilliantly Diabolical you say! I agree wholeheartedly and so did a sad small boy the week before we picked up my daughter.
I have already stated that I work with foster parents. On occasion, I get to hang out with the kids. The week that the daughter came to us, I was doing both. One day that week, while waiting on foster parents to show up for training, I had the immense joy of hanging out with a giggling 12 (ish) year old boy. I bring up the giggling because the last time I interacted with this small thing of a child, he was hysterically crying, just having spent his first night in foster care. That crying day, we watched a pig on YouTube eat a cupcake. (if you have not seen Esther the Wonder Pig, do so … it might just shine a little light in your life) and he watched, through his tears. No words were spoken. Just the sounds of a cupcake eating piggy. It was heartbreaking. But he went to an amazing home. And his story will one day have a happy ending.
That week, the week of the daughter, it was truly wonderful to see this small thing smile so brightly after the buckets of tears he must have cried back in the beginning of his foster care story. I wanted to see more of that smile. So my diabolical llama plan was hatched and giggles were abundant. Life was grand for a moment. I think I might have mentioned that I have a flair for the dramatic.
I went from enemy attacking llamas to foster parent training where I discussed the behavior of foster children and why they act as they do. I can break it down in a few sentences. Children need healthy ways to express the sadness or anger they feel about the losses they have experienced. Some of these behaviors are direct responses to the trauma they have experienced. Children use behavior to show what they are feeling. They also use behaviors to get attention. Sometimes this is the only way they have learned to get attention, to get their way or just generally relate to the rest of the world. Usually, behaviors are learned responses and children need time to learn new ways of behaving. New ways to deal with and heal from their trauma.
Behaviors are the language of the child’s emotions and the symptoms of their needs. Everything that we expect and believe – about ourselves, other people and about the world we live in – is learned through experience. If you experience violence, guess what you will display. It is sickening that kids experience violence. That is why foster parents are so important. To allow children to be children. To weather their hurt and to get through those dark moments where all H-(E Double hockey stick) is breaking loose. Because you get through the storms, there is always light on the other side. That is why foster parenting is necessary and worth it. For that light.
I have spent the better part of over 5 years teaching people how to possibly navigate through these moments with a smidgen of grace, patience, laughter and decorum. Sometimes it works. Other times, you had better get creative because our kids do. Someday I might tell you about our “Cursing Wild West” – but that is a story for another day.
The year prior to our kiddo coming to our home – we had two disruptions. One we could control and the other – not so much. It broke me. I actually closed my home. My husband was ok with this decision as he needed a break too. The loss was too much. My expectations were way off and I needed some time to process the heartbreak.
When we decided to open back up – we were very clear that we wanted absolutely NOTHING to do with teenagers. Especially teenage girls. Yes let’s all share a collective laugh. My daughter does. However when we learned that there was this special kiddo who needed a safe place to land that a bunch of people thought would fit perfectly in our home – well – how could I say no?
So began the craziest 48 hours I have experienced as a foster parent. Social workers were called, therapists were called, EVERYONE was called. There was a process. There was paperwork. There was stuff that had to be done ……yadda yadda yadda. But, obviously – it happened and here we are over a year later and something awesome has occurred. I mean something REALLY REALLY COOL!!!!
Last week – we went to court for a very good reason. She was legally allowed to change her name to whatever she wanted. Huge decision for a teen. Guess who now shares my last name? Guess which mom cried in court? This one.
One more thing. There are no llamas in my home. We do have quite a few rescue animals though. And we foster doggies too. Guess which kiddo wants to grow up to work with animals? Maybe one day, she will figure out how to get her mom a fluffy attack llama. A beautiful and majestic one.
-Dusty June Siravo
Director of Development and Recruitment NBFS