visits, chaos, and breathing easy

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The past three and half weeks have found us struggling through new reactions to visits from Little Man, an obnoxious 90 lb. teenager of a puppy dog who thinks it is the best game in the world to race out of our door and run away from us through the whole neighborhood, and another child who is in a funk, unable to be motivated through either consequence or reward. It's been exhausting, literally, since we're not really sleeping at night for three days following Little Man's visits with his family. 

In our state, families are legally required to be given four hours of visitation a week once their children have been removed from their care. Usually this is done in two 2-hour visits each week. Sometimes, it's done in one big chunk, four hours once a week, but typically when kids are littler, they try to split them up so it's easier on everyone. 

When you live 25 minutes from the visitation center, two hour visits become a real pain. It takes me 10 minutes minimum to get six children, two in car seats and incapable of loading themselves, in the van and ready to go. It takes around 10 minutes on a typical visit to unload and get Little Man into the visitation center, sometimes much longer if we're waiting on his mom to get there. By the time I figure in loading and travel time, it is a ridiculous waste of time and gas to drive all the way back home during the visit. All of this means that we spend from around 5:30-8:30 every Wednesday and Thursday in the van. There's only so much grocery shopping I can do during those hours, and since it's dark this time of year, we can't even get out and stretch our legs at a park. It's wearing on all of us.

I will say that I do prefer this back to back schedule, however. What a typical visit schedule has looked like for us in the past includes the day of the visit plus two days of reaction from the child due to the visit, maybe one normal day, and then we're back to a visit day. So basically six days of the week are tumultuous and difficult. This way, we have two visits days, still around two reaction days, and three days of normalcy. It's far superior, I think. 

It seems quite likely this case will be stretching on for quite awhile yet. DJFS has custody of Little Man until October of 2016. When I think about doing this for most of the next year (and maybe longer), it makes me feel something akin to despair. Two days of our week, pretty much gone indefinitely. I wonder why we agreed to do this. How anyone in their right mind thinks this is a good idea. I see people's reactions when I tell them what the schedule looks like, and I know they wonder why and probably think it's dumb that we would subject our family to this kind of a schedule. It's not just visits, it's also home visits and team meetings and extra doctor appointments, all fit in with the rest of our five children's school and extracurriculars. There is not one night during the week where we do not have extra stuff to do. I get it. It's crazy. Our idea of normal family life has definitely changed. We now aim for two meals together at the table a week - and often are not succeeding at that - instead of the five to six that we were eating together before. We spend as much time in the van as we do together in our living room. 

There's not much I can say to make this seem normal. There's not a ton of defense I can give that this rigorous of a schedule is good for our children. All I know is that we believe this is what we're supposed to be doing. We believe Little Man's health and safety is worth all of this. We believe that love is worth the fight. 

I haven't been that successful at breathing easy in the middle of this chaos of late. I've been blaming it on the schedule. I've been blaming it on the kids. I've been blaming it on the system. Truthfully, though, it's my fault. My focus isn't where it belongs. There's only one way to breathe easy, and it's His breath in my lungs. When I continue to try to do this all out of my own strength and mental capacity, I will most assuredly fail. So this week, moving forward, I'm breathing in grace, breathing out praise.

All of it for Love.

photo credit: command central via photopin (license)
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