Daniel Tiger and the Struggle of Uncertainty
Our little guy loves Daniel Tiger . We don’t let him have much screen time , but it’s the main thing he does watch. In general, I love the show too because it teaches important social and emotional lessons and helps children learn to deal with their feelings in a healthy way.
The team behind the show follows the rigorous process Fred Rogers utilized to communicate in a way children could understand and that would be inclusive. Every episode has a little song to help the child remember something important and the songs can be wonderful tools to help kids react in a healthy way when challenges arise.
Today, our little guy was watching an episode when Daniel has a babysitter . Our little guy usually does well with babysitters, but as he will have a new babysitter coming in a couple of weeks, I thought it would be a good episode for him.
The song/lesson for this episode was “grownups come back.” While this is a helpful lesson for most children, foster kids don’t always have that kind of reassurance. Sadly, some children in foster care have already experienced grownups in their lives who haven’t come back, or who were absent for long periods of time.
As much as I want to reassure my kids and help them learn to trust, as a foster parent I can’t teach them this particular lesson. I can’t tell them that I will always come back, because one day I may have to say goodbye and won’t be able to come back into their lives. What I can say is that I will always love them no matter what, and I make sure to tell them that frequently.
Even though there is a high likelihood our current little guy will be adopted, in foster care you never know. Until an adoption is legal, I cannot tell him that I will be there for him no matter what, and it breaks my heart that he doesn’t have anyone who can say that to him.
Children in foster care experience uncertainty with most of the adults in their lives. When they come into care, they are separated from their family, they move and lose their neighbors and usually teachers and other trusted adults in the community, their foster parents are probably only temporary, case workers may change, and their parents may or may not be a consistent presence in their lives. In some cases, parents may not show for visits, or sadly, may disappear entirely. One of our children’s mothers actually overdosed , and while she thankfully was revived, her mortality became very real to me when I found out.
Though technically no one can promise their kids that they will always be there because something unforeseen could occur, in most cases parents will always come back and children can feel safe in that day-to-day experience. Foster children do not have that kind of security and it is something that we as foster parents cannot give them until and unless we become their adoptive parents .For now, I can only tell my kids “I will always come back when I say I’ll come back,” (knowing in the back of my mind that one day I may have to say I’m not coming back). It’s not the same, but it’s the best I can do.