We got " Kid C" late on a Wednesday evening, just over a week after Baby B left us. She was just shy of three years old. This was our first placement of an older child (well, older than an infant). It was quite a learning experience. We learned that there is a life cycle of a new placement of an older child:
Day 1: Easy, with few problems. C probably figured she was just visiting us and was on her best behavior. She mostly played with the boys and didn't make much of a fuss about anything. Two exceptions were sleeping and eating issues. I knew enough to expect eating issues, so I stocked up on foods I thought any kid would like, things like apple juice, cheese sticks, crackers, grapes, and cereal bars. Despite all my preparations, she still refused to eat anything except a few bites of banana now and then.
The other exception was naptime and bedtime: getting her to sleep was quite a battle. Thinking I would have her for at least a few weeks, I immediately went into "training mode" and was strict about enforcing sleep times and our 'no getting out of bed' rule. In retrospect, I should have focused on comforting her, instead of the goal of getting her to sleep.
Day 2-3: She seemed to realize she wasn't just visiting. She let her guard down and started to assert her will. Lots of tantrums ensued. One epic tantrum lasted for forty-five minutes, over a request of ice cream for breakfast which I (kindly) denied. These two days were probably the hardest we've ever had in foster care.
Once I found out that she was only going to be with us for a few days, I loosened up on my sleep rules and rocked her to sleep for bed and naps. It didn't take much effort; she was exhausted and dropped to sleep without much effort once she felt nice and snuggly.
Day 4-5: We finally started to figure each other out. I learned what foods she liked and incorporated those with our own meals, so she started eating better. She learned that tantrums don't work so well, so those started lessening. And she didn't need to be rocked to sleep anymore. She still protested naptimes with "No! I not going to sleep now!" but she crawled into bed anyway, listened to a story, and fell asleep right away. So much for that.
On day 5 she was returned to her family. It was bittersweet: sweet, because it was clear that she was loved and wanted by her family, but bitter because it seems like she has many challenges facing her. We have one more little person to hold in our prayers.
The night C came home with us. Ben quickly attached to her. He talked her ear off about everything from how traffic lights work to how chickens eat, and showed her the ropes of living the Knapp home. It made us realize that while Tommy prefers the cute cuddliness of babies, Ben prefers the fun interaction that comes with bigger kids.
One of our sweeter moments together: C helped me make beef stew while Mark and the boys went to church. She is wearing what I am told is a Cinderalla dress, given to us by a friend who knows a thing or two about girls. She wore that dress for three of the five days she was with us; she refused to take it off and I decided it wasn't a battle worth fighting.