<I wrote this several years ago as a joke piece for a foster parent group I was on, and I’ve decided to publish it in case any of you enjoy it. One of the harsher realities of having 9 kids is that it does cut into your private time, but even more, the psychological heft of foster parenting messes up relationships. At the same time you desperately need time for one another and restore yourself, you also spend a lot of it obsessing about court dates and outcomes and therapies and meeting your children’s needs. It can be tough to find both mental and physical space for one another – and it is still hugely important. So here is my 20-step plan ;-). This, of course, presumes you have a partner. I have NO CLUE how people foster and date at the same time, but am awed that anyone pulls it off.>
1. Determine that tonight will be the night. It has been way too long, right? Way, way, WAY too long. Set jaw. Bring out sense of determination usually used for prying tantruming child out of the candy aisle or extracting expensive but necessary supports into your child’s educational plan. Put your back into it.
2. Ice back.
3. Consider how to get all the children in bed before you and/or your partner pass out from exhaustion. Eliminate all plans involving crazy glue.
Decide to run them around like maniacs, early dinner, baths and hide all clocks and try and pretend it is midnight at 7:30. Have an innocent faith that this totally implausible scheme will work.
4. Run children around like maniacs. Tire out no one but yourself.
Bring wired children into house and attempt to feed them dinner while supervising homework, plunging toilet blocked by youngest’s toy and scheduling nine different appointments. Watch wired children bounce off walls like bunnies.
Drink a glass of wine to help get in the mood. Bicker with partner about nothing in particular. Well, actually, it is something. It is that stupid yogurt thing he/she ALWAYS does that he/she knows TOTALLY gets on your nerves and if she/he loved you, he/she would cut it out, and the fact that he/she doesn’t love you enough.
5. Admit you were the one who was wrong (even though you totally weren’t and it is totally your partner’s fault…but hey, you ARE the bigger person anyway, right?)
Inform partner of plans to jump her/his bones. Watch fascinating combination of uncertainty (“What is this sex s/he speaks of again?”), pleasure (“Hey, that used to be fun”) anxiety (“Crap. This means I have stay awake AND take a shower. Plus now I’ve gotta be naked after stress eating cheezits during the last three court dates.”) and irritation (“I wasn’t done being mad about the yogurt, and it is TOTALLY her/his fault and I HATE it when she/he apologizes as though they are the bigger person when they are TOTALLY NOT.”)
6. Put indeterminate number of children into bath and bed early as planned. Then play “child whack-a-mole” putting them back into bed as they pop out innumerable times.
“She hit me with her barbie” “My bug bites itch” “I’m hungry” “He called me doofus” “I’m not tired” “I forgot to take my medicine” “I can’t find my stuffed parasaurolophus” “I forgot to tell you that my teacher says to call her about my throwing stuff in class” “I totally traded you that card and you said I could keep it” “No you didn’t” “Yes you did and no backsies” “No you didn’t” “He hit me!”
Be patient, loving and kind to children, understanding that they are only annoying the crap out of you because of their prior trauma.
7. Scream “If everyone doesn’t get their butts into bed right this second and lay there silently RIGHT NOW there will be no cookies for the rest of your life!”
Berate self for losing it a good 45 minutes. When you finally finish berating yourself (and note that it did, in fact, get quiet), berate yourself another half-hour for not taking seriously enough the trauma you may be inflicting by yelling. Feel totally hot and in the mood…not.
7. Two hours later after cleaning up the mayhem, feeding dog, wiping dishes, performing ablutions, you finally settle down to a well-deserved romantic evening with another glass of wine for each of you. Snuggle close together and look deep into each other’s eyes.
8. Wake up 45 minutes later when one of your snores (who can tell which one) actually crosses the airline take-off decibel limit.
9. Despite the involuntary nap, you ARE going to do this, aren’t you? Put your back into it!
10. Ice back.
11. Go up to bed hand in hand and begin to remove each other’s clothing. While unbuttoning partner’s jeans, casually mention that you are worried about one of little X.’s behaviors and not sure what to do about it.
12. Intense 45 minute discussion of what X.’s habit may mean and how to respond appropriately, including a quick search of the web to find out what everyone else is doing, and also to read about all the horrible things that X. could start doing any moment now.
13. Determine to get right back to this. Remove partner’s jeans. Begin passionately kissing one another, while trying really hard not to notice that if you start having sex right now you will only be getting 5 1/2 hours of sleep. And that’s IF your partner doesn’t demand that thing he/she really likes that you only tolerate and that takes freakin’ forever.
14. Stop thinking about the time as you witness the emergence of parts of your partner that you rarely, if ever, see anymore, since both of you now sleep dressed like Laura Ingalls Wilder/Almanzo Wilder in clothing that covers every inch so that you can rise at any moment in the night to attend to needy children without risking any kind of report to CPS about your underwear.
Stunned by the awakening of sensations that used to be regular parts of your life but now come around as often as excitement upon viewing the French Alps.
15. Begin to make love to beautiful, wonderful partner who you adore for all the things he/she does to make possible your loving family and happy life. Except for the fact he/she is totally wrong about the yogurt thing, partner is PERFECT.
16. Interrupted by wail from child. Rise simultaneously at critical moment to attend to wet bed/bad dream/vomit/beloved stuffed animal fell in toilet.
17. Wearily return to bed. Debate whether you need another shower to remove vague lingering scent of urine/vomit/polyfill dipped in toilet. Decide neither of you cares that much, and that these are fairly normal smells in your life.
Resume activities. Try really hard not to notice that at this point you are only going to get four hours of sleep, or think that partner BETTER NOT demand that thing.
18. Try and pick up where you left off. Note that this is harder than it looks. Try and get back in the mood by imagining hottest possible scenario and drawing on favorite fantasies. Note with frustration that most current fantasies involve a Nanny – not an a hot, hot, scantily clad Nanny who wants you, but a Mary Poppins style Nanny who would take the kids away.
19. Lie back and think of England (and its Nannies). Achieve mutually assured climaxes…or mutual agreement that you’re totally happy with all that has been achieved and feel no actual need to have an orgasm because that would take too long.
20. Ice back. Sleep and agree that you’ll try again tomorrow. Starting on 3 1/2 hours sleep? Of course you will. Assure partner you can already taste his/her….ZZZZZZZ