On our student's 4th week with us, I pointed out the milestone by saying "Happy Month-a-versary!" To which she answered, "Really? it feels like its been forever!" We both smiled and went on to discuss the nuances behind the word month-a-versary.
She was right though, it truly feels like she's been part of our family for an undefinable amount of time. Was it pure luck that our student is mature beyond her own knowing it was a breeze to transition into a whole new life? Is it the way she's been brought up? Was it that we were incessantly in touch with her and her family for three months before she arrived? Were we so prepared for the experience that we were killing it at family-ing with a human child (as opposed to just dogs)? Maybe its the fact that we have been filled to the last brim of time with activities and preparations for the school year, that none of us have had any chance to screw anything up? Oh wait, in true wizarding fashion, it is because she is a Hufflepuff!! (Refer to my last post for reference).
The questions are endless on how this whole thing has managed to be so successful thus far, and not because we thought it would be hard, but because it truly has been smooth and we aren't bracing ourselves for the rug to be pulled out under us at an unsuspecting moment. Frankly, I could just credit the awesomesauce my spouse and I are buuuut... Instead of continuing to wander the unwanderable... I am just going to bask in that magic and let it keep reigning over our home. It seems to make more sense, to share some of the efforts we put forth to have a successful family in general, along with some of the things we did to prepare for her arrival.
- Talk, talk, talk! It is safe to say that I am a gabber and my spouse is not. Oversharer and introvert. Life of the party and get off my lawn! Kidding aside, the middle ground for us is talking. With that comes setting expectations, having "ground rules" for all conversations, such as listen to one another's full thoughts, ask questions but not question the other's feelings, and when yelling begins (because it will), it is time to walk away, cool-off, but then reconvene to close the matter. Yeah, it sounds incredibly unromantic to have essentially a "prenup" for talking, but believe you me, it makes life so easy to manage with your partner AND the strategies truly help with communicating with others, even when they don't play by the same rules... at least you know you did all you could.
- Own your feelings and express them as they impact you, don't assign them to others or make them responsible for them.
- Consent, consent, consent! Always ask before you act, even when you intend well or want to "surprise" another person. Respect for a person's autonomy is shown through requesting consent from them in all circumstances. Conventional romanticism of our gender, family, or societal roles really mess this whole lived experience up, so the best way to impact and change that is to practice it! Everyone gets to give their consent (or not), regardless the circumstance.
Prepping for our Hufflepuff:
- We wrote a "Survival Guide" in lieu of the traditional "Household Rules" - which we did send ahead of time for her to review. Our student told us she loved this because it told her WHAT she got to do while living with us, and HOW to go about it - instead of stifling her into a box of expectations that would be a struggle to meet perfectly (I am happy to share the document with you!)
- We filled her room with photos & decor of things that are about her. Images that depicted the dreams she'd shared with us, or symbols of inside jokes we'd established, handmade trinkets that acknowledged her individuality... and so many pillows on her bed it was as if she was going to ride clouds into her night slumber. Our house is small, so we also made sure to prep other common areas to where she could do homework quietly since she would not have a desk in her room.
- I sent her a food questionnaire during one of our many chats, asking about likes, dislikes, allergies, and general feelings around food. Personally, this was a most helpful thing during our prep work for her arrival. I love to cook but I am also a picky eater, my spouse will sometimes fend for himself even when I cook because we function independently like that... but she would have no way of just getting in the car and doing the same. Living in a semi rural area also wouldn't afford her the option to ride a bike or walk to...well anywhere! There is no worse way to feel ostracized and unwelcome than to not have enjoyable nourishment. So with the info on this questionnaire, we had many discussions about food, food culture, and I was prepared to cook dishes she would enjoy, adjusted our grocery budget to account for foods she (and my spouse) would eat and drink, and overall allowed us to adapt our food habits to include her as part of our home.
One forever down and a lifetime yet to go...oh oh the places we will go!
This journey of hosting has so far gifted us with tons of laughter and joy- and we continue to learn about each other every day, our habits, our quirks, the things the bug the heck out of each other too, but all in all, I feel we prepared the best where it mattered most. I remember trying to clean up the kitchen before picking her up & my spouse exclaiming "she's not going to care that's out of place you know!" He was right, she didn't, she makes a mess right alongside us and then helps clean it up too. It has been beautiful to see her push out past her comfort zone, try new foods, welcome new routines, have difficult conversations, and embrace her little furry siblings too!