This morning I am looking for a pork recipe in a vegan cookbook. Several pages in, my mistake is apparent. Laughing, I move on to a more likely source. These are the things I do. Tired and continually pulled upon, parenting is hard. A mistake less obvious than the cookbook was taking my 11yr old special needs foster child shopping in the US. It was her first time across the border. Along with my 17yr old foster child, we went with another mom and her three foster kids. Our crew was familiar territory for Megan*. So her anxiety surprised me. We went to McDonald’s, Home Depot, and Target. Nothing off the charts experience wise. Though Target hasn’t yet come to our area, we spend a fair bit of time at Wal-Mart which seems comparable.
Megan was clearly not coping the two days we were away. Getting home brought her a margin of relief. Then she went to our traveling companion’s home for the weekend. This is a common occurrence. Every 6wks I get a paid weekend off. My foster children go to another foster home so I can have a bit of a break.
When Megan came back she was enraged. Sitting down at the dinner table she started shouting at me. Despite a weekend off, I wasn’t ready for that. I sent her to her room with dinner. Upstairs she continued raging. After collecting myself, I went up to talk to her. Hearing me coming, Megan dashed into the bathroom.
“What’s wrong?” I asked through the door.
“I hate you!”
“You treat me like a baby!”
“I don’t mean to do that. Can you please tell me what I do that makes you think I’m treating you like a baby?”
“You send me to my room when I’m screaming at you!”
“If you were a baby, Megan, you couldn’t be alone in your room. So that’s not a good example.”
“Once you gave me a snack on a plastic plate!”
I do avoid plastic even with the little kids. But occasionally it happens.
“The glass plates were all dirty. Everyone had a plastic plate that day. I wasn’t treating you like a baby.”
“You make me put away my own laundry! That’s treating me like a baby.”
“Really?” I’m looking for sense in that like a pork recipe in a vegan cookbook. It’s not going to happen. But after days of searching I can’t laugh it off.
Megan continues in a hostile state. She’s proud to reveal that she’s told everyone at school I’m the “meanest mother ever”. In the compassionate culture of Canada, the tale is likely to be believed. Understandably, foster children illicit a great deal of sympathy.
“What makes me the meanest mom?” I ask Megan.
“You help me brush my hair because I can’t always do it myself,” she venomously shouts.
“Sometimes you give me special treats like ice cream!”
“When was the last time I took you out for ice cream?”
“In the summer at the cottage.” She’s confident of the atrocities I’ve committed.
“Well, I won’t be doing that again.”
“And you better not give me any candy for Easter. I really shouldn’t have candy because it makes me hyper.”
Given that it’s March and the last time Megan had ice cream was August, you’d be right to assume I don’t give her much candy/special treats. Our diet is pretty pure. I make most things (with coconut sugar and organic whole wheat flour). I’ve even started making my own almond milk trying to keep the kids off dairy. Rest assured, Megan’s diet involves very little candy/special treats. Yet this is the charge she brings against me. From the outside looking in it’s laughable.
Her final admission is closer to the truth. “You take me on trips! I’m never going again! I’m going to rip up my passport!”
Later it comes out that Megan was deeply disturbed by the male border guard randomly checking car trunks while we waited to cross. Already afraid of leaving Canada, this was more than she could bear. A lengthy conversation ensued. I assured Megan she had nothing to worry about. My explanation of the situation seems to have snapped her out of the fear manifesting as anger. Happy, she goes off to play with the other kids. I’m left trying to make sense of it all. From what I know of Megan’s background a border guard/police presence shouldn’t have upset her. Me tracing the logical progression of thoughts/emotions is as likely as finding a pork recipe in a vegan cookbook. It’s a hard fact to accept. But I’m trying. Most of this job doesn’t make any sense at all – the system, the social workers, the birth parents, the kids. I’d like it to. That’s the flaw in my design. Sometimes I still need it to all make sense. But it can’t. Time to laugh at myself and move on.
*name changed for obvious reasons