Yesterday I turned 38. It was supposed to occur without much fanfare. I’m looking forward to celebrating my 40th in a significant manner. But 38 didn’t seem to warrant much notice. I went to a meeting to figure out some next steps as a foster parent. The girls and I went out for lunch with my mom.
While eating a light dinner, my friend called asking if her foster child could come over. It’s a common call. The teen with FAS often finds life challenging. Usually she’s able to calm down when removed from the situation and brought to my house.
Last night that didn’t happen. The girl was especially angry about being with us. Everything in her wanted to make me feel the pain she was carrying.
“You’re fat,” she yelled at me several times. With no response from me, she decided to hurl a greater insult. “You eat cake alone! I know you do!” she spit the words as if this were the most vile accusation imaginable.
I wanted to laugh. “Yes,” I replied in all seriousness, “I do eat cake alone.”
Having been in my home on a regular basis for 6 1/2 years this was the most damning charge she could bring against me.
I must confess, I eat a great deal of cake and – whenever possible – do so alone. It’s my reward after a long hard day. And most days are both long and hard. But I show up and most of the time do my very best. I think that deserves a continual celebration involving cake.
Things with our visitor unraveled further. The words she’d meant to wound me with, only made me laugh.
“It’s your birthday,” Raine cried as we sat in the dinning room while the teen threw books and toys around upstairs, “and she’s wrecking it.”
Eventually, when our visitor came downstairs and began throwing chairs and anything else she could get her hands on, I called 911. This was my first emergency call in 38 years. Standing in the doorway to the kitchen with Raine and Athena behind me, I felt there was no other option. The teen backed away from us a little. I could hardly spell my last name to the 911 operator. My hands were shaking and I was crying.
A fellow blogger criticized me because of my post about saying no to a child who needed a home. Her words played through my mind as my daughters and I ran to the car in pouring rain to wait for the police – no coats, no shoes – “some people just opt for the easy life”. This is not easy! I shouted at the unknown stranger who passed this judgment. As I told the woman in my response, which she had not approved, to say I’ve chosen an easy life is laughable.
I chose this. I decided to become a foster parent who specializes in caring for older, special needs children. Because of that police cruisers are parked in front of my house on my birthday when all I wanted to do was put the kids to bed and enjoy another piece of cake on my own. Easy is not the right word.
Nor does it sum up the decision I made to not let the teen back in my home again. The officers calmed her down. She took her medication and went to bed. In the morning she remained incredibly hostile towards me but did head off to her school down the street. I closed the door, having resolved she will never be with us again.
In the end her foster parents have had to make the same decision. As this girl tells her life story, no doubt there will be outrage when people discover after 6 1/2 years her foster parents and I, sort of her foster aunt, “gave up” on her. That’s how it will look to the casual reader of this child’s life.
As I sit alone tonight, eating cake, I am assured that’s not how my Heavenly Father sees it. He understands the full picture, something a single blog or solitary fact can’t capture.