A gray haze covers the island. As I drive home from the children’s school, the clouds part to reveal a white, stark sun. It looks exactly like the moon. Last night, the light was a welcomed change from the absolute darkness but this morning the pale glow is discouraging.
It’s morning. Sunrises are generally something to stop and enjoy here. Many mornings, before the children awake, I’m outside snapping photos of the glorious sky. This morning is different. The look of the sun makes it feel like night.
Yesterday, I sat in a church parking lot but couldn’t gather the strength to go in. We’ve visited one church since coming to Wolfe Island. It was good. I wanted to check out another before making a commitment.
On our journey to the second possible church, another 2 Kinder Egg containers were discovered in the car. That makes a total of 4. I haven’t bought anyone Kinder Eggs in a very long time. These were, undoubtedly, stolen. 9yr old Raine is my primary suspect. She has a history of stealing. 8yr old Athena was recently discovered with Tic Tacs in her coat pocket but they were in Raine’s mouth so I suspect she had a hand in the operation. We returned to the store, Athena produced the container the candies came from. I paid for it then threw them and the contents of her pocket in the garbage. We hurried to catch the ferry. Athena and I cried for shame. Raine remained unmoved.
She wore the same smug look upon the discovery of the additional Kinder Egg containers. “Wasn’t me,” she said with a tone that cut into my already wounded heart. During her second week of school here on the Island, Raine stole $5 from a child. She bought 5 bags of popcorn. When the teacher, who found this suspicious, questioned her, Raine explained that she’d gotten her allowance that day. “Athena and I get $5 every week for allowance. That’s what I used to buy the popcorn.” The teacher called me to confirm this. I denied Raine’s claim. My girls do not get an allowance. It was handled quite well by the school. For the first time, when I spoke with her, Raine seemed to appreciate what she’d done. She owned it. There was no denying. She discussed why it was wrong and how we could make sure it didn’t happen again. This was a first. No matter what it is, Raine will deny to the grave she didn’t do it. On a regular basis I find wrappers in her bed from anything I’m fool enough to keep in my purse or around the house. These days it’s usually only cough drops and ginger candies that help keep everyone quiet when we’re out. Whenever confronted, Raine is adamant that she knows nothing about how they ended up in her bed. Apparently, some other child in the family is planting evidence. When I throw out everyone’s Halloween candy on November 2, it doesn’t phase Raine. After all, the wrappers in her room aren’t from her sneaking candy. So the consequence isn’t hers.
Sitting in the church parking lot, with the newly discovered Kinder Egg containers in my hand, I can’t go in. As I imagine carting my four children into this unknown place, I am certain I won’t be able to muster a smile. At the first hello, I’m liable to breakdown weeping.
We drive away. I attempt to discover which store Raine took the items from to be able to return and pay for them. She’s stoic as though training for the possibility of being a prisoner of war. Nothing moves her. The silence in response to my pleading is eventually drowned out by my own gut wrenching sobs.
I don’t see a solution to this. There are several behaviours I’ve not been able to coax Raine out of. For over five years, she’s been peeing herself on a regular basis. After trying everything imaginable, I’ve given in and keep her in diapers. She seems to count this as a triumph. Nearly a year ago, she began talking off her diaper and smearing pooh around the house. That’s what started the process of us moving. I needed a house where I could better supervise Raine since, once begun, I couldn’t get her to stop.
Living on Wolfe Island has become a partial solution. Raine has only smeared pooh once. She’s not yet taken off her diaper to pee on the carpets or couches of the furnished home we’re renting. That had become so regular in our Beamsville house, I’d gotten rid of all the rugs and living room furniture.
After years of struggling, instead of thinking about correcting the behaviour, quickly I move to, “How can I limit or eliminate Raine’s opportunities to engage in this behaviour?”
After the discovered thefts, likely there are more that I’m unaware of, I think, “How can I avoid taking her to the store with me?”
It’s a logistical challenge. I won’t weary you with all the details. We don’t have laundry where we’re renting. I must go to go to a laundry mat in Kingston. The pellets that heat our house aren’t available on the island. And groceries are better gotten on the mainland. My 4yr old is only in school half days at the moment. I can walk on to the ferry in the morning, get groceries, and get back in time to pick him up. But laundry and pellets, I don’t know. The afternoon is tight as well. That’s why I had been taking all four children toe the laundry mat each week. While things are washing then drying, we run errands like getting pellets and new shoes since they all seem to be growing a mile a minute.
Not being on an island accessible only by ferry would eliminate some of these difficulties. But this is the first place that keeps Raine’s tantrums at bay most days. Prior to coming here, most days I could count on at least an hour of rageful screaming from Raine. She would follow me through the house hurling insults and accusations. In the summer, she accused me of beating her “black and blue” with a ripe pear. Really. A ripe pear caused her to be “unable to breath all day at daycamp.” I didn’t beat her. If I had, I doubt a ripe pear could have possibly caused that extend of damage. When I pointed this out, Raine, as usual, assured me that I was completely wrong. “A soft pear could kill me,” she insisted as though this were a widely known fact.
Today, when I dropped the kids off at school after they missed the bus, I wrote in Raine’s agenda about the Kinder Egg situation. I’ve asked her to return the toys to me. She says she doesn’t have them because she didn’t take the Kinder Eggs. I’ve found 2 toys thus far. Asked her teacher, who is eager to assist in these matters, to keep an eye out for the other toys.
“You took up the entire space,” was all Raine had to say when I handed back her agenda. It’s true. My note took up today’s allotted space. It’s not much of a consolation that she didn’t become inconsolable with screaming. It’s not much, but it’s all I have. Off the island, the same situation would have played out very differently.
There’s something here that calms Raine. It doesn’t extinguish the challenges but enables her to remain composed most of the time.
The stark sun brought me to tears. This is not the life I envisioned for my child. She’s about to turn 10, is in diapers and can’t be unsupervised for more than a couple of minutes. Last week on the ferry, two dads were talking about how they leave their kids at home to run over to the post office or general store. The children are younger than Raine. I smiled and kept my mouth shut, holding in the pain that begged to escape through tears. I go the bathroom with the door open to keep an eye on my 9yr old.
These challenges are not mine alone. Many foster and adoptive parents live in a similar or varying situation. I know I’m not the only one. But it doesn’t make my heart break any less. I cry for myself. I cry for the other children in our family. I cry for Raine who can’t go swimming with her class because there aren’t swimming diapers in her size and she will pee in the pool. The list of adaptations and limitations is long.
It hurts because it didn’t have to be this way. Whether the result of being exposed to drugs in the womb, a head injury as an infant, or neglect and trauma the first few years before she came into foster care I don’t know the cause of these challenges. But I know they all could have been avoided. Without them, I wouldn’t have my daughter. She came to me because the parents first given charge of her were unable to complete the task. I love her. I want her.
But if I’d never met Raine because she’d been healthy and thriving in a strong and stable family I would rejoice. It’s complicated. I chose to parent her and am committed to the task. It’s not done perfectly. My flaws and shortcomings are extensive. But I’m still here, even when the day feels like night. Adoption comes because of great pain. It isn’t a cure. It’s an opportunity.