After bearing my soul in a most detailed manner, I picked my 4yr old up from school. Made lunch. Watched a documentary on sustainable farming while making bread. In other words, the day went on as usual. But I … Continue reading
Today Raine is 9yrs old. Next month, makes 6yrs since she came to me – a chubby and gruff 3yr old. Her voice was like that of an elderly woman who’d been smoking all her life. It used to cause … Continue reading
“When I get married it will be to a guy who does all the work,” Athena
recently announced. “I’ll just sleep all day long. I’ll never leave my bed. He’ll have to bring me food. And I’ll have kids so they can unload the dishwasher.”
Clearing her dishes after meals and unloading the clean dishes from the dishwasher are a few of the chores Athena must do. Evidentally, she doesn’t really enjoy the tasks.
Raine quickly reminded her that the kids would be babies for a while. “They won’t even be able to do it until they’re like 4.”
“That’s fine,” Athena replied. “My husband will do it until then. He’ll do everything – the cooking, cleaning, all the stuff. And I’ll do nothing.”
My comments did not cause her to amend this dream. Considering Athena is a bundle of energy and hates being alone even for a few minutes, I seriously doubt she’ll live in this ridiculous manner. So, parents, there’s really no need to worry if she does, eventually, catch your son’s eye. I have at least another 15 years to get her ready for a proper relationship. Really, there’s no need to worry yet.
“You need to go play,” I told Raine again. She hovered around the entrance to the kitchen. When I shooed her away, she ran down the hall to the other entry point.
Her booming voice listed off all the details of her imaginary horse, Sarah. Dr. Phil was rolling on my laptop and the radio was playing in the background.
“Go play upstairs,” I’d said more than a few times. Up there Athena and J were building dragons with Lego. Raine refused, remaining close by and vying for my attention. I ended up giving it more than I should. Her complicated story line drew me in.
The enchiladas took forever to make. But were met with shouts of joy when the kids arrived at the dinner table. After a few bites they were strangely quiet.
“What’s wrong?” I asked from the kitchen where I was trying to tidy up a bit before sitting down with them.
“It’s spicy,” J answered.
“It’s fine. Eat.”
I sat down and had a taste. It was spicy. Eating a few more bites, I wondered why. I’d not done anything different. It was the same brand of enchilada sauce we always bought. But it was definitely spicy.
The kids pushed things around on their plates. I loaded them up with more sour cream and glasses of milk. They picked at what is usually their favourite meal. I gave up on encouraging them to eat. Clearing the enchiladas, I gave them apples and cereal.
After dinner, putting the empty sauce can in the garbage, I discovered it was hot sauce instead of mild.
After a good laugh, I told the kids, “This is why you need to be quiet in the grocery store when I ask you to.” Our trip to the store had been particularly frenzied as three ADHD kids shouted endlessly, “Look at this!” What they pointed out had nothing to do with what I was actually trying to find on the shelves. Seems I accidently grabbed the wrong sauce.
“And Raine, you should have gone to play upstairs,” I added. Seems I’m not as good at multi-tasking as I need to be.
“Otherwise we end up with a spicy supper,” J commented, through peals of laughter.
“Exactly. This is why I need you to be quiet sometimes.
I’d like to say, ‘lesson learned’ but that’s unlikely.
“We are not at war,” is something I find myself saying quite often. It was my 9yr old foster child who introduced the concept. She was sent to her room for being very disrespectful to me one day. With a history of explosive behaviour, it’s best to have her in the safety of her room when this sort of anger starts to bubble up.
In her room, we talked about why she was upset. Her response to being removed from the game she was playing with the other kids was, “Now you’re going to pay. You’ve blocked me from doing what I want so I’ll block you from doing things.”
“That’s not how it works. I’m the parent and you’re the child. There are consequences to how you behave because it’s my job to teach you the right way to interact with people,” was my explanation.
J disagreed, informing me, “We’re at war. You do something to me and then I do something worse to you.”
“We are not at war,” I assured her. “We’re not enemies. We’re really on the same side. We’re both trying to make your life as wonderful as it can be.” The truth is, being a child in foster care who has suffered a great deal of trauma, there is a limit on just how wonderful things can be. J is often overwhelmed by emotions that are far from wonderful. But there’s still the possibility of carving out a degree of wonderful in the midst of what she’s going through. There’s always that possibility for each of us.
“No,” she argued. “We’re not on the same side. We’re at war.”
“I am not your enemy,” I answered. But in the moment, we certainly seemed to be on opposing sides. I was struggling to pull her out of the darkness wanting to overtake her. J was adamantly opposing my efforts. In truth, we are not at war. We are not enemies. Yet so often I find myself in the midst of a battle zone as I fight against fear and insecurity. It arises in the children; it comes out in me. There’s a fear in loving, in being together. That’s what we’re fighting against. But we are not warring against each other.
Raine was quick to pick up J’s philosophy. And my new mantra has become, we are not at war. We are not warring against each other as J and Raine suggest when they find my correction unwelcomed and, as far as they can see, unnecessary. It’s not something to put on a plaque but something I say more than you can imagine – like when Raine is sure she needs to put on underwear from the dirty clothes bin when it’s time to go to church. We’re all on the same side and we’re all fighting against the things that seek to derail us. As I say it, taking a deep breath, I remind myself we’re not enemies. We’re working together on something wonderful.