Tuesday, January 17, 2006


One thing that many kids in foster care need is "groundedness". No, not in the sense that they don't leave the house without supervision, although that is frequently necessary in some cases.

No, I'm talking about a way of living. A grounded person is one who thinks before they act. They don't often say things they don't mean, especially when they're angry or excited. They don't run off to a party at the drop of a hat, drive halfway across the state to visit a vague acquaintence on a momentary whim, or change their plans in midstream. Until recently, I was not very grounded. As far back as I can remember, my father has been one of the most grounded people I've ever known.

Call me a fuddy-duddy if you want--it seems I am getting more that way all the time--but kids need to be able to depend on things. When they come home from school, they need to know they'll be coming home to parents who are there, or will be there soon. Every single day.

An example of what I'm talking about is today. I missed much of it because I was at work until fairly late, but apparently The Wife had to pick up "Josie" from school because she got sick. I'll bow to The Wife's judgement in such matters as whether she was faking or not, and The Wife is comfortable that it wasn't a fake. The girl came home, changed into her pajamas and went to bed. Fair enough.

But then a call from her mother and a quick visit when she dropped by got her all riled up. Apparently some of her family were getting together for dinner to celebrate someone's birthday or somesuch, and "Josie" wanted to go. Never mind that she's still grounded and she was home sick from school today...she just wanted to go. Never mind any plans that have been made...she just wanted to go. Right now. If she was still living at home, she would have gone. And been tired the next morning in school, and then done it all over again the next night, and so on.

Incidents like this are an almost daily occurrence here, and The Wife has done a wonderful job of deflecting her in different directions. It's gotten to be an intellectual exercise for me to read the weather on her face when I get home from work, and from that try to piece together what may have happened today. Did she have a fight with The Wife? Maybe. Usually The Wife has said "no" to at least one thing that formerly she would have gotten her way with no resistance.

"Josie" recognized the crux of this problem in her life without really knowing that it was a problem. I think that's why it was her wish to be placed in foster care. It's probably why I see a ghost of a smile cavorting behind the pout when we say "no" to things that are too sudden, too expensive, too much for us to handle, or just plain seem wrong in one way or another.

She's getting the feeling now that someone besides her is piloting the ship, and I think she's feeling relief at that, because she's not a good pilot yet. It's not her fault; nobody's ever even tried to teach her how to live right. That's what we're doing now. If you listen carefully, you can almost hear her settling into this good life. It suits her. You can see it in the smile on her face every day.

I hope they don't yank her out too soon. This poor girl deserves some serenity, and some time to learn how to do this. And some time to just be a kid.

Besides, I'm hooked on her. She's already like a daughter to me. Sigh. I held out for most of a month, but I knew this was going to happen. It's going to hurt when she goes home.


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