Monday, January 08, 2007

Pounding Down the Home Stretch

"Jenny" has been notified that she goes home Thursday...and it shows in her behavior, at least toward The Wife.

She's always saved her especially nasty attitudes for The Wife. I'm not sure what that's about, but it was also true to a lesser degree with "Angel" and also "Josie". The Wife has always had to deal with the worst. It's tempting to believe that it's because The Wife has a friendlier and less stern look to them; the simple fact that my voice rumbles a little more and my eyebrows are heavier. Because I'm more or less a typical man and she's more or less a typical woman, there is an instinctive feeling in them that they can get by with more.

There's also the fact that The Wife has almost supernatural patience and I simply don't. Over time, they learn that they can get by with things if they stick with times when only she is around. I can only be pushed so far before it's gonna get ugly. Priveleges will be yanked sooner, voices will get louder faster, and I hold a grudge much longer. They actually have to apologize to me before it'll be all better, while The Wife tends to forgive and forget within a day. I don't know how she does it...but I'm glad she does.

We've been doing this a year now and our roles are coming clear. When it's time for good-cop-bad-cop, I'm clearly the bad cop. When she has used her patience up (as tonight), I have to step in and play a game of monopoly or something (also as tonight). She has to be careful not to let the kids walk on her too much. I have to be careful not to tread to harshly on them...because they tend to be more respectful of me, I also have the power to hurt them more with an inadvertent harsh word or even look.

I take great glee in trying to catch them in the act of doing stuff they aren't supposed to be doing. She hopes they never do those things in the first place and (I think) sort of dreads confrontation. In this, her attitude is more idealistic. Mine is more realistic. I'm also much like my Mom in this. I enjoy the confrontation, at least in part because I know it helps them to learn that confrontation can be handled without people hitting them or verbally or emotionally abusing them. Also, as in "Josie's" case, nobody has ever really confronted some of them before, and they need to get a taste of what life is going to be like once they get out of their chrysalis. Plus, let's face it, after a hard day there's nothing that blows off steam like having a good argument with a brat.

But in the ways that count--really count--we have the same approach. Love them unconditionally, even when we don't love the things they do. Even when the things they do make us want to run and hide our heads in shame or disgust. Especially then. Make them understand that even after they leave here, they're always welcome to visit as often as they like, and we will still love them when they come back. Make sure they know that if they're ever in need of a foster home again because of further problems in their family, we will take them back in if we can. The exception to this so far is "Josie" who we've decided won't be coming back permanently under almost any circumstances, but more on that in another post.

I think we're the right people in the right place, doing the right things for the right people in the right way. So far, at least.

Unless something pops up soon, we have an empty house starting Thursday. A chance to focus on finally finishing most of the basement (or at least as much as our dwindling money supply will allow). A chance to spend some time with each other and rebuild our stock of patience and burn off our stock of aggravation. Take some alone-time, relax and prepare for the inevitable call from "Vicki".

There will be visits from "Josie" and "Melanie" no doubt, and calls from other friends we've made in our new town over the last year and a half. There are surprisingly many of them.

Maybe I'll try to get out ice fishing. Maybe I'll go for a walk. Maybe I'll finally start my book. Maybe I'll go for a walk out on the lake to do some ice fishing while I start my book. Once I shake this cold, the possibilities seem pretty wide open to me right now.

On top of that, I got "in the zone" today at work, and blew through an uninterrupted 10-hour day of good, solid work that seemed like about 2 hours...just like I used to do a lot in college and early in my career while I was first learning my craft.

I love my life.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


I've been down for about 2 weeks now with what has seemed like a morphing, changing cold-flu-malaria-whatever. Yesterday I finally went to the doctor (and missed work) and got some antibiotics. BAM. I felt a little better already last night, and I think I'll be ready to go to work again tomorrow.

In fact, I feel good enough now to reveal and speculate on the only interesting things that have happened lately, and they all obviously have to do with our only current foster child, "Jenny".

The first has to do with her grandma. "Jenny's" grandma is the manager at a local hotel, and it happens that that hotel has a swimming pool. That pool has been the source of regular time-off from fostering for us, as "Jenny" likes to go over there and visit her grandma and swim. Yay. I always liked pools, but I like them in a whole new way now, since "Jenny" doesn't seem to really have any good friends and tends to make life...INTERESTING after awhile when she's the only kid in the house and there aren't others to occupy her.

So last weekend she came back with $20, telling us that she earned it by "organizing boxes". She has been a fairly honest girl, so we simply teased her about it at first. But then, come to talk to grandma, she was missing a 20 that was sitting on a shelf (or somesuch). Oops. Busted.

The Wife is thinking that "Jenny" actually believes in her own mind that she didn't take it. To me, that's not really germaine to the situation. If she took it, and she did, then we should have frogmarched her right to her grandmas and made her give it back and apologize to her grandma to her face. Circumstances made that problematic to do, but I feel that's how it should have been handled. I'm worried she didn't get a lesson out of it that we could have provided, and now we may not get the chance to deliver it.

Because that's the second item that's interesting. "Jenny" apparently will be going home next week, leaving us as incredibly young empty-nesters. Her sister has been evaluated and will be going to some sort of residential facility for awhile, and "Jenny" will be going home in her place. This is actually how I think it should have worked out in the first place, but better late than never I guess. Her sister is a terror and if she was a few years older I might actually be a little afraid of her. I'm NEVER afraid of children, but I just get the feeling there's something wrong with that one. I have very little to base it on...just a strong hunch that she's bad news. I definitely would not allow her to babysit a child, for instance. Now I guess we'll get a chance to see what the experts think.

The third (related) item is that we drew the short straw and get to tell "Jenny" about how her life will be changing. Problems aside, she really has done pretty well here and we love her like our own...or at least I do. Maybe The Wife will be less sorry to see the back side of her, since she was much more difficult when I wasn't around. But she's going to have another difficult transition time ahead of her, and I'm a little concerned about her. Not too much though, because I think her sister was probably the spark plug that fired the Engine Of Doom that is that family. Without her around all the time to instigate, I think "Jenny" and her mom will probably work toward a pretty nice equilibrium.

I should also mention here that as I've gotten to know "Jenny's" mom, I've gotten to like her quite a lot. She seems like a pretty decent mom overall, and maybe she's just had too much dumped on her. She's made some really positive changes and The Wife has especially developed a strong rapport with her. I suspect she may develop into a long-running family friend, however things work out.

I still haven't met the dad, who spends most of his time working on the road. That's kind of a big unknown in my analysis of this family...but as I've said before you've gotta give every member of the family the benefit of the doubt when you can.