Life, it sure has a way of slapping you in the face on a random Wednesday. Let me set the scene for you. I was a hot mess, lying in bed because I was home sick with a terrible stomach ache, and the phone rang. The number did not look familiar so I ignored it. A voicemail popped up on the screen, and I thought, “crap someone actually wants to talk to me enough that they left a voicemail.” Didn’t they realize I was sick and trying to be a hermit? Reluctantly I listened to the voicemail and a large pit developed in my stomach when the school guidance counselor asked that I call to talk to her about my foster son. I did as I was asked and called her back. In the end, inappropriate things were written on his paper and she wanted me to speak to him about his behavior in class. I went into total “beast mode.” I hashed out my plan. No electronics, grounded for the weekend, reading a book to educate himself about the words written on the paper. I was annoyed. How dare he interrupt my sick day with this?!
A few texts were exchanged pertaining to the situation, and that night I explained to him why I was mad and what the consequences for his actions would be. He took it as any teenager would, but seemed to be handling it well. Fast forward a couple days. I told him that if he read the educational literature that had been checked out of the library for him, and could answer my questions about it because I would be reading the same book, that he could have his computer back. Here I was thinking I was so smart for using discipline and education as the ultimate double whammy. He did as he was asked and the computer was returned.
The following day started off just like any other weekend day before report cards are due; with me flip flopping back and forth between being insanely annoyed that kindergarten report cards were so lengthy and being so immensely proud of the progress my students had made. My foster son woke up and did his thing while I did mine. Then life came back around and decided she would knock me down one more time just for fun. Once in a week is never enough, right?
My foster son began acting out even more so than he had earlier in the week. Being the classy and composed person that I am, I completely flipped out on him. It was ugly. I yelled and cried and then yelled some more. I said things that I wish I had never said. I ended up having to call my mom to the house because I needed to get out and wanted her to stay with him. The rest of the night I was a mess. My anxiety was through the roof, I was so mad, frustrated, upset, hurt, annoyed, and everything in between.
My foster son and I both went to bed early that night and I woke up the next day still upset and on edge. As many of you know, teenagers sleep basically all day so by the time he woke up I had calmed down enough to have a conversation with him. I held nothing back. I told him how I was feeling and in that conversation he only said three words, but those three words gave me insight into a social situation he was involved in that I wasn’t aware of. Suddenly, I had a small epiphany that perhaps instead of freaking out I should have tried to ask him about why these behaviors were suddenly occurring. In that moment I felt some of my anger leave me.
Our conversation ended, and my mom came back over so I could run to the store for a bit. When I got home the lawn had been raked and looked beautiful. My foster son had gone out with my mom and raked it while she used the leaf blower. Yes, my mom made him help, but quite frankly he could have refused and shut down more than he already had, but he didn’t. That night we talked some more and things slowly went back to a state of calm and normalcy.
That brings us to today. We spoke with an outside third party who is amazing and calming and figured out what would happen going forward. I left the meeting feeling confident that this hiccup in our relationship could be overcome and that things would go up from here. When we got in the car to go home he talked to me about a bunch of different topics, and for a second I almost started to cry. Not tears of frustration or anger this time, but rather tears of gratitude. I was thankful for that moment in the car because it made me realize how much this kid who would barely speak when the social worker brought him to my house one evening in the beginning of January had grown. Yes, he behaved poorly, and yes my trust is still shaken, but this is what parenting is about, right? We have to help them realize what is and is not acceptable.
I learned many lessons in just a few short days. I learned that even the best kids make mistakes. I learned that perhaps we should look for the root cause rather than just freaking out. I learned that no matter how many foster care classes a parent takes it is still very possible that they might act like a complete mad person when they are upset. I learned that a strong support system is key. Most importantly, I learned that no matter how many times you’re knocked down in a week, chances are, things will work out in the end.