Tuesday, April 25, 2006

An Allegory

Once upon a time, there was a woman who was having a difficult time in her marriage. Things were rocky; they were fighting a lot. A social worker showed up at work one day and said that she had been talking to the woman's husband and they had decided it wasn't going to work. The social worker had a suitcase of clothes packed for the woman. She said, "Let's just go now. I'm going to take you to your new home. There is a husband there who is very anxious to get to know you. Someone will pack all of your things for you and bring them over soon. We will find you a new job near your new home."

The woman said goodbye to the friends she made at work. She did not like the idea of someone else packing all of her things, but what was she to do?

After a month or so at the new house the social worker showed up again and said that she had found the woman a new forever-husband. He had read all about her and was so very excited. The social worker was just certain that they would fall in love and live happily ever after. The social worker dropped the woman off and the man said, "I'm so happy you are here. I love you already. Make yourself at home."

The woman knew he did not love her. He did not even know her. He did not know what she was like when she was cranky or what her favorite movie was. But she tried. She tried to get close. It was hard though. How was she supposed to just "turn on" love for this strange man? "Don't you want to be in love?" the social worker kept asking. What was wrong with her, she wondered. Of course she wanted to be in love, she just did not feel it. There must be something wrong with her. She kept thinking that there was something creepy about this man who did not know her saying that he loved her, but everyone else said that he really did and she should love him back. She did not know how to do it though.

Eventually the social worker showed up again to tell her that the man had decided he did not want to be a husband. She knew it was because she couldn't love him. Something was very, very wrong with her.

The social worker found her a new husband. What was the point, she thought? I can't love anyone and no one can love me. The woman closed off. The new man, who did not really know her, kept saying he loved her. He kept saying that he would be there forever and ever. She knew it was a lie. How could he promise to love her forever when he did not even know her? Maybe he was just stupid. Maybe he was just the sort of person who was in love with the idea of having a wife. The woman started getting angry whenever he told her that he loved her. She decided to show him what she was really like. She brought out all of her worst qualities. She showed him everything that was bad in her. He was stunned. She had been so quiet for so long. He said that he loved her still, but she could hear in his voice that he was afraid. She decided that this time she was going to be the one to do the leaving. She called the social worker and said, "GET ME OUT OF HERE!"

And the social worker found her a new husband. The woman protested that she did not want any more husbands. Couldn't she just live somewhere in peace without people making promises they would not keep? Why did she have to be in love in order to have a place to live?

"But don't you want to be in love?" the social worker asked.

"Yes...but why do I have to love someone just to have a place to live? All I want is somewhere that I can live."

Of course the woman is not a woman, but a teenager. The teenager is a youth who has come to my home. The youth is a boy who is 16. The boy is tired. He just wants somewhere to live.

I say to the boy, "I'm not going to be your mother; just your aunt. Things probably won't work out very well if we don't learn to like each other, but I think we probably will. I just want you to know that if we get close that's cool. If we don't get super close, that's okay too. Either way, you can live here until you are ready to live by yourself."


  1. That's brilliant.

  2. We have foster parents in our program who have been doing this for over 25 years. They are tired and they send kids back now after a few set-backs (they used to be the super foster parents, but they have detached because they were hurt so many times).

    Anyway, their foster kids call them "mom" and "dad" immediately and that has always made me uncomfortable. Especially now when I know how many they have sent back.

    From our standpoint, we are uncomfortable with the instant, artificial family. We don't jump right into "I love yous" and our kids still call us a combo of mom names and first names (unfortunately, so does our 2 year old).

    Interesting set of posts.

  3. i loved this post.

  4. We get it slammed into our brains that these kids will never learn to form good relationships if they don't have the parent thing going on.

    Holly and I try to give them space. With the older kids, we just don't have time to push bonding. We did with our first kid, who was twelve then. It was the right thing for her, although I don't know if we knew the difference then. The other teens also had bioparent involvement, and we viewed that as a barrier to bonding. We can't dis the bio parents to their kids, they have to see the difference of good and bad parents themselves.

    sorry for the rambling comment, but your post made me think.

  5. I adore this story! It's brilliant. You should publish it.

    There must be a way to share this terrific insight. If you want, I'd be happy to promote it on your behalf, giving you full credit for the story. I won't do anything unless you give me your permission.

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    Please let me know what you decide.

  6. Anonymous1:39 PM

    What a wonderful, wonderful analogy! I've often heard about foster child situations and wondered why the child just couldn't accept that someone loved them. I mean, they were opening their homes and giving their time and hearts to a total stranger. I never stopped to think that little total stranger could be a bit suspicious and overwhelmed. Thank you for giving me insight. I've learned so much from your blog. I send wishes of peace and good energy to your family and hope that many blessings come your way.

  7. My goodness Yondalla. I just came over to your blog from Cindie's. I was reading your background, and this post hit me like a ton of bricks.

    I've been fretting about why my 18 year old unoffical foster son has been holding me at arms link. He's been with us 3 months now.

    This really, really put me in his shoes. Thanks so much.

  8. Yes, this is ture. We are not trying to take Mommies place. We are doing the best we can to show the kids better and how to love themselves so they can be adults and mommies and daddies of their own. :) this is wondeful

  9. Tricia1:59 PM

    I'm a biological mom/adoptive mom/foster mom. We currently have 5 kids living in our house. I really enjoy reading your blog, especially on tough days. Thanks for sharing. I also do some foster parent training in our state and was wondering if I could share this allegory with prospective foster parents. I think it really gives insite into what the child feels and our expectations of them. My email is sandtwilkins@brookings.net

  10. This is fantastic. I am training director for a foster care and adoption agency and I stumbled upon your blog when I was googling something about foster care training. Boy, am I glad I did! I like to think I am a good trainer and that I know a lot about foster care. However, I am not a foster parent and it is so helpful to me to get such good perspective from a foster parent. Thank you for what you are doing. We need more foster parents - especially those willing to work with teens. I look forward to reading more of your blog.

  11. Anonymous8:50 PM

    Stumbled upon this. I am the adult bio-child of former foster parents who adopted four kids. They did it my whole childhood so I feel intimately acquainted with the system, but can never understand what it was like for the kids who came to live with us. This is absolutely great. Thanks!


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