Friday, April 07, 2006

The way they (don't) quarrel

There is an odd dynamic that I have seen with every one of my placements to some degree or another.

Foster kids all seem to believe (often correctly) that hurting the bio kids will get them ejected from the home. If you have a kid who doesn't want to be there, this can be very, very frightening.

Most of the kids though don't want to be thrown out and so though they may do all sorts of things, they act as though there is an invisible force field around the bio kids. They are nervous too that the bio kids will blame them for anything that goes wrong, even if they are innocent. Sometimes it happens.

Andrew has taken advantage of this. It is a subtle dynamic. After dinner the boys are supposed to clean the kitchen. Andrew does not like to wash the dishes. He will put away the food, wipe down the counters, dry and put away, and sweep. New kids always, remarkably, don't mind doing the washing. They also don't mind sitting in the back seat of the car, or watching whatever Andrew enjoys watching on TV, or turning off their video game to play whatever Andrew wants.

Now I get it. Andrew does not use this fear of theirs in really abusive ways. He does not make them do his chores or run his errands. He knows that if he always accepts the deferential behavior I will step in. It is hard though. I mean, when you really hate washing the dishes and the other kid is insisting that they don't mind, wouldn't you let them do it?

But of course the New Kid does not really want to wash the dishes every night. So, what does he do? Does he stand up to Andrew? Tell him that he is tired of doing the dishes and thinks it is unfair?

Of course not.

New Kid complains to me.

Now I know full well this happens regular ol' biofamilies. It happens like that in my house all the time. "MOOOOMMMM! He's got my game and he won't give it back." "That's not true! It's my game too. He said that if gave him my X then I could play it whenever I wanted!"

It's different though with the foster's and bio's. It goes more like this, "Um...Beth. You never does the dishes." "Have you told him that you don't want to do them?" "No. Could you? Please?" "Sorry. You have to tell him yourself. Don't let him push you around." "I really, really, really want you to tell him." "Sorry."

And then it continues. New Kid keeps doing the dishes and periodically asking me to help. Possibly I break down. I decide that New Kid is being taken advantage of. I either pull Andrew aside and tell him I know what's going on and he needs to cut it out, or I sit the two of them down and tell them to work something out.

Either strategy solves that problem...but there is going to be another one, and this time Andrew is not taking advantage. He really doesn't know that New Kid is frustrated that he never gets to shower first.

New Kid complains to me and I say, "I am really not going to help you on this. You HAVE to talk to him yourself."

In my fantasy world I one day hear New Kid get mad at Andrew. I overhear New Kid saying, "Would you get out of the %$*! shower already?!!! The rest of us would like some hot water, you know!" In my fantasy I rejoice. I email the social worker and tell her that the boys quarrelled! New Kid actually yelled at Andrew! I'm so happy. He is finally feeling safe!

In the real world though the quarrelling just goes underground. New Kid "gets back" at Andrew. He gets up early and takes a shower and drains the hot water heater. New Kid, it turns out, is an expert at passive aggression and manipulation.

Andrew meanwhile, gets angry. He doesn't know what is going on. He genuinely has no idea why this is happening. New Kid never once told him that he was upset about anything. He tries to ask New Kid what the h*** is going on? New Kid denies knowing what he is talking about and continues the campaign. Andrew complains to me.

I come to the conclusion that they are not going to work this out. New Kid is not going to talk about it. New Kid really doesn't have the skills and needs my help. I sigh. I think, "all this drama over who showers first!" I bring the boys together and say they need to figure something out about who showers first.

New Kid glares at me. He later calls his social worker to complain, "She just doesn't treat us the same. When I complain about him she doesn't do anything. But when he complains about me we have a family meeting!"


1 comment:

  1. And you're left pulling your hair. (Or I would be).


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