Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Conversation about realistic expectations

All in all, last evening with Evan turned out to be very satisfactory. I started off as the evil foster mom, in the was good.

His boyfriend who speaks to him every day on his cell phone (they both have the same carrier and can therefore speak indefinitely) called the house to ask if he could speak to Evan and said that it was urgent. Uh-huh. Right. I however took the cordless phone to Evan, who was talking to someone else on his cell phone. Half an hour later he called again. Now I figure if he is calling the house phone that means that Evan doesn't want to talk to him. I mean, Evan has call waiting. He never puts down the blasted cell. If Evan has turned off the phone to nap or rest or is just not taking boyfriend's calls, then I want to respect that. I certainly do not want to be pulled into the middle of some quarrel. So I told boyfriend, in what Hubby assures me was a very nice tone of voice, "You really have to call the cell, not the house line."

Evan, however, had picked up the other extension and heard this. He came upstairs hurt and angry. Could I PLEASE not be rude to his friends? Could I just be a LITTLE nice? Andrew and Brian have cell phones and I never tell their friends they are not allowed to call the house line. His boyfriend is very sensitive and worried about whether I like him and when I am RUDE like that, it really hurts him.

After everyone had gone to bed I went to remind Evan that he needed to do the dishes. He told me that he would, but that the dishes were not going anywhere and he was having a bit of a crisis here. I asked him if I could help. "Do you have any codeine?"

I said no, but that if he had time I really wanted to talk about summer school and work and managing stress.

We had a nice long talk. It took some doing, but I finally (I think)convinced him that there was no shame in telling people that he could not do everything that he had signed up for. That it was okay to tell the manager of the sandwich shop that he could only work weekends for the five weeks that he was in summer school.

He was worried about being fired. I told him that I thought it was unlikely, that this man is used to dealing with teenagers who just flake on him and will probably appreciate having one kid be upfront and tell him honestly what he can do.

The whole notion of making reasonable goals seemed quite foreign to him. (I blame all the motivational posters that say, "Aim for the stars, you just might make it to the moon.")

So I don't know what will happen next. He has not go to school without his drug in years and I know that no matter how much he minimizes the stress in other aspects of his life, that will be a challenge for him. So maybe he will make it. Maybe he won't. In either case though, I am glad that we had that conversation.

next on evan

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Letting my anxiety be

Evan starts summer school in two weeks. He has not dealt with school without his drug for years. He is, in my opinion, over-committed.

I am seeing the start of school as a the beginning of the hardest part of Evan's recovery journey. Oh part of me knows that I could be wrong about that. It could be that having to get up early every day and staying busy all day will actually be good for him. It is also possible that it will be hard but that he will be rise to the challenge and be just fine.

Still, I think about it. In two weeks (less now), he starts school. He will be, I believe, at high risk for relapse.

I feel very calm about that. He could start using, or not. Who knows? I can't do anything about it and I will be okay either way...sad if he uses, but okay. So all the codependency work is kicking in.

On the other hand I do feel tempted to treat him like a child dying of cancer. I want to enjoy this moment, this day. I remind myself that whatever happens next, this time is good. I want to do something special with him.

Of course I need to keep myself in check. The last thing he needs is someone treating him like a dying child! That really would freak him out.

But I should get some extra special time anyway. The weekend before summer school is the Pride Parade and Festival. It will be a good excuse for a little family fun.

Monday, May 29, 2006

A day in the life of a recovering codependent

So I thought today about how hard Evan is working. I thought that I would like to say something nice to him. I would like to tell him "I know you are working hard. Good job."

But all this Al-Anon stuff gets me tied in knots. Does this mean that I am "taking his inventory"? Trying to control him through praise? Getting invested and developing expectations?

For the first time since I started all this codependency work I really wanted to just chuck it all. I was tired of trying so hard, analyzing my motives. I wanted to be spontaneous. I wanted to feel like a parent for a few minutes.

I actually called my sponsor about it. We talked for half an hour.

I came home determined. I was going to do the mommy thing. I was going to give him a little of the praise he deserved. I knocked on his door. He answered; I opened it and said, "How you doing?"

He just looked at me and knew something was different. "What's wrong? Are you checking up on me? I'm not using."

"All I said was, 'How are you doing?'"

"But something's up. What's going on?"

We did this for a couple more rounds. He was just getting more anxious about whatever it was that I was hiding from him. I was finding it funny, which wasn't helping him to relax any. Finally I said, "Okay. I wanted to remind you that tonight is your night to cook dinner."

"Well, why didn't you just say so? Geez."


I did, by the way, when he was cooking casually say, "I wanted you to know that I have noticed how hard you are working. Good job." He nodded.

Evan and the rebellious twins

Evan wants to go see the new action movie. Hubby plans on seeing in next week with all the boys when Carl is home.

Evan understands that, but he wants to go NOW. He wants someone to go with him.

He complained to me that he called "the twins" but their mother said they could not see a movie that was rated PG-13. He was shocked. PG-13!!! The twins are 17! He said, "S & D should stand up to her! Being a teenager MEANS rebelling!"

S & D! I confirmed that these were the same twins who used to live next door to us. I learn to my surprise that they are actually in public school.
"Their mother said they could go to school for their junior and senior years." "Do they know you are gay?"

"Sure. I keep getting friends like that don't I? I mean I know they are conservative, but we get along. I just don't understand why they don't rebell at least a little against their mother."

"Honey, their mother is the most conservative woman on the planet. She used to take their shoes away from them in the summer so that they would not run around and become tomboys. She is Christian fundamentalist and you are a gay recovering drug addict who does not believe in God. You are the reason she kept the twins out of school for 10 years. Every moment they spend with you is an act of rebellion."

Failing to praise

So Evan keeps asking me how I think he is doing.

Unfortunately I keep telling him the truth. I think if I were not worried about the addiction I might have a more positive outlook, but I confess that I am mostly seeing the downsides.

So he is proud of himself.
-He has held a job now for 9 days.
-He went to extra 12-step meetings last week bringing him to 6 of the 11 he should have done by now.
-He is not quarrelling with the boys.
-He believes he is not isolating himself as much, because he works and makes a point of spending 15 minutes a day talking with me. "And I am in the living room all the time watching TV after you all go to bed."
-He registered for summer classes.

He is very proud of himself for all of this. From his perspective it is great strides of accomplishment. He wants and expects praise from me.

And I fail him. He asks me how he is doing and I jump at the opportunity to tell him that I am disappointed that he has not made an appointment with the psychiatrist like he promised and that he has stopped taking his blood pressure medication. I feel proud of myself for NOT mentioning that he could be working harder on catching up with his meeting commitment, or that I think it was wrong of him to call in sick because he had been socializing the night before, or that it makes me nervous that he complains so much about his co-workers.

Now I will be the first one to tell you that it is important to praise progress. I get that praising the smallest efforts is more effective than any other response. I know this.

It is hard to get myself into that place with Evan right now.

I have been working hard at not being co-dependent, but that has meant trying NOT to worry too much about everything that he is not doing.

I have forgotten that part of my job is to notice and reward all the little steps.

There is much that he is not doing, but there is much that he is. Measured against what he was doing before; he is making strides. He is working hard. He deserves a little praise.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Coming and being out...what if I had known?

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am out as a parent of gay children. I have marched in the Pride Parade, lobbied the state legislature, and written letters to the editor. I am active in PFLAG and do what I can to help other parents support their kids.

When I look back at my life over the past six years I do not regret a single step. But what if I had known what it was going to be like?

What if I had known that being at the Pride Parade would put me in the position of knowing that one of the most powerful woman at work was a closeted lesbian? What if I knew that she would hate me for knowing? What if someone were to say, "In four years, when you get evaluated, she will be your division chair and so be a required reviewer AND she will be a last minute replacement on the evaulation committee when someone else gets sick. This will hurt your standing at work."

I think I would have still done it. But I would have been more careful.

What if someone had told me: you will loose your church over this?

Andrew, Brian, and Carl were all baptized there. It was the place where I found faith after I had lost it. I thought it was my home. I thought I was safe. What if I had known that people whom I liked and trusted, who liked and respected me, would say the things they did about my Carl? What if I had known that other people who I respected would privately tell me how wrong they thought they were, and then publically stand with them? What if someone had been able to show me a video clip of the day I would hand the president of the congregation my letter of resignation. See her hug me and say, "Don't go." See me pull out of the hug, step away from a woman with whom I had shared so much and say, "I can't stay."

Would I have decided not to come out at church? Would I have quietly left without bothering to fight?

I knew that I was going to loose a couple of friendships. I was prepared for that and it was no worse than I expected.

What if I had known I was going to be defending my child in the principal's office?

What if I had known I would call the police because my 10-year-old son could not walk his dog without a neighbor yelling "Fa***t" at him?

What if I had known I would one morning be calling the middle school to tell them that I was forcing my then 13-year-old to go to school even though he was afraid because yesterday someone told someone in the band that his older brother was gay?

Of course there is the rest of the story. What if I knew about the new church we would find and all the new people who would come into our lives? What if I knew how many gay and lesbian students would be quietly glad that I taught at that school? What if I knew that my birth sons would become committed to civil rights and be more courageous than I ever was at their age?

Like I said, I am glad that I took that journey.

I think about all the parents who don't take it. Parents whose children tell them that they are gay and who respond, "Have you tried not being gay?" I feel pain for those children. I have hugged them. I have parented them. I want to tell their parents, "The journey is frightening and painful, but it is worth it. Take it with us. Other parents are here to support you."

But then I look at the parents at the PFLAG meeting and in the Pride Parade. I realize that, like the more assertively out GLBT adults that FosterAbba talks about, we are the parents with the least to loose.

Another post on coming out: parental fears

The results are in. I am:

I don't normally do this, but I could not resist this time. I saw this on Granny's blog and Andrew answered the questions for me. (Just like with Granny there is alot of empty space...just scroll down.)

I answered the questions for Andrew. He is Jean-Luc Picard

Your results:
You are Deanna Troi

Deanna Troi
Will Riker
Jean-Luc Picard
Beverly Crusher
Geordi LaForge
An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
James T. Kirk (Captain)
Mr. Scott
Leonard McCoy (Bones)
Mr. Sulu
You are a caring and loving individual.
You understand people's emotions and
you are able to comfort and counsel them.

Click here to take the Star Trek Personality Quiz

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Why can't he add?

He works 4 to 6 hours a day at the sandwich shop. He complains about how tired he is, about how much work that is. In just over a week he starts summer school. He will be in class from 8:00-3:30 in the afternoon. That's 7 1/2 hours.

I asked him what he was going to do about work for those five weeks.

"I'll just switch to the evening shift." now you work from 11:00am-4:00 and complain that it is exhausting. Your future plan is to go to school from 8:00-3:300 and then work from 4:00 until 9:00. Sure...what's 11 hours a day? And then there is the on-line class, group, counseling, and (theoretically) two 12-step meetings a week. No problem.

Is it an addict thing, or a foster kid thing, or an 18-year-old thing? How is it that they can be exhausted and complain about doing X and yet at the same time confidently state that they can do twice as much? Where is that part of his brain that is suppose to be able to think about things rationally?

Sigh. By the way, I'm not getting on the rollercoaster. Al-Anon work is still sticking. I'm shaking my head and hoping he changes his mind, but I am staying calm. Maybe he will ask to work less. Maybe he will cut work and get fired. Maybe he will find the energy and succeed. Maybe he will implode and start using again.

Won't it be interesting to find out?

At least his boyfriend does not move back into the area until after summer school is over.

Coming out and being out...being their mother

All three boys negotiate the realities of being gay in a heterosexist world in different ways.

Carl, the only one I have not talked about in this respect, lives in a "Radical Faery" sanctuary. He leaves the retreat center often, but he is almost always deep in a community of gay men. He knows that there is discrimination out there, but he lives in a world apart from it.

Each boy is "out" but that means different things to them. Being out, I have learned, is not a single decision or act. It is a series of decisions that are made over and over again.

I get a sampling of what that means when I think about how to talk or not talk about my kids. That experience helps me to understand that it is not just one decision that someone makes on one day.

I think, when I was first Carl's mom, that I thought there was a right way to do this. If I remember correctly, I thought I knew who Carl should tell and how he should tell them. Certainly I remember his social worker was very concerned that Carl was too bold, too open. She more than one expressed concern that his choices were not "safe."

Sometimes I still make the mistake of thinking I know what is right for them. I will think that Evan's life would be a little easier if he were just a bit more open. (I mean, how ridiculous is it that we sent him to a rehab center in LA so that he would be safe and he closeted himself?)

Even when I make that mistake though, I know it is a mistake. Negotiating through a heterosexist world is complicated, confusing, and sometimes dangerous. It is dangerous in the way a mine field can be dangerous; it is sometimes impossible to tell where the danger is. Each of they boys need to figure this out for themselves.

My job is just to provide them with a safe home while they try to figure it out.

Another post on coming out: What if I had known?

Coming and Being out...Evan & legal realities

Evan's experience of being out is very different from the other boys. Evan does not give off a gay-vibe at all. Girls are attracted to him. He is heavy, but he is cute, and he is relaxed and comfortable talking with them. (It does not of cours occur to them to wonder why he is so relaxed with them.) Boys on the other hand are warry of him. When he tries to flirt with them they wonder if he is flirting or testing. Does Evan want to date them? Or does he want to stalk and beat them?

Evan believes he gets better treatment from the world in general because he does not seem gay. He may be right.

He does also suffer from it though. He does not usually come out until after he gets to know people, which means that it is not unusual for him to have begun to develop a friendship with someone only later to realize he is dealing with a bigot. He has girl friends who are confused. They think he is going to hell and all, but they really like him. One said that she thought it would be a lot of fun if they could do something with their boyfriends; as long as they don't go out in public.

Evan tells me that his counselor says he suffers from internalized homophobia. I think he expected me to contradict her. I did not. I also have no judgment of Evan. My other boys were threatened or hit because they were gay. Evan had the $H*t beat out of him. Evan was a 17 year old, six-foot, 250 pound football player who was taken into protective custody because of the severity of a single beating. If Evan is nervous about being perceived as being gay by strangers, well, that makes sense. I find it remarkable that he is as comfortable as he is. I am proud of him for coming out to as many people as he does.

This morning Evan told me that he finally came out to a couple of girls at work (the ones who were flirting with him). They told him that he should absolutely not tell the manager/owner that he is gay. Evan asked me about it. The owner has told him that he would make a good assistant manager. "He can't just fire me because I'm gay, can he?" darling. Yes he can. This is a "will to work state." He can fire you for any reason. He does not even have to tell you the reason. He can even tell you that he is firing you because you are gay and there is nothing that you can do about it.

And Evan thought that the Pride celebration in June was just about having a party.

Another post on coming out: Being their mother

Friday, May 26, 2006

Relapse Prevention Program

Evan finally started the relapse prevention program. Theoretically he was supposed to go for at least 30 days after the in-patient treatment. In case you have lost track, it has been 33 days since he left in-patient.

So we are a little behind. (My sponsor, in full accordance with 12-Step program superstition tells me that Evan started his program exactly when he was supposed to.)

I think this program is going to be a good thing. It is a group therapy session with young men from 15 to 21. Evan has the distinction of being the only person who was not "caught" and is not in trouble with the law. He is the only was who is recovering from an addiction to prescription drugs. For some reason that I don't understand this also increases his status as the supreme outlaw of them all.

In any case, though he complains mightly about having to go to AA ("You know I just sit in the back and play games on my cell phone"), he was positive about the group. He said that the man who runs the group is "okay" and when I asked if he thought the group would be helpful to him he said, "maybe."

I'll translate for you: the guy who runs the group seems to be very good and he really likes the group.

I would like to take a moment and brag here about my own progress in the codependency thing. There are a bunch of things I am NOT feeling and thinking, except idly. I am not getting crazy excited that he has finally found a group that he seems to feel good about. I am not reacting to that excitement by panicking about whether it "sticks." I am not worrying and fretting about how when he talked about the group he seemed to be romanticizing his use. Obviously all these thoughts are occuring to me, but in a detached sort of way.

Instead I am happy for him. I hope he makes use of this resource. I know that he might not.

We will see.

Coming out and being out ... "David"

David jokes that he is not just out of the closet, he is out in the street. He is of medium height, very thin, and cute. He tends to wear buttons that say things like "princess in training." While he was still in high school girls would periodically flirt with him, but he just told them he was gay.

Boys flirt with him constantly. A couple of years ago I went with him to the grocery store in our small conservative town. We walked in and a boy said, "Hi...Daaave." (Of course "David" is not really his name, but he does hate the shortened version of his name). This boy left his mother to follow us around the produce section. We finally shook him loose. At the check out counter another young man came running up to bag our groceries and flirt with David. He piled cans on top of my lettuce and asked David if he found everything he was looking for. It was funny, but I frustrating at the same time. Had DAVID found everything was looking for? What about me? You know, the middle-aged woman holding the debit card? The actual shopper?

I refused the bag boy's help taking out our groceries and on our way out, I swear to God, another boy popped out of nowhere and followed us out to the car.

At first I wanted to think it was just because all these boys knew David from school. That turns out not to be right. We took him across the country once. It was not quite so intense, but wherever we went boys flirted with him. I had absolutely no idea just how many gay young men there are in the world until I started parenting David.

David does not seem to experience any need to think about how out to be. He just is.

Another post on coming out: Evan and legal realities

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Coming and Being out...for me.

I have been thinking about the phenomenon of coming out and being out for a while. I have been thinking about writing a post about it. I have a post started about my observations of my boys' experiences, but I thought first I would be honest about my own.

I am out as a heterosexual married woman. I flaunt it. I openly wear a wedding ring. I have a family photo in my office. I start stories with sentences like, "My husband and I..." all the time. I pay absolutely no attention at all to whether my lifestyle makes anybody uncomfortable. I don't bring up the details of my sex life in a committee meeting at work, but I don't first consider the feelings and attitudes of co-workers before saying, "Sorry I have to leave early. My husband is feeling ill and I have to take the kids to their lessons."

I hold his hand in public. I ask people I don't know on airplanes to trade seats with me so I can sit with him. I have even been known to rest my head on his shoulder around people I don't even know.

Yep. If anyone can be said to "flaunt" their sexuality, it would have to be me.

I never had to come out as a heterosexual. I have never had to announce it to anyone. Being out is also easy. I do not have to think about it.

I am also out as the mother of gay kids. I did not take out an ad in the newspaper*, but I was at one point quite deliberate about telling a few people. I told my mother, sister, and mother-in-law. At work I made a point of saying something like, "My son and his boyfriend..." Given that I am one of those people who twist words around all the time, many of my colleagues smiled and tried to correct me, "you said boyfriend."

Coming out was scary. There were a list of people to whom I was close and it turned out that most of them were cool. A few though were not. It also turned out that I was really bad at predicting who was going to be in which group. Still, I told the people, got my feelings hurt a few times, lost a couple of friends who were never really friends to begin with, and moved on with my life.

Being out as the mother of gay kids makes me think about things in a way that I do not think about anything else. I am sitting here in my office surrounded by pictures of my kids, all of them. I have a picture that I took of David and his prom date. It is my absolute favorite picture of him. He looks so good in his tux; he and his date are positively adorable in their co-ordinating tuxes. I had it as my computer wall-paper for awhile. It is the ONLY picture I have that I think about displaying. Any other picture of my kids that I like...I put it up. THIS picture though is different.

I don't want it to be different. I want it to be like all the other pictures: just another photo of one of my beautiful children. It isn't though. It is a political statement.

When I talk about Carl, David, and Evan I think in ways that I do not think when I talk about the rest of my life. I remember a couple of years ago going to lunch with colleagues. We are joined by a couple of new folks. Someone asks me how my kids are. "Fine. Brian has another girl friend." My colleagues laugh. The new people look confused and say, "How old is Brian?" "Six. This is his third girlfriend." They smile. Isn't that cute?

"So how is Carl?" someone asks. I start to say, "He is trying to get up the courage to ask a boy to a dance at the community center." I stumble though. I look at the new people. I wonder how they will react. Maybe I should say that he is just nervous about asking someone out on a date? How would I word that? If I say that my colleagues will know that I have decided not to "come out" to these new people. If I say what I wanted to say then I will have made a political statement. The new people may think that I am testing or challenging them. They will pause before they speak. They will consider what different responses say about them. They may be annoyed that I put them in this position. It's supposed just to be a friendly lunch and there I go, making it tense and political.

It has been 5 and a half years since I first started coming out as the parent of gay sons. I still find that when I talk about my straight kids the words just fall out of my face, and when I talk about my gay kids an internal editor pops up to assess the audience and review my words before I speak them. That internal editor is getting faster though, or lazier. I have become more relaxed. I don't put nearly as much energy into it.

But as relaxed as I am, I still know that some of the things I say and some of the pictures I display will be considered political statements, however I intend them.

How much more intense would all this be if I were the one who was gay?

*I have though submitted letters to the editor which have been published in which I identified myself as the mother of gay sons.

Another post on coming out: David

I blush

Thanks to Dan, or I would never have seen this:

Top Foster Blogs

Too bad I'm not allowed to tell anyone in my regular life that I am famous.

Congrats to several of you on the blog roll for showing up there too!

Am I Nuts?
Foster Parenting
Navigating the Maze: Foster Parenting and Life
Other People's Kids (Dan)

And one parent blog that is new to me:
What Was I Thinking?

There are a two other blogs on the list that seem to be more general information.

I want to point out that all the blogs that were selected have "foster" in the titles or descriptions. There are some blogs that I love by people who are doing foster care who don't use the word so much and don't come up on blog searches. I hate to start making lists, because I will leave people out, but I will take the risk. If you want to read blogs written by people who have been doing foster care for a while, you must read:

Dad's HighWAY
From 0 to 5

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Carl's coming!

I just bought Carl a bus ticket. He will be here June 1, special delivery for Brian's birthday on June 2. We can only keep him one week though. He has responsibilities back at the retreat center.

We have not seen him for a year and a half.

"You guys are WAY more messed up than we are"

That's what Evan has been telling me quite a bit lately. He is, of course, talking about recovering addicts and recovering codependents. I have responded in an adult-like fashion almost every time. I have said something like, "You think so, huh?" and then changed the subject.

The other evening, come back from an Al-Anon meeting he said it again. This time though it was in the context of telling me that one of my favorite people at the meeting was "really damaged goods." I started off with my strategy of deflection and non-engagement, though it was more difficult because he was attacking someone ELSE. I can take it when he teasingly insults me, but it is difficult for me not to come charging in to defend others.

Anyway, after telling me about how damaged my friend was he said it again, "You guys are way more damaged than we are."

I am sorry to say that I said, "Well, maybe you addicts think you are not messed up because you think that once your are clean or sober you've done everything you need to do. Maybe we are just more honest about our problems." The conversational tone was one of banter and teasing, but it did get a little tense. He said, "I knew you would throw that in my face eventually."

I did change the subject then.

There were so many things I did not say. I really did not point out that he is a "double winner." He grew up with parents and parental figures who were users. He was surrounded by addiction. If the people around the addict are more messed up than the addict, then he is a strong candidiate for being "more messed up."

It struck me then what might be going on. Evan does not want to deal with his issues relating to the abuse of the parents who were supposed to care for him. All of that is stuck behind a door. When he keeps saying "YOU guys..." he is not so much talking about me and the other Al-Anon members, he just trying to separate and protect himself from problems he is not ready to deal with.

And that is okay. I have come to accept that he will have to handle his problems at his own pace.

Next on Evan

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Single party politics

Okay...some of you clever people out there may figure out where I live from this. If you do, good for you. Please don't put it in the comments though.

I live in a single party state. Oh, the other party exists and sometimes even wins a seat here and there, but it don't happen much. In fact, after the primary people have a tendency to forget that we don't really know who the governor is yet.

You don't have to actually register for one party or another, and this may be part of the problem. See, I could never actually bring myself to REGISTER with the dominant party. I have a life-long commitment to the other guys. I may be angry with the other guys, but if I were to register with anyone other than them it would be with a third party.

So I just went down to the polls. Since we don't register with a party they just give you a combination ballot. You can vote on the green pages or on the red pages. If you punch holes for both pages then your ballot will be tossed.

I did was nearly everybody else in the state did, regardless of who they will vote for in November. I voted on the dominant-party ballot.

The system feeds itself. I vote on that ballot because that is where the race is being decided. The candidates that I voted for (at least one and probably two of them) were on that ballot and not the other for the same reason.

I hate the whole bloody mess.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Teenagers and toddlers

Teenagers and toddlers have a lot in common.

They are trying to separate from us. They are afraid of being alone. They don't want help and then they are angry because we did not help them without being asked.

Like humans of other ages, they have to learn from trying and failing.

I'm currently sighing over Evan because of his behavior with respect to his job. He almost certainly lied about not having to go to work on Sunday. (I'm not insane here right? Is there a chance in you-know-what that a manager of a fast food restaurant called a kid at 6:30am to tell him that he did not have to go to work at 8:00am?) This is, in my opinion, indicative, of his attitude towards his schedule in general. I won't elaborate because it is just too tedious.

I want to sit down with him and explain how he should be behaving.

I think though that it would make about as much sense as telling a toddler not to hold her hands up high while she walks, "Swing your arms at yours side like this...that's how grown-ups walk."

Sunday, May 21, 2006

I got a call from "E"

E is the girl who stayed here for a bit while people were hoping she would decide to go back to my friend.

She called tonight. She is still living at the teen shelter home. She got the afghan* that I knitted for her and likes it very much. She would like to know if I would get her yearbook and the photographs she took in photography class from the high school. I told her to call the school and ask them to give them to Andrew and I would.

I am glad that she called. She said that she is being brought into the program for which I work and they are trying looking at getting one of her aunts or uncles licensed to care for her. The agency has got more aggressive about pursuing that route when they can. They are in the happy position of being able to help people overcome some of the obstacles. In our case they paid for materials to wall off part of the rec room so that we would have another bedroom.

She told me that Georgia is out of detention. She did not tell me where she is living, but did say where she is working, so I may send her a card.

Losing kids track of kids is one of the things I like least about doing this. Having them call me out of the blue is one of the things I like best.

*I meant to take a picture of the afghan before sending it to her so that I could post it. I let her pick out the yarn and it is in stripes of vibrant green, pink, and blue. Truly one of the ugliest things I have ever knitted. Usually when I knit in public people, even some strangers, ask to see it and say how pretty it is. I had this in public plenty and not one adult looked twice.

Next: Driving Miss E

The inner conversation

Codependent me:

Oh dear...Evan starts summer school in two weeks. Let's look up the schedule on the web. Hmm...he will be in classes from 8:30-3:30. He also has to work 10 hours a week, see the counselor, go to group, and 2 12-step meetings a week. Oh..and there is that on-line class he has to take at the same time. How will he cope? That is an awful lot...

Recovering me:
NOT MY PROBLEM. Grade papers. Stop thinking about this. could be done, if he just organizes himself. He could work 5 hours on just Saturdays and Sundays. He could see the counselor and go to group on the same evening...that would even work out better for transportation since they are both 25 miles away. He could go to 12-Step meetings to other evenings. He could have Friday evening off altogether. The on-line class is easy. He should be able to fit that in around everything else. I could write him up a calendar and sit down with him and make a schedule.

Let him figure it out himself. If you have to, you can call the social worker and ask her to offer to work out a schedule with him. NOT YOUR JOB.

Maybe it would be better if he did not work during summer school. I mean, I know he will only qualify for that post-high school education/training money if he demonstrates that he can work and go to school at the same time, but it would be better to finish school and stay clean than to start using again...maybe the counselor would let him cut back on the 12-step meetings. Or he could drop the on-line class...


Sigh....nobody said recovery was easy.

Evan's summer

Last night Evan went out to late night bowling with friends. In general this is a good thing. It is the first time he has left the house to socialize since he came home. Isolation is not a good thing.

Of course he left at 10:30 and got back at 2:30; I am assuming he is telling the truth about that. He also told me that the sandwich shop called him this morning to tell him that he did not have to show up for his 8:00am shift; I am NOT assuming he is telling me the thruth about that.

I am however following the rules. I am giving reports to the social worker about what he does and doesn't do and then not worrying about it. (Well, not worrying much.)

I looked up the summer school schedule. He is going to be one busy kid. He is signed up for classes at the high school (8:00am-3:30pm) and an on-line class with weekly deadlines. He will also have one meeting a week with his counselor, one with rehab prevention group, two 12-Step meetings a week, and work.

That is a lot for our little boy. I hope he can manage it.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Analyzing Evan

I had a brief converstation with Evan's social worker about Evan's unwillingness to accept help with recovery. It may turn out to be a huge problem, but his attitude makes perfect sense.

Evan has been his own parent for most of his life. He took care of himself. He thinks he did a pretty good job. I can imagine him pointing out that he did not make himself go to school EVERY day, but he never dropped out. He may not have done his homework, but he usually passed his classes. He did not eat the most well-balanced diet in the whole world, but he mostly ate real food. And he never took the bad, dangerous, street drugs...just a little codeine that came from nice, clean labortories and only enough to help him cope with life.

He is right when he says that it could be so much worse. Most kids who have to raise themselves would not have done half so well.

He even asked for help when it was clear that the codeine use was getting out of control. He asked for help before he was failing classes, destroying all his relationships, hurting people he loved, and even before he ran out of money.

Again, he is right to think that this is not typical addict behavior.

So it is not the least bit surprising that he is resistant to 12-Step programs. The first step is admitting that you are powerless over the drug. Clearly he is not. Codeine was his friend for a while and when his friend turned on him, he severed the relationship. The second step is coming to believe that there is a higher power that can restore him to sanity. First, he is not insane. Second, he doesn't need no higher power.

I mean really, he is 18! He has raised himself successfully and a bunch of people who don't really understand all he has had to do are telling him that he cannot do it himself. Piddle.

Because of all the therapy and Al-anon/Naranon stuff I am feeling very calm about this. I really get that nothing will change his mind about all. He has to try it. If he fails, then MAYBE he will be ready to accept help.

The counselor agrees. She still thinks it is helpful to coerce him into attending 12-Step meetings because he will HEAR the message. For the rest of his life, no matter how many times or how badly he relapses, he will never be an addict who does not know where the road to recovery is.

So I am sitting back, no longer obsessing, but still sometimes wondering, how long will he make it? Right now he is going to work and counseling and some meetings. Soon we add the relapse prevention program (Thursday!). A couple of weeks later we will add summer school. Will he be able to cope with all of this? Will he turn back to his friend at any point?

I would like for him to make it through high school. That would be cool. Maybe, just maybe, he will make it longer. It's possible.

Thank goodness for all my therapy and Al-Anon work. I may still spend more time than I should pondering all these things, but I am not obsessing. I am calm. What will be will be. I no only know that I cannot change his attitude, I am not even wanting to try.

Quiet afternoon

It is a quiet afternoon. Andrew is busy puttering around in the rec room. Brian is off with his dad at a fancy rat show. Evan is at work; he left before I even got out of bed. I have the main part of the house to myself.

Carl called a couple of days ago. Brian asked him to come out for his birthday. Carl had said he would try, but he got sick, has been unable to work and can't afford to. Apparently he has been REALLY sick. He went to the emergency room, got antibiotics, and is not allowed to go back to the restaurant where he works until he brings a letter in saying he is okay.

Hubby and I chatted. We've been united in the whole "don't rescue" philosophy. Every time we agree that we are not sending money or otherwise getting someone out of trouble we say, "It's not like he's sick." It is almost a relief that at last one of them is sick. I can do the mommy-to-the-rescue thing and not feel guilty. We have offered to buy the bus ticket. He will be here for Brian's birthday and Pride if he likes. I will get to fatten him up and pamper him a little.

I have not seen him for a year and a half. I almost want to send a thank you note to the parasite that attacked him.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Happy Day

Today is my 21st Anniversary.

I am thankful today for a partner who:

has put up with me when I was most insane;

is neither a dominating man doing for me what I can do, nor the least bit uncomfortable when I am a weak, sobbing mess who wants to be taken care of;

is the sort of parent who (like last night) comes home from a meeting early to help his cranky son with a project which would not be taking all evening if said son had only been working on it as he claimed to be for the past month;

was willing to follow me to this reddest of all the red states because I had a job here and then proceeded to figure out what he could do;

does the laundry for the whole family;

supervises the kids in doing their cleaning chores;

said, "Yeah...I am thinking the same thing too" when I said I wanted Carl;

has been willing to keep doing foster care (really working at it) even though he periodically sighs and says, "This is your calling, not mine."

responded to finding himself parent of a gay kid by growing, learning, and helping others to grow;

is in generally the kindest, best person I have ever known.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Punished for playing hookie

So yesterday I really felt crummy. I was having stomach cramps, the air conditioning in my building was not working so it was 80 degrees at 8:00am and only going to get worse. I stayed home and rested and caught up on some grading.

It was such a productive day I thought I would take one more. I mean, I still felt a little bad and I really still had a huge pile of grading. So I emailed my students last night and cancelled class. I woke up and my stomach felt a little bad. I was relieved...wouldn't it have been awful if I had cancelled class and then felt great?

Shortly after I felt better though. I settled in my comfy chair with the papers that needed to be graded. I was going to catch up.

Then Hubby called. He forgot his cell phone, would I bring it to him? I did.

Then Brian called, he had a rash and it really, really itched. I drove to the school, gave him an anti-histimine and told him to go back to class. "Will you at least call the doctor to see if it is because of my medicine?"

I called. I told them it was really faint; you could barely even see it. He had it in the inside of his elbows and a couple of places on his stomach. They said it should be looked at. I drove back to the school, got Brian, and took him to the doctor's office. We waited. The doctor looked at it and said, "I think it is a heat rash."

Sigh. I did not get any grading done at all.

Back from the counselor

The meeting with the rehab counselor went well.

She is directing Evan to make up all the meetings he failed to go to. She also said that she is calling the social worker and that they will monitor his compliance more carefully. They may ask me for feedback, but they will be responsible for responding to any non-compliance. So that is all good.

Evan and I had some discussions which I am pretty sure he still has not "heard."

The counselor realized she had not asked him to sign a release so that she could talk freely to me. Evan said that he did not want to sign it. We explained that she was not going to be revealing secrets, she just needed to be able to keep me reassured that he was "in recovery." He resisted and she told him that she thought that I was probably covered under the general release to the program, but that even if I wasn't she would still be talking to his social worker who would talk to me.

He refused to take all this seriously. He laughed and he left.

Last night I sat down and talked to him about it. I told him that it would be a lot easier if he did sign it. The way it is now it will be like the old game of "telephone" or "gossip." If the social worker misunderstands anything than that is just likely to be exagerated.

Actually, I should say that I tried to explain this to him. He kept interrupting me and asking if I understood how he felt, how vulnerable all this made him feel. I said that I did.

He said, "I could just retract all those releases, right?"

I tried to explain to him that yes he could. If he did, then the agency would stop paying for the treatment; he would no longer get to see the counselor; the delicate balance that allowed us all to feel safe living with him would be destroyed and he would have to move. He laughed. He heard the words, but he responded as though I had said, "Of course, but then God would smite the earth with fire and water and we would all die."

I have come to the conclusion that he will not or cannot understand that I am serious when I say that he can only live here if he is working cooperatively with his social worker and counselor. That is just another thing on a list of long things that I have to accept. Right there next to "Evan will not really accept help with recovery until/unless he fails trying to do it alone."

One way of putting it is though Evan has and continues to be required to attend 12 Step meetings, he has not taken the first step.

He does not think he is an addict. He is just a kid who made a mistake, took some codeine, got dependent and needed a little help with detox. Now he is clean, young, strong, and bullet proof once more. The biggest problem in his life is a bunch of over-anxious adults who want him to jump through a bunch of hoops in order to get what he wants.

In any case I have been in recovery long enough that I understand that I really cannot change this attitude. A few months ago I would be anxiously trying to figure out how to make him understand. I would feel guilty about knowing I was prepared to follow through with consequences and he did not "get it." Now I just find it sad.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Deception exposed!

It feels good. I don't know if it SHOULD feel good...but it does.

I just had a nice, long talk with the social worker. I had left her a message asking if she could tell me yet when Evan could start the relapse recovery program and could we get him in the minute it was legal.

She called back to say she was hoping Evan could start soon. The payment paper work is done, or nearly so. Unfortunately, the counselor's updated criminal background check is not finished. HOWEVER, since Evan is 18 she is hoping we can get him started anyway.

She said something like, "It sounds like he is doing okay though, right? I mean he said he missed one NA meeting."

YIPEEE!!! She asked! I get to tell!!!!

"Yes. The one he missed was the ONLY one he tried to go to."


We chatted. I told her that he had gone to two Al-Anon meetings to which I had taken him. He had not attended a single AA or NA meeting in the three and a half weeks since he left. She was shocked. She was angry. Evan had very much mislead her and she suspected that the rehab counselor was mislead as well. She said she was going to give her a call right now and talk to her about this.


I also told her that Evan has stopped his anti-anxiety meds and said that he could not get ahold of the doctor to make an appointment, also that Evan said he had left a message with her about this problem.

"I never got a message."

Oh, the relief!

I have been trying very, very hard to follow the path of recovery, do what my sponsor advises, follow the healthy examples of the people in my group. Let Evan make his own decisions, let him deal with the consequences. Do not provoke or prevent a crisis.

So I have been feeling like the good sister knowing her bad sister is getting away with stuff. I know I am not supposed to tattle, so I have been keeping my mouth shut. Finally though, being the sneaky older, good-two-shoes sister that I am, I dropped some hints. The authority figure asked the question, "Has your sister been taking cookies?" I get to be virtuous, blink my eyes and say, "No. She took all of them." Then I can go in my room and sing-song, "She's getting it trouble...she's getting trouble..."

Okay, it is not the exact some thing, but I am experiencing the same guilty pleasure I did experience when I was a child and my sister finally got caught for something and I knew I could tell her "I did NOT tell on you! They asked!"

I know most of you will not get it, because it is an unusual situation, but trying to figure out how to be an effective parent without a controlling co-dependent is not always very clear.

I am so, so, so happy I have the counselor and the social worker.

It used to be clearer

Being uncertain how to respond to Evan's non-compliance is really unusual for me. I have been sitting her reminding myself that most of the time I really am good at this. I am good enough that I don't normally even have to get angry. Sometimes I even have fun.

I find a student's paper on the Internet, they fail my class (yes, the whole class) and I assure them if they want to re-take the course next semester I will not hold this against them.

A kid does not come home on time, they don't go out the next weekend.

You don't come home in time for dinner, you have to feed yourself.

Once I had a teen who kept not telling me where he was going. I decided he needed to be escorted everywhere for two weeks. If we did not have time to go with him, then he could not go. However, you have not lived until you taken a gay teenage boy to a sex ed class and asked lots and lots of questions. ("Where do you buy this stuff?" "How much do you have to use?" "I know you can't get HIV from doing that, but couldn't you get hepatitis?" "Is it true that you can get gonorrhea in the throat?")

But what do I do when Evan does not go to meetings? When he palms his anti-anxiety pills or simply refuses to take them? When he continually forgets to call the psychiatrist to talk about safe ways to come off the pills or whether to switch to new ones?

Right now it is just the extremes for him. If he hits a certain place he cannot live with me anymore, but there doesn't seem to be anything in the middle. Freedom to mess up and then eviction.

Sigh....Tomorrow we talk to the counselor. I'll let you know what ideas she may have.

Monday, May 15, 2006

"You want me to follow him?"

...asked Brian (11 years) after Andrew (16 years) left to go on a walk with a couple of girls who ride his school bus.

"What? Follow who?"

"Andrew. He was being pretty suspicious. He did not want to say where he was going with those girls. Do you want me to follow him and see what he is up to?"

"I think we will just trust him."

"You sure? He seemed pretty suspicious to me."

responding to non-compliance

Evan's "do it alone" attitude is escalating.

--He forgets to take his meds (which he say make him feel sick), and I think he palms them when I give them directly to him.
--He forgets to call his psychiatrist to talk about getting off his meds or trying to new ones.
--He forgets to go to meetings.
--And finally, he has begun complaining about the rehab counselor.

And, of course, the out-patient program hasn't even started yet.

My problem is that I don't know how to react to all this. I could fight with him, nag, complain. I suppose I could come up with some "consequence" but think the ultimate consequences of that will just be more frustration.

I could do the complete Al-Anon thing and say it is not my problem. He is in charge of his own recovery...yada...yada...yada.

One option seems to be the path to insanity. The other feels irresponsible.

I took a compromise option. I told the rehab counselor that we needed to all have a conversation about what exactly Evan is supposed to do and whether I am supposed to keep her informed as to whether he does them. When I sent this message to the counselor I did not say that he was being non-compliant, but she is a really smart woman. She will figure it out.

I'm glad that I have her, because I really don't know what to do.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

An unexpected Mother's Day call

Anne called!

I last saw her about a year ago. She was being placed with a family locally and we took her out to dinner. Since then she has been in at least: two group homes, two pre-adoptive placements, and detention. She has been in her current placment (this is in addition to the ones above) for about 6 weeks. For those not doing the math, this means that she has been averaging no more than 2 months at any one place.

The home she is in now has pre-school kids.

She did not want to talk much about what she had been up to. Mostly she just kept asking how everyone here was. She had called Mandy first, which is good. I will check with Mandy later, she is likely to have got more information out of her than I did.

It is good to have heard from her. Really good. I don't really have news; I just know that she is alive and still bouncing around the system.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

a not so small miracle

As I have previously mentioned, Evan and Andrew have been having short, civilized conversations.

Last evening was the first Friday evening that Andrew was home without plans. He and Evan talked about a video game, and then Andrew said, "You want to go play?"

And then they went to the rec room and played. They took a break for dinner and then they played some more. Finally they came upstairs and together had wonderful time picking on me.

All told, I think they spent five hours interacting.


Friday, May 12, 2006

To my children's mothers

Happy Mother's day

to Carl's mother who died;

to David's mother who was too young, too inexperienced, abused, abandoned, unskilled, uneducated, and probably mentally disabled, who did not fight to get her children back but, I'm sure, believed they were better without her than with her;

to Evan's mother who is in prison and who, though she has lived a life torn apart by drugs and violence, stayed clean throughout each of her pregnancies and gave birth to healthy children who are capable of loving and trusting however deep their wounds are.

May you all know peace.

no more train-gazing

Evan worked for five hours today at the sandwich store. He thinks he will like it okay, and definitely is happy to have something to do.

The rehab counselor made me feel better about where he is in his recovery. She thinks he is doing well and assures me that though he did not talk to me about his weekend from hell, he did talk to her. I was glad to hear that. He really does not have to talk to me in fact I would prefer he had a sponsor or someone else to talk to.

Now here is the reason why Evan and I feel so comfortable having the same counselor. After giving me reassurances (she has officially granted permission from Evan to give me her assessments of his progress) she said, "Now let's talk about why this has been bothering you this much."

So we chatted. We talked about deep breathing. We also talked about reasons I was obsessing and ways to stop.

I have felt much better since.

Objectively I do think that Evan is doing well. I also do still think that his chances of success without active participation in a program are slim. The counselor agrees, at least if we are talking long-term. Right now though, he is fine and I am okay.

Foster care and religion

FosterAbba has a post about religion and foster care which I recommend to you.

It got me thinking about how I negotiate giving care and engaging in my religious practice.

My family drives 25 miles (one way) to go to a church that is "open and welcoming." Many of the people are there because it is one of the few churches that is. What this means is that members grew up Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, (or whatever) and then came to this church because they are gay or lesbian or love someone who is. Our new pastor, after having been with us half a year, said that she knew coming in that we were a diverse group of people in terms of race, age, and sexuality, but she had not realized how diverse we were theologically. We did not agree on infant baptism, the meaning of communion, the value of liturgy. We have very different tastes in music. None of that bothers us though, because we all believe that we all should feel welcome there.

So what does this have to do with foster care?

Almost without exception every kid who has come into my house is pissed off at God and organized religion. David and Evan both said versions of, "I can't go to church. I'm gay." The girls I have on respite typically think that religious people are a bunch of self-righteous hypocrites.

I have to say that all these kids have had pretty good reasons for holding these attitudes.

Convinced as I am that each person must travel their own spiritual journey, I have no desire to try to convert and definitely no desire to coerce people into religious practice.

So how do we negotiate the issue?

Since our church is 25 miles away from the house, I do not let kids stay home until I know them quite well. That means that I am often dragging a teenager to church, explaining that they are not required to participate. They may sit in the fireside room or on the bench outside and listen to their music, read a book, or make calls on my cell phone.

The same sort of principle applies to household rituals. We say grace (usually) before meals. The kids are not required to even pretend that they are joining us, but they are expected to be quiet and not eat until we are done. They have never complained about this.

Now I have a confession to make: I do coerce people into going to church on Christmas Eve and Easter. I would not do it if the children were Jewish or had commitments to any religious tradition which did not include these celebrations. So far though, they haven't. I have explained that it has absolutely nothing to do with their religious life. I don't care what they believe or don't believe. I don't care if they never attend a religious service when they don't live with me. For their whole lives though they should know that if they come home on these holidays they are going to church.

All the kids have found this startlingly inconsistent. Evan was not unwilling to attend, but did feel the need to argue about it anyway. I told him something like, "It is not about what you believe or what you do when you leave here. It is all about me. I want it. This is a blatant and indefensible act of power on my part. I want all my kids looking pretty and sitting with me while I sing Christmas carols and light candles. I want everyone to see what wonderful children I have. AND before you say anything else, if you don't go Santa will not bring you any presents."

I can be quite the tyrant at times.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Care to join me on my hill?

I am sitting Recovering Codependent Hill. Anyone want to join me?

The view is fantastic. From my hill the scene is this:

To my far left is a train named Evan's Recovery. To the far right is the Cliff of Relapse. There is supposed to be a bridge there. There isn't though. There are a bunch of workers with "12-Step Program" written on their shirts willing to help, but they cannot proceed unless Evan shows up to work with them, and Evan is not going. There is a really good counselor that gets on the train briefly every week or so. She seems pretty good at applying the break, but from here it looks like the train is gradually speeding up ... just a little bit. No one else really thinks it is, but then no one else has been studying the train as closely.

The social worker has just called to inform us that the expert bridge-building team known as "Out-Patient Relapse Prevention Program" will have its funding approved in two weeks. In other words, though they are authorized to attempt to coerce Evan into doing some bridge-building, they don't get to start working until a month into the journey.

If you don't want to sit with me it will be okay because I do have some company. One is a guy called "Sponsor". I keep telling him that I want to figure out how to stop the train wreck. He reminds me that I really can't. There is nothing I can do to stop that train and I sure as anything cannot build the bridge. He reminds me of the tree that we are leaning against which we normally call by different names but whom we have both agreed to call "HP." "Keep leaning on the tree," he tells me. "The tree will keep you strong."

"But will the tree stop the train wreck?"

"Not necessarily. Remember though, there is a whole lot of forest between the train and the cliff. We don't know what the track is like there. It might go in a direction you don't see. And there are lots of trees there. The train might even stop. And I know you don't want to hear this. But it might be that the train needs to go over the cliff."

Sponsor is right. I don't want to hear that last part. "It doesn't look like the train will stop. I know no one else is worried, but my gut tells me the train is going over that cliff."

"Try not to listen to your gut. Listen to the tree."

The tree says, "Ssshhhhh...."

My D.O.C. is O.P.B.'s

For the unitiated DOC is drug of choice. Another common abbreviation is OPP (other people's pills). That is how a lot of people addicted to pain killers get their meds. It is the prefered method of kids in high school who can so easily get other kids to raid their parent's medicine cabnets.

But what is an OPB? That is "other people's babies."

Last night was Casey's annual foster family appreciation dinner. The food was good, though it was late, causing parts of the program to be cancelled. We did though have plenty of time for the former foster kid turned motivational speaker. He was funny and a good speaker and if I had been 13 I am sure I would have found him motivational.

However, all down sides of the evening can be safely ignored because I commandeered a baby. We happened to sit at a table with a young woman with an infant. She looked familiar, I looked at her name tag. "Did you come to our house for respite a few times six years ago?" "Yeah...and your kid and my sister drew on my face when I fell asleep and I got a rash." AH...yes.

So I stole her baby.

I carried, cuddled, entertained, fed and even diapered the adorable little girl. It has been a long time since I experienced the joy of spooning different colors of mush into a little bird-like mouth which periodically decided to make those fun noises you get when you blow through your lips with your tongue stuck out.

What makes OPB's so very wonderful is that when the evening is over, they go to someone else's house and you sleep all night in your own bed.

And I really had decided to post this before I read Lionmom's post about her night.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Evan and his mother

His mother gets out in (now) 82 days. She is going to move in with his abuser's grandmother. She is taking the baby sister with her.

This man brutally beat her son, but it does not bother her. If her son had just agreed to not go to that support group for gay kids, her boyfriend would not have had to hit him.

If her son had only hidden his bruises (by not going to the group), then the group leader would not have called the cops. The social worker would not have suggested that the parole officer make a surprise visit. The parole officer would not have seen the meth. She would not have be in jail.

Clearly everything in Evan's fault, but she is willing to forgive him. She hopes they can build a relationship.

My worry is Evan's reaction, or lack of one. All last evening he played video games on his computer. He came out to the living room to cheerfully tell me about his success (or lack thereof) in transporting goods across the galaxy. Nothing his mother said bothers him. It doesn't have anything to do with him. He's not going to be visiting her if she's living with that man or any of his relatives, but it's not big deal.

The possibilitites:

He is in a perfectly normal sort of denial, not feeling what he is not prepared to feel.

He was working hard to put up a good front for my sake. Though I have told him before that I feel safer about his recovery when he is not doing that, but that does not sink in. (I don't think so. Usually when he does this the real emotion shows through the cracks. He blinks away tears while telling me that he is not sad.)

He was using. If he is using then it is light use...just a pill or two to make the pain go away. Of course it will progress, but he was alert and engaged yesterday.


I wish he had a sponsor. I wish he was doing more obvious recovery work.

I wish...I wish...I wish...

I wish I could stop wondering and worrying and obsessing.

Sunday, May 07, 2006


He is back.

The monster never showed. Evan spent the night trying to sleep in a chair.

He saw his mother, "She gets out in 83 days."

How does he feel? Well he's tired, but he shrugs. He feels fine. The visit was fine. It was about what he expected. No big deal.

Oh...[insert bad word here]

He's shut down, closed off, no feelings, tough guy, untouchable.

There is no good there.



He did not stay holed up in his room as I was afraid he might. Instead he came back out, talked, helped with dinner. He keeps reassuring me that he is okay, just tired.

There is no way that I can believe that this weekend could be anything other than emotionally draining, but it is okay if is not ready to talk about it or does not want to talk to me.

It better be, because I have no control over how he deals.

I have to fight that mother response...rush in. "Tell me what's wrong, dear." It doesn't work with any of the kids...birth or bios. They need to know that you are there; not so caught up in your own life that you fail to notice or don't have time for them. On the other hand they need to have their privacy respected.

I know all this, but it isn't easy.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Real monsters pants shopping.

Just after I hit publish, Evan got phone calls. It all culminated with me driving him to spend the night with his baby (4 or 5 years old) sister and the sister's guardian. They want him there to help them feel safe while they hide behind locked doors from a real monster. I told him that he was only there as a witness.

He told me that he is doing fine; he is not scared. He won't try to fight the monster; he could not "take him" anyway.

Of course he looked terrified.

And today the meltdown was had by... Yep. The kids are all fine. Evan is fine.

So what set me off? What horrible thing happened that made me go running off to my office on a Saturday morning so that I could cry in peace for an hour?

Nothing. Well, nothing except me. Everyone else was still in bed.

I was sitting here in my favorite chair thinking about everything Evan is doing: he found a job; worked out an educational plan which does not require him to do anything for six weeks; and has been minimally compliant on all recovery activities. He keeps forgetting about AA/NA meetings and goes to counseling because I take him. Meanwhile he spends all his time in his room talking on his phone to his boyfriend.

It occured to me that it was possible that he was lying about the job and school. I would not know. For the entire time he lived here he was using and I did not know. He avoided telling direct lies, but he was not honest. I never had a clue that he was using. I did not know until he told me.

If he started using again, I would not know.

Oh I know I SAID I was not going to worry about that, but you didn't really believe that did you?

It occured to me that he could even be using right now. Since he got that phone he has once again been spending all his time in his room with the door shut. He doesn't have any local friends. He is not trying to make any friends. He is not going to meetings. He does not have a sponsor and does not seem to want one. Am I supposed to believe that he is staying clean with this little (apparent) effort?

So I went to my office and cried.

I don't have any evidence or even a good reason to think he is using, and if he does start using that is what it will be like. I will have no evidence, no reason, I won't know until he tells me. I thought that I wasn't going to worry because he was going to have to be busy. He was going to be doing school work and holding a job and I would tell myself that he could not be using if he was doing all that. But he has managed everything so that he does not have any obligations. Even if he starts working at this job, I will not know if he is home because he is not scheduled or because he called in and said he did not want to work. It will be at least another month before he has to be somewhere every day whether he wants to or not.

So, like I said, I went to my office and cried.

Nothing changed. I did not search his room, make him take a UA, create new boundaries or rules, or decide that I could not do it. I just went and hid in my office and cried for an hour and then came back.

My sponsor sent me a coin with the serenity prayer on it. I've been walking around with it in my pocket.

Now I am going to take him out and buy him the pants that he needs for the job that I do believe he has so that he can wear them to the prison tomorrow to visit his mother. Nothing that he owns conforms to the dress code.

Friday, May 05, 2006

To adopt or not adopt?

Lionmom has a recent post about adopting S. She asks for input, discussion. I decided to share my thoughts about adopting some teenagers.

I take kids who have already decided, with their social worker, that they will not pursue adoption. That relieves me of the tension that Lionmom is experiencing. Each of my boys have been in different places. Carl was placed into orivate foster care by his mother and was never a ward of that state (that no longer happens). We think about doing an adult adoption some day, but while he was with it not adopting him always felt right. I think for him it meant that he could love me without feeling like I was trying to replace his real mom (who, you may remember died when he was 14).

David had been put up as Wednesday's Child twice. The first time he and his brothers were nearly adopted. The second time he insisted that his younger brothers be put up without him because, he said, there was no way they would be adopted if they were saddled with a 15-year-old gay brother. His brothers found an adoption placement (which failed), and when he was not adopted he went into the permanency foster care program.

Evan was 17, his mother went to prison, and is simply not available for adoption. I have spoken to his mother once on the phone and she thanked me for taking care of her son. I think she really appreciates that Evan refers to me as his aunt.

So that's why I never have to think about it.

Here is why I am happy doing foster care without adopting.

First, Lionmom says, there is the money. We don't like mentioning that because there is the stigma of people who supposedly "do it for the money." (I am going to write a post on that issue soon, but will try not to get distracted here). I try to explain to people that I get reimbursed for expenses, I do not get paid. When we don't have a foster kid in the house we have less money coming in, but also have fewer expenses. There is not a significant difference in our life style.

But what if I had Evan and did not have the financial support? Well, our monthly budget would have been tighter, but we would have been okay. When he reported his addiction he would have been able to go to a local detox and then our insurance would have paid for an outpatient program: no flying to LA for a fantastic, small, safe 60-day residential program. No one would have found a lesbian counselor who specializes rehab counseling for families. Certainly we could not afford for both he and I to be going weekly for as long as we expressed the need to do so.

Each of the boys at one point or other the boys have needed services which I could not afford even if I could find them.

And then there is the emotional support. I don't seem to do need it as much as I used to, but with the first two boys I had days where I needed to talk to social workers...over and over again.

There is a third issue that has not been a factor for me, but I have seen in it kids like E. & Ann. Both of these girls have reactive attachment disorder.

I don't know E's history, but I know Ann's. Her first four years are filled with stories...she was the victim of the most severe sorts of abuse. She was witness to bloody, life-threatening violence between people who should have been caring for her. She was a coerced member of a nearly-successful family suicide attempt. I have read a lot of files, hers is the one that most makes me want to throw up, curl in a ball, and curse God for allowing this world to continue.

Ann is unadoptable. For some reason the state keeps putting her back up for adoption. Since she is in so many ways a wonderful, very bright child who initially seems charming she keeps getting placed. But being loved or feeling love makes panic alarms go off in her head. When my friend "Mandy" tried to adopt her when she was seven she at one point grabbed the steering wheel of the car while they were on the freeway. When they talked about it when she got older her behavior escalated to dangerous levels again. In the past couple of years she has been placed in at least two different adoption placements. The last one that I heard about lasted six weeks.

I am convinced that what Ann needs is to be put back in the permenancy program forw hich I work. She needs to be allowed to decide that she will not be adopted, that she can be accepted just as she is and not be asked to feel more love and trust that she is ready to feel.

We want to believe that adopting the children will make them feel safe. Now, finally, they will believe we are here forever. They will relax. Except that there are stories like E. E threatened suicide if she was sent back to her adoptive parents. The adoptive parents were pressured into terminating the adoption and when they agreed E announced that she knew they never loved her. If they had they would have fought harder.

But fighting harder does not always work either. Claudia and Bart's recent experiences give testimony to that. (See "Never a Dull Moment" and "A Whole New World" on the blog roll).

Dear God, how do we parent kids like Ann, and E., and Claudia and Bart's oldest? Do we offer them security, but hold them lightly. Do we say, "I will always love you and will always be in my heart, but I will not try to tie you to me. I know that will make you feel panic." Or do we take that legal step, promise forever, cut ourself off from support and commit to legal ties? Will that make the child feel safe or feel caged?

I feel like I should not post this. Surely Lionmom could use more encouraging stories than this. I do so hope she gets them.

Letter to Lionmom: I am NOT trying to convince you one way or the other, really. I just have this peculiar place in the system. Given the kind of care I do, I see the failed adoptions. I know how difficult this decision is.

I updated the blog roll.

One Family's Journey and Am I Nuts? are blogs by people just beginning the journey.

Under "Links" you can find the discussion group for progressive foster parents. It's a new group.

I have also recently found Life Unscripted which is a blog by a social worker.

I so far have limited the Blog Roll to foster/kinship caregivers and adopters of older children. I am thinking about adding a category for other people somehow connected to foster care. I feel like Life Unscripted and Sunshine Girl On A Rainy Day should be there. Don't know what to call the category though.

What's a good category for former foster youth and social workers?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Bill of Rights for 18-year-olds

I wrote this last spring when David was making me crazy. I ran across it sorting files and I couldn't resist putting it up.

18-year-olds -- Demand your rights

Now that you are 18 but still living at home, remember you deserve:

• All the freedom of adulthood and none of the responsibility.

• Free food available 24 hours a day without the inconvenience of family meal times.

• Transportation, not permission, to all events of your choosing.

• The right to excuse yourself from school and not attend your classes. After all, if you don’t graduate you can always live at home – it’s your life not theirs.

• Emotional support and conversation on your schedule! Don’t be fooled by family requests to spend time with you – they need to remember that you are 18 now. Obligations only go one way.

• Free clothing, toiletries, telephone service. If you choose to work you are entitled to spend all your money on recreation – it’s your money; you earned it.

• No more questions about where you are going or when you are coming home. Parents are there to bail you out of trouble, not keep you from getting into it!

Evan has a job!

So Evan has a job at a sandwich shop (national've seen the ads).

When does he start?

The day after a store shirt big enough for him arrives. That might be a few days, but no more than a week.

Fuming about the school

I am sitting here feeling angry about needing to write a note to protect Brian's freedom of speech rights. Not only am I not calming myself down, I am just getting more indignant about more things.

First, there is the legal issue. He has the right to refuse to say the pledge if that's what he wants. Period.

Second, this teacher makes me nuts.

Brian does engage in attention-seeking behavior. In this case I do believe he is quite sincere, but he has had fake illnesses: mysterious limps that come and go; total laryngitis that requires him to write everything. What I don't understand is why the teacher has to respond to all of these things. Surely there are more important battles to be fought.

Third, this is the year of the biography project.
Both Andrew and Brian in 6th Grade had to write a biography. It includes a family tree, a time line of important events in their lives, an essay on who they are, what family means to them, photographs...on and on. I don't know if this will happen this year, but Andrew's class had all of theirs on display for parents' night. We were encouraged to flip through them and look at all the pretty families.

I see why it is an attractive project, but I don't understand why the teachers don't understand why it is a bad idea. Children should not have to share this much information about themselves. I wonder, did David have to do it? Sixth grade was one of the last years he lived with his mother. On his list of significant events did he include the first time social services got involved. Did he write about the days that he was hungry and afraid? How about the nights they spent in the homeless shelter? Perhaps he added a touching story about the drug dealer who beat up his mother.

How can people who work with children be so insensitive to their needs?

And don't even get me started on Christmas-themed everything in elementary school throughout the whole month of December!

Some days I really hate living in the reddest of the red states.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Brian as a political child

Hubby and I were watching the rerun of The Daily Show and listening to John Stewart talk to Madeleine Albright. During the commercial Brian said, "Mom. My teacher says I have to say the Pledge of Allegiance unless you write me a note giving me permission not to!"

Hubby tried to convince Brian that saying the pledge did not mean that you agreed with everything your country was doing, but that you were committed to tying to make it a better place. I said nothing as Hubby knows I stopped saying it when I was about Brian's age. I just realized one day I had no idea what it meant and I wasn't going to recite promises that I did not understand.

Brian did not accept Hubby's argument, "It's just that our president keeps making dumb decisions and we don't care about the people who are dying in Africa and we hate the immigrating people. We have so much in the country, why can't we just share it?"

So I wrote the note. I wrote that we fully support Brian's decision to participate or refrain from participating in all political speech.

After Brian left with the note Hubby just looked at me, smiled and said, "This is all your fault you know."

This is the same teacher who has been making me crazy on other issues as well. But that is another post.

For the parents-in-waiting

When we somewhat experienced foster parents talk to the newbies, or just post in our blogs, we tend to talk about the hardest parts. We talk about the tough parts because that is what we need to talk about. We let our negative energy and anxiety spill out onto the page and we get sometimes comments and emails back with encouragement. We appreciate reading other blogs of other people's dark moments. It is not just me, we sigh. These other parents also have children who rage, who make stupid decisions, who seem determined to destroy their lives.

We also hear (some) potential and new foster parents talk about loving their kids and we inwardly cringe. Love is so not enough. Love is a language foreign to them. Of all the things we have to offer it is the one that they are least likely to accept early on.

But of course all of this is troubling for those waiting for their placements. Life in foster care can seem like one long string of raging children, interactions with police, complaints from schools, visiting rehab centers, and emancipated foster children still asking to be rescued from their disastrous decisions. Wow.

So I decided to report on the first 10 days or so since Evan has come back.

He decided to give his room a thorough cleaning. Since he is home a good chunk of the day (most of it) he has decided to be the kitchen elf. Every day when I come home the dishwasher has been run, unloaded, and re-loaded. Any dishes needing to be handwashed are in the drainer. The counters all are wiped.

He has been talking to the alternative school about getting in, walked the four blocks to the driver's bureau to pick up a book to study for the written test. He has walked to businesses within a mile of our house and filled out applications (I think about 10 so far). He found 12-step meetings and is making an effort to go.

He decided he really wanted a cell phone and spent hours researching the plans and expenses. He decided it was safer to spend more for a phone and only sign a one-year contract. He went with the company he did because "everyone" (meaning his boyfriend) has the same one and they can now talk NON-stop. He spends much of his life with a little thingy in his ear saying, "Sorry...I was answering a question my aunt asked me."

He and Andrew have been having actual civilized conversations, mostly about how to get around certain obstacles in various video games. (I said they were civilized conversations, not deep and meaningful). This is for me a cause for celebration. Neither one has come to me rolling their eyes and complaining about the other.

Evan and I had our first quarrel since he came back. It was silly, born as much from my anxiety as his obstinacy. It ended like all our quarrels do. He said, "Well you don't have to get so upset!" Given that I was not upset (as is the case the vast majority of times when he has accused me of being upset or "freaked out"), I said, "I will be as upset as I feel for as long as I feel!" (Once I started yelling, "That was NOT UPSET. THIS IS UPSET. FOR FUTURE REFERENCE, THIS IS WHAT ME ANGRY SOUNDS LIKE!") Evan, like always, said, "FINE!" Stormed off and slammed his door. I spent about 5 minutes feeling panicky that he was going to use again. It would have been longer but I heard him come out, go in the living room an laugh with Brian over a cartoon.

Last night it was Brian's turn to cook dinner. He made breakfast for dinner (his favorite), and though the eggs were cold they were fully cooked. The pancakes, for the first time, where neither burnt on the outside or gooey on the inside. He has managed to produce pancakes which were both at the same time. Several years ago I pulled Andrew and David aside and told them to please, please pretend to eat and we would sneak out and go to Wendy's while Brian was in the bath.

After dinner Evan rounded up Andrew and the girl we have on respite while her foster sister is having a baby, and they all cleaned up the kitchen. While they did, I watched Gilmore Girls with headphones because they were laughing and talking so loudly.

Every kid last night came to me and asked for their meds because they were ready to go to bed now.

We were all asleep by 10:00pm.

Not the most exciting blog post ever, but honestly, this is what life is mostly like in our home.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Where did I leave the drama?

I have a colleague who drops by periodically for the "latest installment." He says he keeps wondering if I will just not have one.

He just came by, "So?"

"Well, we got a call last night. Remember the girl who stayed over before because her foster sister appeared to be going into labor? Well now the foster sister is being induced and the girl is with us for one or two nights."

He asked me if, in the moments between all the activity and problems, I ever get bored.

I told him no, I don't get bored. I enjoy the peace and quiet.

Although I do have a nagging feeling like I have misplaced or fogotten something and just can't remember what it is.


Somebody quick! Get FosterAbba and FosterEema a placement! They need real kids with real problems so they can stop worrying about the fictional ones(Supernanny...Or Holy Crap, Batman)! Sorry...I teased them in the comments too. I should not do that.

Seriously, thinking about what we can handle and what we can't is an important part of being care givers. I too am not prepared to deal with kids who are physically violent or destructive. Even if I were I would not do that to the bioboys.

I had to take a class a couple of years ago on restraint. Well, they said it was restraint, but mostly it was about how to avoid having the $h!t beat out of you. I learned how to escape various holds, avoid a punch, stuff like that. I also learned acceptable techniques for physical restraint, but I also learned that given my size and the size of the kids I care for, they won't work.

At the end of the class we were asked how, given what we know, we would handle the situations like the ones we had been learning about. "What is your plan?" they said.

I raised my hand. "My plan is to hide in the bathroom and call 911." "Well, what if another child is being attacked?" "I might throw my body between them, and tell everyone else to hide in the bathroom and call 911."

I know the teachers were disappointed. They wanted me to express confidence in my skills. I pointed out to them that I am a not-tall, slightly over-weight, not-terribly-fit woman. I take care of teenagers all of whom have been taller or heavier than I am. Physical violence is out of my league.

But you may have noticed that the title of this post does not seem to have anything to do with what I have written...yet.

What is not out of my league is de-escalating most kids before they get there. I have a highly sophisticated technique for de-escalating kids who look like they are about to get worked up to a real rage. Want to hear it?

I get a cup of water or tea, sit down, maintain the most relaxed body language I can, and listen.

That's it folks. The water or tea is important. That's what tells the kids I am not planning on going anywhere.

The first time I did it was when I was babysitting and a six year old started to rage. I just didn't know what to do. I fell into a chair, and sat there trying to figure out what to do. After about 10 seconds the child stopped and looked at me. Clearly I was not following the script. We stared at each other for a while and then I said, "Would you like me to read you a story?" The kid said yes and it was over.

I am NOT saying it always works. I am just saying that it is the only thing I have ever tried that did.

The road

Grits gone north has a photo of a road on her blog that is worth the price of admission.

I want to say something witty about it, but words fail me. Go take a peek.

The blog address:
Grits Gone North

The post with photo (I hope):
Two More Weeks

Monday, May 01, 2006

A very short history of child protection

Pop quiz: Which group had legal protection from abuse first: animals or children?

Even if you did not know, you probably guessed based upon the fact that I asked the question.

In 1866 Henry Bergh founded the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The ASPCA successfully lobbied the state of New York to enact the nations first laws forbidding cruelty to animals. Other societies sprung up in other states where more anti-cruelty laws were passed. (Often the laws were primarily concerned with the treatment of draft animals, not pets).

In 1874 a woman named Etta Wheeler came to the society to ask for help in rescuing Mary Ellen. The society successfully obtained custody and placed her in a new home. In New York a second society was quickly founded, The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. You can read accounts of Mary Ellen's story here.

This was the beginning of legal child protection in America. In other states single organizations (e.g. The American Humane Society) were formed. Different states had different laws, virtually none of which were enforced. Families were private matters.

The first federal law criminalizing child abuse did not come into being until 100 years after Mary Ellen's day in court.

There are so many failures in our child protection system. So many things it does wrong. Perhaps we should not be surprised, here in the states at least we have only been at it for 32 years. (I know nothing about the history of child protection in other countries.)