Tuesday, July 04, 2006

David's Story Part 61: Reflections

Foster parents are saints. They do something that other people could not dream of doing.

Foster parents are insane. They are codependents trying to satisfy their own needs, their own sense of worthlessness by rescuing children. They have martyr complexes.

Foster parents are naive. They think being a foster parent is like adopting a kitten at the shelter. They will bring it home and love it and everything will be okay. When it doesn't work out to be as sweet and easy as they thought it would be, they just toss the children back, causing even more damage.

Foster parents are monsters. They are only in it for the money. They take as many kids as they can, feed them cheap food, and don't buy them anything. They treat the children like animals. Sometimes they put them in cages.

Children in the foster care system are innocent. They only need a understanding and patience.

Children in the foster care system are monsters. They lie and steal and manipulate. They are incapable of trust and must not be trusted.

So what happened with David? There are at least two ways that the story can be made simple.

Version One:
David wanted to emancipate at 18. He wanted to move in with his boyfriend. He was surrounded by kind adults who were trying to help him to do the smart thing and stay in comprehensive care. He was torn between his view of himself as responsible and his desires for independencee. The only way to preserve his self-image and have what he wanted was to push his long-suffering foster parents into kicking him out. In the end they recognized the simple reality: he had moved out; he just hadn't taken his stuff with him.

Version Two:
David was a normal teenager doing developmentally normal things. He was torn between being an adult and being a child and he had no adult who was really there for him. He was struggling to make difficult decisions about his future. His needy foster mother kept putting demands on his time and energy. She forgot that it was not about her needs but about his. His personal life suffered a crisis. A birth parent, a good parent, would have been frustrated, but would never have kicked her son out of the house because he would not answer his cell phone or spend enough time with her. She didn't even give him a warning. As far as he knew she was frustrated, but okay. The next thing he heard he had already been moved out.

So which version is the truth? Which of us was innocent and which was the monster?

I went to the counseling appointment intending to confront him. I was going to tell him that he could not miss any more school. If he cut just one more day, he would have to move out. The counselor asked me why I wanted to do that. I said so that I would feel less guilty later. He laughed. Suddenly there was another versions or at least interpretations:

Version Three:
David wanted and expected to be kicked out. He would push the situation until that happened. In deciding to move him out when they did, the foster parents gave him the gift of innocence. The foster mother wanted to give him an ultimatum, but that would have been selfish. She wanted it only because she wanted to be the innocent one. In the end, she bore the guilt, and David was allowed to be innocent.

Of course there is the version we told David:
Version Four:
He was torn between two lives and making himself sick. He needed to live in just one place. He needed to focus on one set of problems. All the adults in his life who loved him decided together that the only way he would get that was to be moved to his life in The City. It was best for him.

What is the truth? Was I innocent? A bad mother? A martyr? A loving mother concerned with what was best for her child?

All of these versions seem to me to be plausible. It is possible that they are all true, or that none of them are. I don't know. Why does it matter to me? I could claim that it doesn't matter, but if it didn't would I be writing this? People who love me tell me that I did the right thing, or the only thing, or the inevitable thing, that I was not a bad mother. Of course, those are people who love me. They want me to feel better about it.

Here is what I believe about it now:
The best thing I did was preserving our relationship with David. I moved him out of the house but not out of my heart or the family.

Neither David nor I acted out of malice or behaved with total consideration and honesty. Neither of us were monsters or innocents; we were human.

I want my children to push themselves to be their best selves and not to beat themselves up over mistakes. The best way to teach that is to do it myself.

David's Story Part 1: The Beginning


  1. rossecorp6:45 PM

    I don't understand why you think you were somehow at fault in regard to David. Sure, some things could have been done differently, but do you really think David would have been in a different place now if somehow you'd done everything "right"? You did one piece of the work with David, and what you did, you did well, as your husband points out. And YOU ARE STILL David's family!!! Do you have any idea how amazing and important that is??? Most kid in care never get that. Your opportunity to parent David isn't over yet.

    PS You didn't post my comment on your other entry. Hope I didn't offend.

  2. I didn't delete a comment, and the blog is set up to accept them automatically.

    I blame Blogger.

    Can you recreate the comment?

  3. As for the other thing...I have this fantasy where I am much calmer and David works out his stuff and then settles down and goes to school..

    Yeah. I have a rich fantasy life.

    David would have followed the same path.

    I do know that it is amazing that he is still part of our lives. It's cool for us too.

  4. Hi again...just finished reading David's story... and I am waaaaaay past my bedtime.
    I think you might have used real names of some others too.
    David (once again),
    Anne (twice, I think... M?),
    "Hubby"? (http://pflagfostermom.blogspot.com/2006/07/davids-story-part-57-final-plan.html and I *think* once before)
    Brian? (http://pflagfostermom.blogspot.com/2006/07/davids-story-part-60-christmas-2005.html).
    But I've only read David's story so far, so the slips with these names in the pages that didn't note down must be among these 60 pages.

  5. Hi! I have been flirting with the idea of fostering for a long time, and discovered your blog the other night. I just finished David's story after reading Karl and Ann's stories. I am eager to jump into the rest and appreciate the experiences you are sharing.


Comments will be open for a little while, then I will be shutting them off. The blog will stay, but I do not want either to moderate comments or leave the blog available to spammers.