Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Phase Two

FosterAbba has a post today about dealing with Danielle's manipuative behavior. Now for some reason when I read that I thought, "Ah...phase two."

I have no idea if it is really the second phase, but it kind of is.

What I mean is that there is the early part where, for me at least, I mostly think in sympathetic ways about what has been done to the kids. Danielle's story is so heartbreaking, although I suppose the stories of most of our kids are. I think hers hit me harder than most because it was immediate. She had just been rescued from a horrible situation. Most of the kids I deal with have been in the foster care system for a while. Their abuse and neglect happened years ago. It is part of the story of who they are, but it has fallen into a story.

Once you move past that, there is the present reality. You now have a child who survived that story by whatever means necessary. Maybe they got good at turning off their emotions, or walking away from people. Maybe their most effective strategy was lying, or manipulating, or charming. Maybe throwing temper tantrums was the only thing that got their needs met.

All that doesn't just go away. I am beginning to remember, and attempt to tell carefully, Carl's story. Carl's strategy was lying. At any given moment he said and became what he thought you wanted to hear or for him to be. That he no longer needed to do that was irrelevant. It was part of him and it wasn't going away.

After he was sure that I loved him and he was safe he stopped doing some of those things, but he never stopped lying. I remember the family driving him back to his first apartment after meeting him somewhere. I was thinking that I would like to see the apartment, but that as they had just moved in I should probably wait. Let them get settled. But in the car Carl talked and laughed about three gay guys living together -- everyone so concerned to keep the place looking nice. The biggest problem was conflict over decorating styles. He went on so that I got really curious. When we got there I asked if I could see it. The boys were also excited and all climbed out and walked up to the door.

I saw his face and realized that he was trying to think of an excuse not to let us in. I knew then what it would look like. It looked like three very young men lived there. It was dirty and cluttered. Not shockingly so, just far, far different from what he said. I hugged him and told him that I loved him.

By that time those sort of things only made me a little sad, not angry. I had thought in the beginning that once he knew he didn't need to lie he would stop lying.

That never happened. It still hasn't. I learned how to live with someone that I did not believe. I made decisions based upon evidence other than what he told me.

I stopped thinking that if I found the right behavior plan I could change him.

Which isn't how I wanted this post to end, since I started talking about Danielle. So let me add that this was just my experience with Carl. It doesn't mean that it will be any one else's.

No comments:

Post a Comment

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.