Sunday, October 08, 2006

Young Adults

I've been trying to remember what it was like in those last few month before going to college, or the summer I spent at home after my freshman year.

Evan spent both Friday night and last night out with his new boyfriend. This one he is willing to tell me about (rather more than I need to know) and promises he will introduce to us. He however is not allowed to have the boyfriend spend the night here, boyfriend works until 10:00pm, and they are out all night. Yesterday he told us they were going to sleep at a friend's house and everyone was going on a hike today. We said okay.

There is a part of me that is jumping to worrying that it is going to be like it was with David in the end. David stopped coming home. He sometimes had permission to be gone, but sometimes not. He manufactured situations in which he was unable to get home. David always tells the truth, but for him telling someone that he did not need a ride home (in fact refusing a ride home) and then telling us he could not get home because his friend was not going to take him, and he knew that for sure because he had already talked to him about it, counted as telling the truth.

David was turning 18 and had three semesters left of high school. He did not want to stay, and yet could not bring himself to telling us that he wanted to leave. In the end we made the decision to move him out, but I am still convinced that is the way David wanted it to be. He wanted, even needed, to be the innocent one. He wanted to be able tell his friends that they had to take him in because his mean foster parents would not let him stay. David's disappearances were intended to upset me.

Evan however is not doing that, and I keep reminding myself that it is not the same thing. Evan wants to stay here until he can move into the dorms. If he were told that he could not he would feel terrified and betrayed. If we have rules he does not like (we do), he will argue (check) and try to manipulate what we have said (check) so as to get to do what he wants, but he will not push it like David did. He will stop shy of any behavior that will get him moved out

What Evan is doing is something very different. Evan is growing up. Evan is separating himself from us so that he can leave in January. He is getting used to the idea, convincing himself that he does not need us so much. He feels, like all young people his age, that he is entitled to the privleges of being an adult without being burdened by any of the responsibilities. He has this three month stretch in which he does not have either high school or college. Sure, he needs to work and save money, but it is the last time in his life in which he can have fun and not worry about paying bills.

There are a couple of ways this can go. I can try to make him follow the same rules I would have for a fifteen-year-old. If he were a birth kid and I did that we would fight and make up and fight again. I would complain about the way he behaved and I might complain to my friends and those who had had children the same age would smile and nod and tell me that that was the way it was for them too. I might, in anger, threaten to kick him out. I might tell him that if didn't want to be part of the family he could just move out now. But we both would know that I would not mean it and it would blow over and we would make up and start the cycle over.

But that is not an option for us. I can not say those things, or make those complaints without them being taken seriously. Since he is a foster kid, there are a team of professionals who are dedicated to solving the problem and who are quite comfortable with the idea that he should follow the same rules. They would tell him that if he wants to make his own rules and be an adult then he should be living on his own. If he wants to be comprehensive care and part of a family, then he must act like part of a family.

At least that's what I think they would say, and I what I know they would say if they thought I wanted them to.

What will happen, what is happening, is that Evan will keep pushing the envelop and we will keep pulling him back in. We will give him more freedom than we expected and less than he thinks he deserves. We will quarrel, but both of us will realize that we do not have the freedom to loose our tempers and say things we do not mean.

In a birth family it is safe to for the kid to say, "Well, maybe I will just move out!" or the parent to yell, "If you don't like it here, then why don't you just find your own place!" It is not safe here though. If either of us say something like that, the other think we really meant it. If social workers are called they may really think we meant it. The story will end in a different way than either of us intended.

So we must both be more careful.

I try not to let my decisions be determined by my power or my fear of abusing my power. I am trying to do this right.

I am trying to remember what it is like to be nineteen, nearly done with high school, and three months away from college -- even while I discover what it was like to be my mother during those months.

1 comment:

  1. Oh Beth. How hard it must be to say yes to something when you're not comfortable with it. I know he feels like an adult, but he is only 19. If my decisions as a 19 year old guided my life now, I'd be a complete mess. But I see that you're weighing smaller decisions against the larger good. In the long run, that will benefit him more.


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