Sunday, September 16, 2007

Foster Children: Guilt Response

I said that Frankie was very calm yesterday, but I thought I would write a separate post about why I am grateful, surprised, and watchful.

Frankie would tell you that this house is the best place he has lived. It is the first place where he can present as a girl (which by the way he does far less than I expected -- maybe it is the icky falsies). It is the first place in a long time (maybe the only place ever?) where there was consistently plenty of food and an open-door policy to the kitchen. Frankie still adores that he can make himself a sandwich or get a bowl of cereal any time he wants.

And there is a "TV dad, like on the Brady's." Now Hubby is not really all that much like Mr. Brady, but he kinda is to Frankie. Hubby gives himself breaks, but when he interacts with Frankie he turns on that Mister Rogers thing. Yesterday Hubby came home excited that he found a full-size basketball hoop and stand outside a thrift store for $20! Hubby is not a big sports player, but he would be very willing to go out and play basketball with boys who are even less good at it than he is. I think Frankie likes him more than he does the open kitchen.

And Frankie feels deeply guilty for "abandoning" his father. His father is not an evil person. Like David's mother, he is one of the millions of people in this world who do not have the skills to take care of themselves. In a more ideal world, they would live with their children in supportive environments where they were all cared for. In a more ideal world, David and Frankie would have never been separated from their parents, and no one would have expected those parents to be able to provide food or structure. Our social services doesn't (can't?) distinguish between parents who are loving but genuinely incapable of coping with the world, and people who under any circumstances would be bad for their children.

Where David hated his mother for failing him, Frankie currently hates himself for failing his father. I think he took on a fair amount of the adult responsibilities. I imagine that his father did try harder to keep a job and keep them fed when Frankie was around. Frankie imagines that after he left for good that his dad spiralled downward. He may be right about that part.

So the story that Frankie is telling himself is that he was selfish and unwilling to fulfill his responsibilities. He wanted things he should not have wanted. He called in the state, abandoned his dad, and now he has all the things he wanted and did not deserve.

So what will happen next?

If I were the naive parent I was seven years ago I might have just expected that Frankie would be grateful and happy for all the good things I am providing.

Now I know that he could go the other way. He could respond by punishing himself and everyone who dared to give him the things he doesn't think he deserves. He might inflict pain on himself or damage to property. So I find myself looking around and thinking, "Is there anything out here that it would break your heart if he destroyed? Better baton down the hatches; there could be one heck of a storm on the horizon."

What I hope though is that Frankie will be able to deal with is feelings in counseling, by talking and crying with us, and by beating up wufs in WoW. If it works out that way I will be grateful and happy.

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