Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Bad TV inspires good talk

So I watched the season finale of Secret Life of the American Teenager last night. As I have mentioned before it is really bad, but some of the characters are well-played and it is difficult (for me) not to care about them and want to know what will happen. Basically I have spent the whole season being glad that the show hasn't presented adoption as "the beautiful choice" after which the mother is able to restart her life as though nothing happened. I was also routing for Amy to figure out how to parent the baby since it was clearly what she wanted. That is how the season ended...sorry if you have it recorded and didn't want to know. Amy's going to parent the baby and everyone in magic TV land is going to help.

Anyway, the point is that Gary watched the end with me. Now I have a rule about watching bad TV with me. The rule is that I know it is BAD, however I am enjoying it so if they watch they have to SHUT UP. No mocking the mock-worthy while I am endulging.

When it was over Gary asked the sort of questions that one would ask about a show you haven't been watching. "Who's that guy and why is he doing that?" sort of question. I'll spare you the details. We did end up having a long conversation about teenagers and whether and why they have sex, and about the nature of consent in sex. He agreed that if a girl reported that she wasn't even sure that what they did was sex, it probably wasn't a "full consent" sort of situation. Thought I avoided it, I did end up telling him that Ricky (the babydaddy) is in foster care, that his father was a scary dude and was out of jail for a while but went back when one of Ricky's friends (or at least schoolmates) reported the dad for buying drugs.

Gary found a lot of similarities, and it got him talking about his dad.

He's wanted to talk about his dad a lot recently. A couple of days ago he spontaneously told me a story about an interaction between his dad and his favorite staff member at the group home. He was afraid it was going to come to blows. He told me how he jumped between them and got his dad to "stand down." He didn't want to see "his two most favorite people in the whole world" fighting. And in that conversation he did bring out all the love he has for his dad. It is still there. He wanted to talk about it.

Yesterday he wanted to talk about being angry at his dad for cutting off all contact. So we talked about that.

At one point I asked to him to tell me what age his dad was when HE was abandoned by his parents. Gary said his dad was twelve when he was dropped off at the juvenile detention facility. (Gary's Dad never went home. He spent his teen years in foster care.)

Anyway, along the way I told him that there was some evidence that when that happens, the parents don't have a model for how to parent their kids past the age of their own abandonment. So, if Gary's Dad wasn't parented after he was twelve, then he probably didn't know how to be a parent to to a kid who was twelve or thirteen or older. I pointed out that his dad did better by him than his grandfather did by his dad. (Mostly that was to encourage him that he could do better still.) Anyway that made sense to Gary. He said that when his dad visited him he did not reprimand him for saying things that he had not been allowed to say when he was younger. It did seem like his dad stopped treating him like a kid, which I know was hard for him then because he so wanted to be parented.

Gary said he was angry that his dad had decided not to talk to him anymore. I told him that I didn't think that his dad had made that decision. I suspected that it was more that on any given day he didn't call. He probably told himself that he should call, but he wasn't sure what to say and so put it off again. (Gary hasn't heard from his father since his birthday in September. I am pretty angry on his behalf, but that is another story). Gary at first thought that I was wrong about that, but later said, "You know, maybe he hasn't decided never to talk to me, maybe he is just avoiding calling. Do you think so?"

Gary didn't get very emotional about it, but he talked about how his father had chosen his siblings. "I mean he said that. He said, 'I can't take care of all of you and I am choosing them.' It was because of what I did." I nodded. It is true. Gary knows it is true. And it still hurts him. Even though Gary accepts that he can't go home, it hurts. And every now and then he needs to air out that pain.

There isn't much to do about that one. It is just there, and it hurts.


  1. It does hurt. My heart breaks for him.

  2. Yondalla,

    Our teenage foster son is coming home middle of March, I just got the call from my caseworker. What are your favorite books about parenting teens?

  3. What a great talk to have with Gary. You are doing so much to help him heal and to guide him to a better path for his future.

  4. Anonymous11:34 AM

    I understand the hurt...we are going through something similar. We've always had an open relationship w/ our daughter's first dad (umm...we've practically have adopted one another!LOL)and an open one w/ her birthmom but through letters and pictures...it was a gradual thing due to reasons i can't go into but last year it was supposed to progress to visits....she never responded...all of a suddent the letters and pictures stopped and we haven't heard from her. We asked her first dad (who stays in contact w/ b-mom) and he said this time he didn't want to get involved which means bad stuff is happening in her life again...anyway...our daughter who thought she was going to get visits now gets nothing and I'm angry and resentful yet making herculean efforts to stay impartial and supportive when I speak. Just hurts to see her hurt specially because she doesn't understand "why" she wouldn't want to see her....ugh...it hurts. My heart breaks from him too.



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