H gave us quite the… experience the other night, but it ended up being a good thing. She had a friend from school over and the two of them had gone out to play with some other kids in the neighborhood. Problem is, we had told them both to be back by 8, and at 8 sharp H’s friend shows up on the doorstep practically in tears.
“H ran off and I don’t know where she is. We were coming back because it was time, and she just ran off and left me.”
Oh boy. I had been expecting something to happen soon, because H had been giving us just a bit too little trouble. I knew something had been brewing, and here it was. I took off one direction on foot, and R took the car in the other. After about 20 minutes of searching, I found her in a big group of kids laughing as if she hadn’t a care in the world. The minute she saw me though, her face dropped into a scowl.
Oh. It’s like that. If looks could kill.
She knew exactly what she had done, and why I was there, and she was PISSED. She immediately started yelling at me, screaming that she was a “grown woman” and she could stay out with her friends as long as she wanted. She also added that I was a liar, a terrible mom, and that she’d never love me and she knew I didn’t love her. Between obscenities, she also continued walking away and then turning and screaming at me when I followed.
She seemed unable to understand that I was not, in fact, going to let my emotionally distressed 14 year old wander around after dark with no adult supervision whatsoever. Clearly, that made me the worst person ever. Aren’t I awful?
Eventually she got tired of walking and screaming, so she plopped herself on the ground and claimed that she was never going home and that she hated all of us. I sat with her and was quiet, just being there. About that point, R drove up in the car and joined us on the ground.
This is the part of fostering that I think wears a lot of people down. Not the big dramatic parts, but the part after that where you have to take hours to pick up the broken pieces of your kid. It took a while, but eventually it came out that H was resenting us having so much structure, because in both her bio-mom’s home and her previous foster home, there had been no rules at all. It’s tough for a 14 year old to go from complete freedom to following normal rules. Rules, while needed, are really scary. Rules mean that people actually care about your safety and wellbeing, and the concept of people caring is terrifying to most of these kids. Even more so for poor H, because she is still hurting a lot from her bio-mom requesting and then signing a surrender without a single effort to get her kids back.
So, we sat and talked. And talked. And talked some more. We reassured H over and over that we loved her and that we weren’t going to give up so easily. When she calmed down, she was actually able to talk over the rules that were bothering her with us, and together we actually found a way to adjust them so that she stays safe, but gets a little more freedom. We worked as a team.
When we finally got her home, she was our loving, sweet kid again. She took her meds without so much as a peep and gave me a hug when I kissed her goodnight. Overall, I think it was cathartic for her, and she got to see how we react when she blows up. Spoiler alert – We don’t react. We just sit quietly and offer the same love over and over until she can reach out her hand to take it.
I really love that darn kid.