I usually wouldn’t write so soon after another blog, but stuff just got real with my teenage placement. LOL!
Really in the grande scheme of foster care she is not bad at all, but I was really naive in thinking that this would be an uncomplicated “easy” placement. LOL! When my placement arrived (I feel weird calling her my foster daughter or my daughter because she is such a grown lady… lol!), I gave her a short list of rules that I needed her to abide by while living in my home. One of the rules was that she cannot eat in her bedroom. I don’t even eat in my room, so I am not asking her to do anything that I don’t do myself. Okay, so fast forward to 4 days into her placement with me and I come home from the gym to find a fruit loop on the carpet in front of her room. It was a little late and before I left she told me that she was really tired from taking finals and she may be in bed before I got back home, so I snapped a picture and sent her a text message reiterating the rule of not eating upstairs. A few minutes later she responds with this crazy story about how the fruit loop ended up in front of her door. She basically told me that she spilled cereal on her pants and went upstairs to change and clean up. Immediately my “parent” antenna went up and I smelled a lie. I responded to her text with “ok” because I did not want to accuse her of lying through text message. I mean, does she really think that I believed that a fruit loop had enough strength to hang on to her pants while she 1. stood up, 2. walked across the floor, 3. and went up two flights of stairs before it decided to give up and drop off her pants? OR she wouldn’t clean up all the fruit loops on her pants before she decided to go up the stairs. Yup… I was born yesterday and I surely believed that (I really feel like my mother, lol!). I let it go for the night, but I was really boiling that she thought I was so stupid… that I am such an idiot that believed her story.
Fast forward to morning, I was unloading the dishwasher and noticed that one of my bowls was missing. I got enraged again (silently) because now I KNEW she took a bowl of cereal into her room. Small infraction in the grande scheme… but an infraction non-the-less. When she came down to tell me good morning (I did exchange pleasantries first), I told her there was a bowl missing and asked her if she used it to take food to her room. She said, “no” she did not take food to her room and that she didn’t know where the bowl was. Again, I didn’t believe her story from the night before so I was already bubbling because I knew she was lying. She asked me if I looked in the dishwasher for the dish. I told her I unloaded the dishwasher and that is how I noticed the dish was missing. I asked her if she was telling the truth and she said, “yes.” **Side note** I now understand how parents can tell if a child is lying, I don’t know my placement that well yet… but I could tell by her countenance that she was not being truthful. **End note** She insisted that she did not know where the bowl was and that she could show me her pants where the milk spilled. I told her she didn’t have to do that and again… let it go. When I went upstairs to make lunch… guess what I found?? Ding ding ding! Bingo! The bowl. She placed it in the dishwasher. That sent me into another fit on the inside. Like I am so stupid that I would not notice that the dishwasher that I just cleared magically has the missing bowl. She spent the entire day in her room (I was working and was going to wait until after work to talk to her about it), which was not her usual pattern. A friend came over after work and she was sleeping by the time I could say anything. I figured that she was either embarrassed that I caught her not telling the truth or mad that I “spoke” to her about it. Either way, she did not speak to me the rest of the day. I made a note to speak to her in the morning.
This morning, she did not come down and tell me good morning (like she usually would), but I decided to be the adult and go up and speak to her. I asked her how she was feeling, how she slept, etc. and asked if she was okay because she was in her room all day. She said she didn’t feel well so she stayed in the room… okay. She told me that her worker called to speak to her about the “incident.” Okay, another side note – so my social worker emailed me to give me some information and asked me how everything was going. I told her that it was going well, but I just caught my placement in a lie and I wasn’t too happy about it. My worker told me to make a note and send it to my placements social worker… so I did. My placement told her worker that it was a misunderstanding. I couldn’t take it anymore so I asked her how the bowl ended up in the dishwasher. She told me that she put the dish in the cabinet with the plastic containers by mistake and found it and put it in the dishwasher. Do you think I believed that… NOPE! Remember, I had unloaded the dishwasher so I had put all the dishes away. I would have noticed if there was a bowl that was out of place. I told her this and her response was, “well, I don’t know what to tell you because that’s where it was.” So then I knew, she was not going to tell the truth… she was sticking to her lie. Instead of just letting me know that she made a mistake, she made a small incident about eating in her room a bigger incident of lying and broken trust. I know she doesn’t trust me yet, I don’t expect her to. BUT now, I can not trust anything that she tells me… I will take it with a grain of salt. As Judge Judy would say, “teenagers lie as soon as they open their mouth.” Now I believe that… LOL!
I spoke to two of my close friends, one is a foster parent herself and they both gave me a really good perspective. I always try to put myself in each of my placements shoes. I did it with the baby and the six year old, and now a teenager. I can never imaging what they go through so I try to speak to them with grace, mercy, and respect. Even though I cannot stand to be lied to and I cannot stand a liar, I have to accept the fact that lying is something she picked up up along the way to learn how to survive in foster care. As a kid when I messed up with my mom, I never would think or image that she would kick me out of the house. Kick my butt yes, but not kick me out of the house. These kids, they may believe that they are one mistake away from being removed from a home. One mistake away from a person tossing them back to the worker for them to deal with. I can’t imagine that. So, as much as I can’t stand a liar I have to understand that this is bigger than a bowl of cereal.
So my easy going placement, the one that I was just supposed to glide through for the summer… just opened my eyes to the reality of fostering a teenager. She’s not a bad person, not a bad kid, and she has a great head on her shoulders, but I have to remember that she had a total life before me and anything that she does or says I cannot take personally. Does she have to follow the rules, absolutely! BUT from this moment on I will be more aware that these things can happen… even when they are 19 :-).