It’s been a year since our foster girl first pointed out she could kill me with a steak knife–and it wasn’t the last threat on my life. Each time she casually mentioned killing me I casually responded that I had no fear of death and if she wanted to kill people she’d end up in a jail for evil kids who all wanted to kill each other. I said, “Go for it if that sounds like fun.”
It occurred to me today that those threats ended some months ago. She hasn’t picked up string beans off the floor of public restrooms and eaten them in a long time either. My big fear before picking up M last year (the week of the all important county fair) was that I’d find her unattractive. Yes, I’m that shallow. She was cute but a wreck. She was eager to be taken home (by just about anyone including two men she pleaded with the day before on the golf course after escaping the first group home). The group home director told me not to feel bad if the placement didn’t work out since no one expected it would. As she helped load M’s stuff into our car she said, “Oh, and by the way, don’t let M near babies–she wants to strangle them. Okay, bye!”
Think of abuse.
Think of all the different ways in which a person can be abused.
Think a thick stack of reports.
M had seen it all by age 8.
She came to us highly medicated and had a visit with her mother in a public park that first week where her mother asked her to pole dance in the park. This triggered M and put her in the children’s mental ward for two months where they drugged her even more.
Think soulless zombie slobbering and shuffling.
We took turns visiting her a few times a week. We visited her daily once her mother surrendered her rights and her sisters were set to be adopted by a family who decided they couldn’t take M (fair enough–they’d done all they could do).
Let me just say that cider donuts and coffee got me through those autumn weeks of endless travel to the very depressing hospital.
Halloween stands out as a low point. M begged us to come see her in the Cinderella costume we got for her, but by the time we arrived the staff had blackened her eyes with zombie makeup. She was angry, crying and “unstable” (the word they use in such places when someone is beside themselves with sorrow). M wanted her real mother. She wanted us to leave. She hated us. The staff took her to the padded cell–in her princess costume– and escorted us out. Later that night M called and asked if we’d come visit the next day.
The young, hipster therapist thought she’d intimidate me with big therapy words. She didn’t like me questioning the crazy meds (some of which are actually marketed as “foster kid drugs”!!). BTW, I knew what the big words meant. They meant money for the institutions housing the foster kids. One day the therapist saw me coming and ran outside. I kid you not.
It’s been a journey. Therapists, mental wards, group homes, sibling visits and evenings spent with cops looking for M. Last year M came to us taking about 10 different meds. Now she’s on none. She was afraid of open spaces and small places. Last week she sat in the quiet field with the sheep and goats for an hour with me in silence. At the end of the hour she turned to me and said, “You know, you’re right. The crickets’ singing is relaxing.”
M rides her bike, feeds the dogs and walks them, cleans her room and weaves pot holders like any slightly bored 10 year-old girl in summer. She’s still goofy but I don’t think she deserves the label she came with: low functioning. Who wouldn’t be low functioning after the life she’s lived? I think she functions fairly well these days.
When she comes back on Friday from sleepover camp (we can’t believe she’s actually still there!), we’ll go to the fair and eat fried dough. She’ll probably still make a mess of it–but this year she’ll know how to clean herself up! We’ll visit her sisters who happen to be adopted by a farming family we’ve become quite friendly with who show cows at the fair. Soon, if all goes according to plan and we adopt M we’ll practically be family. I hadn’t expected a new family. I hadn’t expected to love this weird kid, but that’s yet another reason why blogging has to wait.
It’s hard to write with a chatty girl over your shoulder.
26 responses to “One Less Lonely Girl”
I’m speechless. You and your husband are extraordinary and I am chock-full of admiration at the achievement. All power to your elbow.
We’re definitely not extraordinary. LOL. You should see us on the bad days. M would tell you I have my moments (and so does she!). It’s easy to fear the unknown about these kids but when you meet them you want to bring them all home.
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You’ve brought me to tears. For the horror this child lived through, for your love and compassion and resolution not to let her go. For the child herself. You lifted a small corner of the dark shade over the world, but for M, you made a world of possibilities, safety, and love. I’m honored to have been able to read this.
I’m honored that you read it. I’m kind of a sucker for the under dog. But things happened in such a way that before we knew it we were the only people she had left (and we hardly knew each other!). We were compelled to keep going even as we were constantly asking ourselves how we’d gotten involved with one of the worst cases of abuse in our county.
Ignorance was bliss, for sure! If we knew in advance what life would be like we would have found some good excuses to run!
I will say there were enough weird coincidences to make us think God had plans for this match.
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This is absolutely stunning. I know it must be happening in thousands of households across the country, but the way you describe M’s adaptation to her new life makes me think you have the makings of a powerful memoir on your hands. One that could really change people for the better.
Thanks for sharing your story.
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What kind words, Kevin. If you don’t think too far in advance it’s quite easy to get sucked into the world of foster care. One tiny step leads to another and suddenly there’s this note in your email about a messed up kid. You go cold for a second, but agree to meeting the kid. When you do you realize this kid is not just a paragraph of brokenness but a one-of-a-kind little human. The good, the bad, the ugly–but definitely worth lending a hand to. (though all kids are pretty annoying at times.) 🙂
Perfect phrase: “not just a paragraph of brokenness.” I’m afraid that paragraph is what scares off a lot of potential foster parents.
I remember making a mental list of the types of kids we wouldn’t take in–haha. What I realized is that so many labels aren’t even really true, but stick because they’re put on forms and the kids have no one advocating for them.
For some reason my fears didn’t stop me on this one–maybe it’s a God thing. I just got a letter from camp from the kid which was a nice thing.
Wow — what a hard but rewarding road to travel. Blessings on everything you’ve done.
We’ve had a few very helpful mentors and a social worker who kept cheering us on. A great many unsung heroes in this story.
Love breaks some of the strongest defenses and heals deep wounds. God bless you & your family for extending love. Godspeed for the future.
Thanks, Timi. It’s a difficult thing to remember. Love is the key, but we get distracted and afraid of it so easily.
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When we risk loving deeply it makes us vulnerable to heart break, but also open to joy. Beautiful post. Can only imagine how difficult it must have been, but know the joy will be proportional. Blessings for all of you.
Thanks Eileen. Loving deeply also means loving when you don’t really want to as well. Some days are definitely harder than others–but the same is true in any family. When a basement is flooded because a child forgets they put an egg in the drain of a sink it’s momentarily hard to love. LOL.
Just to write a narcissistic comment, I will tell you that I did really really good. I didn’t cry at all. Not until you said that the therapist ran outside when she saw you coming. That is what did me in. Or the culmination of what you are written up until then. I wish I could hug all of you.
Am I allowed to share this post with my almost-defunct adoption blog or not? Either reblogging or linking on its Facebook page.
Of course! Share away. 🙂
Your words are like a hug. 🙂
God bless you for all that you are doing for this child. 🙂 ❤
Thank you. I actually feel kinda weird for having published this. I hadn’t meant for it to bring me and my family any praise! I was more just thinking of how far M had come, but how little I’ve been able to blog lately. LOL.
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Oh I’m glad you posted it! It may help others❣😊
Reblogged this on Don't We Look Alike? and commented:
Patience, love, and strength–that’s some of what it takes.
Congratulations to you all
even though I pretty much know the story,I have to say, actually reading this made me cry.I have had the privilidge of meeting this incredible family, and “Thank You God” for giving our sometimes,very messed up world, such incredible,caring people.
It gives me hope! M is a very complex girl, who is trying so hard to belong to this wonderful family. I know with their love and determination this will happen. Thank You All.
Thanks, Joanne! You are such a sweetheart (as M would say!).