Six announced at breakfast this morning that she is getting adopted, and that we can call her “Sophia”.
That is not her name, of course.
She is also not getting adopted, not yet. Her next court hearing is in April, and the DA may very well recommend termination, but it could be a good year or more before that actually happens – if it does. Her family could find an alternate plan before then, instead of adoption. We really just don’t know what will happen with her.
She is aware, however, that her mother is not improving, and in some ways getting worse.
Mama, my other mom is still stealing stuff.
I know, sweetie.
And she still takes those pills.
I know, sweetie.
And she isn’t very much of a grown up.
This I know. When Six got a leap pad system for Christmas, the mom wore out the battery before Six ever got to play with it. When they have their weekly one hour supervised visit, the mom colors the coloring books before giving them to Six. When she got to go out to lunch with Six during an appointment about Six getting cochlear implants, she asked if they could have ice cream for lunch.
Most recently, mom got kicked out of grandpa’s house, where she had been living since getting fired from the hotel job that also gave her a place to stay. Now homeless with only three weeks until court, it isn’t looking very good. And Six knows it.
But Six also knows that Five and Toddler are getting adopted, and they are getting a lot of attention for it. It’s been brewing, but finally came to a head today. We had a showdown, while Six was refusing to use her words to express herself directly.
It all started with lunch, simple enough. Well, she had been fussy and mean to Five and Toddler all day. But the showdown started with lunch.
The kids picked what to eat, and I did my best to make that as close as I could with what we had. No one complained, even when I was a mean mom and made them eat vegetables with it. Even when I said they also need a fruit, and could pick an apple or applesauce, no one griped. Six herself quickly chose an apple she herself picked out, and skipped back to the table happily enough. Nothing seemed amiss.
Until she took a tiny little fairy bite out of just the skin, and loudly announced she was “done” because she “tried a bite”.
No, I said, you chose the apple, so you need to go ahead and eat it.
Now, mind you, we do not have finish-your-plate rules at our house. We know food issues, and are not going to force any of them to eat. If they don’t eat their vegetables, fruit in this case, and proteins, though, they do not get dessert. We rarely have dessert, so that is a treat they usually don’t want to miss.
But still, I was not going to get in a battle over an apple.
Excepting then she looked me right in the eyes, picked up her apple, reached over, and dropped it on the floor. On purpose. Daring me to do something about it.
I did not engage.
She then proceeded to eat her main dish, ignoring the vegetables and her apple on the floor.
That’s when 13, who often forgets she isn’t the mom anymore, reminded her she needed to finish her vegetables and not just the main dish.
Six replied by looking me in the eyes again, picking up her vegetables one by one, and flicking them to the floor.
I still did not engage, and was consciously ignoring negative behavior when Five smelled a battle brewing and suddenly shouted out, “I can’t believe you are throwing food on the floor! That is so gross! You better tell mom you are sorry!”
That got Toddler riled up, who chimed in with, “Yeah, you pick those up! You eat those dirty foods on the floor!”
That’s when Six began to scream.
She began to scream like I have never seen her scream. She began to scream like a Toddler scream, like the entire ocean of emotions inside her was going to come out. She began to scream like she suddenly felt the weight of grief of her mother’s choices, the loss of her home and family, the confusion at why two of the kids could be adopted already and not her yet, and the irritation at not being an only child anymore. All of it welled up in her in some kind of emotional tsunami, and came out of her in some kind of feral wail like I have never heard before from any creature ever.
This was naturally followed by an all out temper tantrum on the floor, kicking and screaming right there under the table, carrots and broccoli flying in the air while the apple rolled somewhere under the couch.
I asked her to go to her room while she cried, because crying is always okay. Screaming is not always okay, but sometimes necessary, and so better to do it in the safe privacy of her room. I stayed calm, and reached for her hands, and initially she responded to me. We got part way through the kitchen toward her room, and she just turned on me as the wave of emotions turned into rage. Her hearing aids and my cochlear implants went flying as her socked feet slipped from under her mid-leap toward me, and she fell in a pile on the floor. I got her picked up again and walked her to her room, where she lay crying for some time.
By the time she was quiet again, the baby and toddler were down for naps and Five and 13 were in his room watching a movie. I was working on their adoption videos, and waiting for Six to settle. When she was quiet, I went to open her door. I thought she might be asleep, that perhaps she was tired for some reason and that was why she had such a fussy day, but she was awake. I told her she could stay there and rest if she wanted, but if she was hungry she could go pick up her vegetables and finish her apple (which had been found on the coloring books, quiet un-touched by the dirty floor).
That’s all I said, and beyond that, I was still not in an apple battle.
Except then when I went to check on the baby, I came back and she was sitting smiling at the table. I asked what she was smiling about, and she said, “I finished my apple! So can I have dessert?” I looked, and she had not eaten any of her lunch at all, even discounting the vegetables that had to be thrown away, and her apple core was no where to be seen. I investigated further, and found her apple in the trash. She had lied about it!
When I let her know she did not have to finish her food, but would not get dessert because she had not eaten, she began to cry all over again.
This is our Six, who holds things in for so long that nothing comes out until it all boils over at once.
She had so many things she was sad about, and so many things she was angry about, and so many things hurting her. None of it was about lunch, or the apple, or tossed vegetables. It is about her mom, who is very nearly younger than Six developmentally. It is about her mom, who won’t stop abusing substances long enough to win Six back. It is about her mom, who won’t get a job because she doesn’t want to stop stealing. It is about her grandpa, whom Six wants to love but is afraid of because of the yelling and domestic violence and now has kicked out her homeless mom (but will let her back any day now because he enables her like that). It is about her, this girl who wants to be adopted but doesn’t know yet if she will be, this girl who grieves for the loss of a family that doesn’t seem to want her.
It was so, so sad.
She did, in the end, eat an apple.
She did, in the end, win some dessert after supper, the last of the wheat free cupcakes from my birthday.
She did, in the end, use her words to express all these things.
And it was, in the end, powerful for all the kids. She shared her thoughts and feelings about foster care and adoption and her birth family. This even opened up 13, who is aware termination is happening but insists on not being adopted, who has no choices left in town but us and so is stuck here but doesn’t exactly want to attach, much less engage. She even used the adoption workbook from the state to pick out faces about her feelings toward her mom: sad, mad, hurt, ashamed, embarrassed, and frustrated. Good for her.
It was a break through for all of us, I think, but a really hard day.
We cannot NOT celebrate the adoption of Five and Toddler, just because the other kids are still foster kids.
We can be careful to give them extra support and attention so they don’t feel left out, even finding ways they can participate in the process – like starting to make their own videos, which they all loved.
But we are not the ones who make the decisions, or decide who stays and who goes, or who can fix everything into a lovely little package, wrapped up in a shiny ribbon like a thirty minute sitcom.
Life is harder than that.
Life has been so hard for them.
I made sure, when it was bed time, to spend extra cuddle time with Six. We tickled and snuggled and wriggled around laughing until I knew she was okay again, until she knew she was okay again. It’s a lot to process for such little ones, and hard to do so when we don’t actually have any answers for anything.
The only answer I have to give is to keep loving and to keep trying.That’s all I got.