Kelly called it. The first week -- maybe the first full day -- that London was with us, Kelly said "six weeks in, we're going to have trouble. It will be her way of testing us. She's going to want to see if we'll still love her even if she gets in trouble."
She was alerted to this phenomenon by the very excellent Foster Parenting Podcast. It's a podcast we can't recommend enough. It's put on by a couple who, like us, have decided to share their experiences as they foster and adopt children needing a home. We discovered them fairly early in our adoption process and they have served as inspiration and an encouragement throughout this entire process for us. Their trials, tribulations, and guarded transparency have emboldened us to be equally transparent with our own trials and tribulations -- in hopes that we might encourage others going through the same things we're going through. It's been a comfort to us to know we're not alone and we want to make sure that you, too, know that you're not alone.
Sorry. That was a bit of a tangent. But it was because of that podcast, as well as other outside reading, that we were completely unsurprised when London called and said she was being sent to detention. London was super-worried and stressed out. She was supposed to serve her detention at the same time she was supposed to be playing her first soccer game (did we mention she made the soccer team? She made the soccer team!).
I called the school to find out what had happened. Her teacher, a cantankerous woman who sounded like she was in sixties, made no effort to hide the fact that she has given up on London's particular section of science. To quote her verbatim, "I'm done with them. They think because this is the last period of the day they can goof off."* I asked what London, specifically, had done to warrant detention. "She's been turning in incomplete work and she wasn't paying attention when I showed them the video they were supposed to be watching and the handbook -- and the Vice Principal -- says I can use detention to get a student's attention to help improve their behavior."
Two very important things needed to happen: (1) We needed to let London know that even she had gotten in trouble, we still loved her. (2) We needed to not undermine the authority of the teacher.
I drove down to the school a little early that day so I could catch London in between school and soccer practice. I brought her a sweet tea from Sonic, which immediately seemed to ease her foul mood. We talked things over a bit. I told her I had found out we could reschedule her detention, so she wouldn't have to miss her game -- and that I had already begun that process. "Could you get me out of detention?" she asked hopefully. I shook my head. "I talked to your teacher. It sounds like you've earned it." She grumbled a bit under her breath but didn't disagree. After soccer, Kelly asked her what she was going to do to make sure this didn't happen again. And together, led by London, we formulated a plan to overcome the tired and cantankerous science teacher, improve her grade in science, and generally stay out of detention in the future.
I doubt this cry for help was pre-meditated. But I don't believe the timing of it was coincidental. It was exactly at the six week mark. She's had such a history of bouncing from house to house, it only makes sense that she would test the length and breadth of our patience and love. But hopefully now she realizes that while she may frustrate or worry or even anger us, none of those will actually displace or replace our love for her or our determination to make her a success.
* It's important to note that this is the same science teacher who elected to show her class Short Circuit to teach them about robots and The Little Mermaid to teach them about . . . life under the sea?