We are TINKs again. Not the Disney fairy in green or any other green fairy for that matter. WE are back to being Two Incomes, No Kids people. This is the story of how we have returned to being TINKs. After 6 months of being in our home London moved out in March. It was a much quieter event than we imaged. There were few tears, but no yelling, no questions, no pleading – just silence.
We did a pretty good job considering we had never been parents. Considering we were only twice her age. Considering we were not told the whole back story or even the entire current situation. Considering she had more than 13 YEARS of inadequate programming. We did a great job setting boundaries. We did a pretty good job explaining those boundaries and why they existed. We even steadfastly held London to the consequences of her actions even when she whined or complained that they were unfair.
When we said yes to 14 year old London coming into our home we knew we would be challenged and we knew we were getting in over our heads. MANY people were kind enough to tell us that. The first couple months lulled us into false hope. It was actually not too hard. Yeah rearranging our work schedules and making the daily drive to and from school was not super fun, but a lot of other times were. We said over and over again that teenagers might just be better than babies – they sleep through the night, they can take care of their own hygiene (well maybe with some reminding), and hey, this one could even prepare a simple meal. This child was even old enough to share the responsibilities of some chores – like the much disliked kitty-litter-box-clean-out task.
Other than the drama that naturally surrounded court dates and visits with the bio-mom and the surprising number of doctors visits for a healthy 14 year old, the first three months were pretty easy. London did ballet and soccer, we went on a family vacation to Disney World, and we successfully navigated Christmases with all three of our families. We were really starting to enjoy this whole family thing. At Disney World Kelly rocked the mom bag complete with park maps, bottled water, hair ties, and snacks. Scott was honing his ability to embarrass London with loud embarrassing statements or questions. And it felt like things were starting to gel.
Starting second semester of her eighth grade year, London reached the point where she had been in this school longer than she had been in any of her previous 13 schools. A couple weeks into school she was suspended for fighting. There were consequences laid down and we lived through 3 days of suspension and 2 weeks of grounding. Then a few weeks later, after being reprimanded at school for being disrespectful to a teacher, London skipped class with a couple other kids. She was suspended from school for a week. London was back to school for 2 weeks exactly when she was found taking drugs on school grounds. This earned her expulsion from the public school system entirely.
We thought we handled the fight pretty well. We were told we handled the skipping school drama with aplomb. We talked a lot with London about her choices and what they communicated to us. With her actions she was communicating that she could not function within our family. That she could not hold up her end of our growing relationship. After all, you cannot have a healthy relationship with someone you can’t trust. After she ran away one Saturday we found that we could not trust her out of our sight, even at home. We were learning that she could not be trusted at school unless she was under the direct supervision of an adult, even then she was disruptive and rude. Ultimately our talking was just air and the consequences we laid down were not doing their job. London was escalating her acting out and becoming more and more disrespectful at home and school.
We ultimately decided that she did not respect us and would probably never follow our rules. We came to the conclusion that London was very good at adapting to meet a situation and was able to match the tone of the people around her when she wanted. That’s why our first 3 months went so smoothly. She was a very good apologizer and when she was in a good mood she was really fun to be with. These are skills that help her survive the foster care system, but make her extremely difficult to actually live with, because she used them as tools to get her way.
After much prayer and many tears we decided that it was time for London to move on to a more experienced home. We even suggested something like a group home that would insulate her from the pressures of normal life and remove her from some of the drama of cute boys, mean girls, and tempting drugs.
In the end, the foster agency did not take our suggestion. London was moved from our home to another foster home, but with more experienced foster parents. Or so we were told. Since we are no longer her foster parents we have no reason to receive updates about her or how she is doing.
It’s been about 2 months now and we have returned to being just Scott and Kelly again: TINK. The first couple weeks were pretty quiet around our house. We didn’t realize how much of our thoughts had been filled with London – what to feed her, what could we teach her, how could we let her know she was loved, how could we help her feel normal? We have now returned to our own lives again. We have taken a getaway weekend and we watch rated-R movies again. We have enjoyed being kid free, but we still talk about her fairly often. We still find things she would think are funny or things we want to show her.
People ask how we are; they seem to expect us to be depressed. In some ways we feel relieved. In some ways disappointed that we could not be what this kid needed.
We’ve taken a break for a while from the foster care system. We haven’t decided yet if we will give it another try. We’ll let you know.