that I want to live with you forever.
This is what Blitzen said last night, in the cab home from the airport. I asked her, ‘What people?’ And Blitzen said, ‘You know, the agency.’
It was a beautiful NYC night, we didn’t even mind waiting in the taxi line after our trip home from NC to visit Andrew’s family. Thank you for a great visit, NC peeps! And we rode home over the Robert Kennedy Bridge (Triborough to me forever, thank you very much) with the windows open and breeze blowing our hair around like crazy, laughing and laughing at how silly we all looked with our tangled, wind-mussed hairdos.
What a sweet thing to say. What a heart wrenching thing to hear because nothing is certain, most uncertain of all, Blitzen’s permanency plan. She has begun asking more about this. Does she get to decide where she lives? When will it be settled? What will happen?
Andrew and I were talking this morning about how awful it will be for Blitzen if she has to leave us. Now, this isn’t just about us or about the relationship that Blitzen has with us which I think is rooted and loving and is really allowing her to grow in a lot of different ways. It is also about the lack of a relationship that she has with her mother. In an ideal world, this family would heal and the kids would be reunited and bio-mom would just get herself together and she and Blitzen would form a strong and nurturing bond. But it is not an ideal world and I am worried. When you have 6 kids, do you pay extra attention to the one that doesn’t seem to like you much or do you focus on the ones that you have bonded with? This is not a commendation of Blitzen’s mom, it is just human nature, I think. No one likes rejection and Blitzen and her mom have a very unhealthy pattern, they reject one another in subtle and not so subtle ways almost every time they see one another. And it is difficult for me to picture how that gets fixed (a single parent, living in poverty, with 6 kids and no positive familial support). It is just a huge hurdle to overcome.
I wish it was just as easy as ‘telling the people’ – many things in life would be better if it simply took a heartfelt declaration of what you want and then, bam, it was done.
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Blitzen recently said this to me as she was thrashing about in bed claiming to be itchy and to have a sore throat and probably a fever too. I mentioned that if she could try to relax her body and rest, she might feel a lot better. And she says ‘Cause I’m dramatic, right?’ I just smiled and thought ‘oh yeah, big time!’
I suspect that she has heard this at school where the nurse apparently calls her ‘the old lady’ because of her many invisible and unexplainable ailments. If ever a kid wanted attention, any kind of love and attention, it is Blitzen.
And as I have mentioned, we’re working on some of her more irksome behaviors now that we’ve got the more worrisome stuff under control. Like mornings, which are so hit or miss. She is either loving on us or screaming at us. Never know what is going to be until the sun rises.
After a particularly trying morning, I gave her a promotion at bedtime. I told her that she was doing a lot of things really well and I thought she was ready for a promotion but that with a promotion comes added responsibility. And I wanted to add ‘no yelling in the morning’ to her list of responsibilities. Oh, she was so excited, smiling big and promising to be responsible in the morning.
Fast forward 5 or 6 hours to about 3am and here comes Blitzen, half asleep, wandering into our room. Andrew takes her back to bed, where she asks in her sleepy stupor, ’What does promotion mean?’
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‘You gotta work with me here, lady!’ is what Blitzen said to me this morning after noting that my shoes did not go at all with my dress. Everybody is a fashion critic. And for the record, they were just my walking to work shoes…
‘You never do anything around here but clean’ was shouted at me last night when I declined to cover the guinea pig cage at bedtime.
‘Come to mama’ with a shake and shimmy when I asked if I could have a hug and a kiss on my way out the door.
‘I’m just enjoying being a kid’ when explaining to my co-workers why she would not be staying at the office and working with me all day during her winter break.
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I’ll echo Carrie Ann’s shout out to the Save Our Schools activism. It was inspiring to listen to old heroes (Debbie Meier, Jonathan Kozol) and voices who were new to me (John Kuhn, Matt Damon, Jose Vilson). It was energizing to be around folks who are passionate about education and equity. I got a kick out of being interviewed by CNN (gotta work on my soundbites) and taking part in the planning and organizing workshops the next day.
I wish I had more patience or aptitude for the messy work of movement-building. (IDEA are the folks leading that charge.) My special ADD skill set makes me more apt to get lost in a maze of 1975 online boxscores than to build an infrastructure for systemic change.
Being a foster parent, though… As a distractable young grasshopper beginning my journey, it seems do-able. Here’s why:
- The day-to-day goal is straightforwardish: Try to provide a supportive, loving, safe, joy-filled environment today; try to provide a supportive, loving, safe, joy-filled environment tomorrow.
- There’s an immediate feedback loop. We should have a sense of when things are working and when they’re not.
- There are potential immediate rewards. We’re not going to make measurable progress on transforming public schools today, but Blitzen might, at any time, say (like our friend Amelia) “If there is a shark in this lake we’re kayaking, it’s probably swimming the other way, right?”
There were going to be more items on that list, but I can already see that this post will look embarrassingly naive moments after it’s published. If I learned nothing in MAPP class it’s that being a foster parent thrusts one into a world of uncertainty, frustration and messiness that would make the post-SOS-rally educator squabbles look freshly ironed laundry.
Botton line: There are lots of tasks in the world that I just can’t do. I can’t wait in a line, take direction, get a degree, organize my desk, blog every day, mingle at a party, turn in work when it’s due, make travel plans more than a week ahead of time or match my outfit without a spreadsheet. But I suspect that when you mix my good-natured goofiness with Carrie Ann’s thoughtfulness, insight, empathy and good judgement and the support of our spectacular Team o’ Backup Villagers, we can provide a pretty warm home for a small-to-medium-sized Wee.
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