Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Natural Consequences of Failing to Brush

Danielle went to the dentist today.  It was time for her six-month checkup, and she'd been complaining of some discomfort in the back of her mouth.  We figured the discomfort might be caused by her wisdom teeth.

Sure enough, the dentist had to make a referral.  Danielle may be in for a bit of a wait before the problem can be remedied, as there is only one oral surgeon in our area who accepts our state's medical insurance.

Her checkup, as usual, was lousy.  This time, she had three cavities.  (It's only been six months since her last check-up, so that's pretty bad.)  Unfortunately, this is the natural consequence of her failing to brush her teeth.

It's pretty frustrating, but she simply won't perform certain personal hygiene tasks without a huge fight.  Her breath is frequently atrocious, but we gave up on the twice-daily battle over tooth-brushing long ago.  More than once, our insistence that she brush has triggered rages or violence, and we finally decided that it wasn't worth it.

Once, Danielle became so enraged by being asked to go brush before bed, that she became violent and scratched FosterEema hard enough to draw blood.  We ended up calling police that night.

All this over a two-minute task?


The kid won.  It's just not worth having to call the cops over a toothbrush.  If Danielle wanted to have bad breath, gum disease and a mouthful of rotten teeth, that would be a decision kept between her and her dentist.

We stopped pestering, nagging and reminding, and things became a lot more tranquil around here.

Of course Danielle isn't happy about having cavities, either.  I guess she'll have to decide whether the cavities are worth the convenience of not brushing her teeth.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Chanukah

Wow, hat tip to Mombian for this little gem:

Overnights with Birth Family

One of Danielle's birth family members lives in town and wants Danielle to come over for an overnight visit.

On the surface, the answer seems easy.  Birth family contact is important.

But then there are complications.  The relative who is asking, from what we've gathered, seems to have some substance use/abuse issues, and has been observed hanging out with people who do. This person also doesn't have their own housing and rents a room from an adult, single, unrelated male.

Would you let your 16-year-old daughter spend the night with a birth family member who was renting a room from some guy?

I'm not really too keen about the idea of inviting Danielle's birth family, for the reasons I've described above, to spend the night at my house, either.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Holiday Gift-Giving Dilemma

Here it is the holiday season, and we haven't bought a single thing for our kid yet.

Buying gifts for the holidays has always been difficult.  More than once we have given things to Danielle that she didn't like, and she's pitched fits of epic proportions that made us wish we hadn't even bothered.  My mother once bought Danielle the entire set of Harry Potter books and her response was disappointing.  "I'm shocked that grandma would buy me books when she knows I hate books," she complained.

Each year, the gift-giving dilemma has only become harder.  She doesn't have any hobbies or interests, so it's very difficult to find things that she likes.

Her birthday turned out to be an exercise in frustration.  We bought her a portable music player, but rather than thank us, she complained about it openly in front of everyone attending her birthday party.  She was unhappy because we didn't buy her the exact model she wanted.  We'd had a talk before her birthday explaining that she wasn't going to get the device she coveted, so she shouldn't have been surprised.  Unfortunately for everyone, she was angry and disappointed, and didn't hesitate to share it with everyone.

Danielle has been hoping for a cell phone this Chanukah.  Although we were giving it some genuine thought, we decided against it for several reasons: 1) her behavior has been pretty dreadful, as witnessed by her recent rock-throwing episode; 2) we had substantial problems with her behavior with regards her old phone; and 3) we can't trust that she'll follow the rules, given that we've told her to stay off the social media web sites, and we caught her at it again.

So last week, when we sat down with our family therapist to discuss Danielle's latest behavioral problem at school, we decided that the cell phone was off the table.  The therapist agreed that Danielle had really violated our trust, and helped us explain our reasoning why the device wasn't going to appear this December.

Now our holiday gift-giving has become just that much tougher.  Even on a good day, she's almost impossible to please.  Knowing that her coveted holiday gift isn't coming will just make her all the more angry and disappointed.

I can't say that I entirely blame her.  I'd be disappointed, too, if I had my heart set on getting a cell phone and I knew that it wasn't going to happen.

Unfortunately Danielle is her own worst enemy, because she makes so many decisions that leave us in a position of being unable to trust.  As a parent, I don't feel that giving her a cell phone is a wise thing to do.  She's demonstrated that she won't follow our wishes with regards to the social media sites, she's made it clear by word and by deed that she's not going to follow the rules, and when she had a cell phone in the past, we were frequently confiscating it because she was using it to send text messages while she was at school, and insisted on contacting people we had asked her not to contact.

We had an interesting conversation in the car this past weekend.  She said she needed us to trust her.  We explained that it was almost impossible, considering that every time we did, she violated that trust.  She seemed to understand, but I'm not sure it will change much.  Trust is difficult to earn and easy to lose, and it's going to take a long time before we can trust her.

Our gift-giving dilemma isn't just limited to the question of what to buy.  Some of it is that it is just difficult to be motivated to go out there and shop.  It is hard to be filled the desire to buy gifts for someone who has done the things Danielle has done to us.  It's really difficult to want to buy tons of stuff for someone who regularly insults you, disobeys you, and then criticizes you when you do buy something.

FosterEema and I haven't been hugely elaborate with our gift-giving for each other this year.  We got FosterEema a single-serve coffee brewing machine with our credit card rewards points, and I got some exercise clothes and a couple of pairs of running shoes.  Since I really needed the shoes, we just went shopping and I brought the stuff home and started using it immediately.  FosterEema didn't want to wait for her coffee machine, so when it showed up she put it on the counter and started using it.

We will get Danielle something for the holidays, and we will try to make it nice.  What that will be, I don't know.  I am completely out of ideas.  We've talked about starting to purchase things she will need as a young adult, such as linens and dishware and small kitchen appliances, but I know she'll be disappointed with those items as well.

I think she'll be disappointed with anything we buy her, if it's not a cell phone.

When I was a kid, the holidays were something I always enjoyed.  Our family was upper-middle class, and there were always tons of gifts.  My mother enjoyed buying stuff for her family, and we always had the money to afford it.  We always had lots of things we were interested in, and I don't think my mother ever had to spend a great deal of time fretting over what to buy us.  I think she was just as excited to watch us open our gifts as we were to receive them.

It's really hard when I contrast the holidays my family celebrated when I was a child to those we observe with our own child.  For me, the holidays were a time of great celebration.  For Danielle, they are a time of anger, disappointment and loss.  Although I do understand where her feelings come from, it doesn't make them any easier to deal with.  Instead of this being a time of year that I anticipate, the end-of-the-year holidays have become a time of year that I dread.

For me, the third quarter of the year, which is dotted with birthdays, Thanksgiving, Chanukah and Christmas, is a time of year I'd almost rather skip.  I find myself wishing that things were different.  I wish that I could give my kid the kind of holidays I had growing up.  I wish I could look forward to my child's eyes glistening with excitement and gratitude, instead of seeing them cloud over with rage and disappointment.  I wish this could be a happy time of year for all of us, instead of a sad reminder of what we all wish could have been. 

Oh, were there a fast-forward button on the VCR of life. 

I'd push it and hold it down hard until January 2nd.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I Like Clicking Buttons

So there was an "incident" at school.  I'm not going to share the details because they aren't really important.  Suffice to say that Danielle was stick-poking her peers and it didn't work out so well for her.  Fortunately, nobody was hurt, but all the kids involved were called into the office.

As part of this, we discovered that Danielle had set up yet another fake social media account.  This is now the third one we've caught her with, even though she was told after the first and second that she's not allowed to participate in these sites for any reason.

I am sure that to my kid I'm sort sort of meanie, and maybe even a few parents think I'm a little too strict.  The problem is, my kid doesn't make good choices with respect to the social media sites.  The first two accounts she created, she lied about her age.  On this one, she was truthful, but she did some things that exposed her personal information, and she started getting dating profiles from adult men.

One was over the age of 40.

Not good.

How did Danielle get access to a computer to set up this account?  An adult, who should have known better, thought it would be "okay" for Danielle to get online.  Needless to say, the adult has been told that Danielle  is to have no computer access under any circumstances, and we've changed the password on the offending account.

When we asked Danielle why she signed up for the matchmaking service, she told us that she really didn't know what she was doing.  Apparently, when she's online, she will click on any random link or button that pops up, not knowing or caring if it's something she should be doing.

"I just like clicking buttons!" she said brightly.

Danielle has no business playing on the Internet.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

IEP Meeting

Yesterday, the school scheduled our annual delight known as the IEP meeting.

The news from the front: the school is as concerned as we are about Danielle's mental health, and the kid has some wildly unrealistic career goals.

Apparently, Danielle is now starting to exhibit mental health issues at school that are different from those she exhibits at home, and her behaviors are significantly interfering with her ability to get her work done.  The school's opinion is that she is often using these things as techniques to create distractions, or as tools for procrastination. 

The school  is very concerned.

Even when Danielle isn't having mental health moments at school that interfere with her work, they are noticing that she will often socialize in an attempt to delay or defer her work.

But the list of the school's concern's doesn't stop at her procrastination.  They have noticed that she is almost completely unable to complete her assignments independently.  She gets frustrated easily, doesn't understand what she is supposed to do, and can't seem to do the work unless someone sits with her and explains every little concept.  This doesn't bode well, obviously, for her career goals, which I'll get to in a minute.

At this point, the school is trying to refer Danielle for even more mental health services.  They completely hear and understand our concerns about her behavior at home, and they are trying to do something beyond what our adoptions assistance package will cover.  Hopefully, this will come on line very soon, as we've had many days lately where we've been hanging on by a thread.  Danielle has been very volatile of late, going from extremely sweet to extremely nasty in just a few minutes.

Last night, for example, she called me bad names because I needed to give a friend a ride home.  My friend, who had stopped by for a visit after work, doesn't drive.  We'd decided to continue our socializing until after the last bus, which stops running around dinner time, so we agreed to give our friend a ride home.  When Danielle learned we were all getting in the car to drive my friend home, she was extremely angry about it.

Sorry kid, we aren't going to leave you alone unsupervised, and we'd prefer not to leave you alone with only one adult home if we can avoid it.

We were home by 9:30 PM, so it wasn't as if we'd kept everybody up to some ungodly hour.

Going back to the IEP meeting, one of the items discussed was career planning and transitional services.  It seems that Danielle has some hugely unrealistic goals set aside for herself.  Apparently, when she turns 18, she plans to move out of state and get a job as a waitress.  There, she will save money to go to medical school to become a surgeon, and when she's completed that goal she'll join the military.

Ummm, yeah.

Now I know for most people, it's entirely possible to achieve pretty much any goal.  Unfortunately, Danielle isn't most people.  Her academic delays leave her incredibly far behind her peers, and she's especially weak in the math and hard sciences needed for admission into such a program.  Even if Danielle were to be accepted, she doesn't have the tenacity or independent study skills to be able to make her way through.

As for the military, I doubt they would take her.  She's at least an inch smaller than the minimum height requirements for service members, it is looking quite likely she won't be able to pass our state's high school exit examination to get her diploma, and her mental health diagnoses would also be a barrier to service.

So the school's career counselor is working to try to help Danielle settle on more reasonable goals.  They plan to meet with a military recruiter, and to aid Danielle in researching what would be required to be admitted to medical school.  They are hoping once she's turned down by the recruiter and sees how much time, study, and money medical school will cost, that she'll settle on something more within her grasp.

The school is also quite concerned about the fact that Danielle will turn 18 long before she finishes high school.  Unless she can find a way to accelerate her progress, she will come of age during her Junior (third) year of high school.  She'll have a year remaining, and at this point it's pretty clear she most likely will not be living here.  Although she'd be welcome to stay if she could get her behavior under control, it doesn't seem that will happen.  Even if she were able to get herself under control, she's continually expressing a desire not to be here.

I hope the kid will graduate, but she's so far behind it appears that it may not be possible.  She's 16 years old, and still cannot read your average newspaper with fluency.

More and more I feel like I'm watching this kid slowly collide with an ugly destiny we'd hoped she would avoid.  She's like the proverbial horse we have lead to the water, but for whatever reason, whether it be stubbornness, a lack of ability, or a lack of desire, she simply will not drink.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Change of Heart, or Manipulation?

As you can gather from my expression of frustration on Tuesday, and my post yesterday, things have been in the ditch for a while.  We've been riding some incredible waves of unpleasantness, to the point where FosterEema and I have both come to the point where we've just had more than enough.

It has been so difficult, we've been searching for a respite provider to take Danielle for the bulk of the December holidays.  We just don't see how we can make the vacation work, since she'll have time off, and we might not.  Idle hands are the devil's workshop.

But then, just like that, yesterday she decided to change things up.  It actually started the day before, when FosterEema went to the grocery store.  Danielle tagged along, and while they were there she asked if FosterEema would buy her a couple of deli sandwiches so she wouldn't have to make her own lunch.

FosterEema decided to use this as an opportunity for negotiation.  She agreed to buy Danielle the sandwiches in exchange for an equal dollar amount of chores.  They came to an accord, and Danielle agreed to a specific task.

When Danielle came home from school yesterday, I had an errand to run.  As soon as she came in the door, I headed out.  While I was gone, Danielle did every single one of her chores without hassle or prompting.  By the time I came home, everything was done, and she did some extra work, helping me with a small outside task after dark.

Danielle's behavior was amazingly good.  She was polite, obedient, and helpful.  She was attentive, she listened, and she paid attention.  She did what she was told, when she was told, without comment or argument.

I was impressed.  I found myself thinking that it was a real shame that we couldn't have this kid around more.

When dinner rolled around, instead of complaining about our dinner selection or boycotting the meal, she sat down and ate with us.

This was the kind of evening every family should enjoy once in a while.

But, it soon became clear why Danielle was behaving the way she was.  She wanted something.  Several somethings, in fact.  It turns out, she wanted to have a sit-down discussion to see if it would be possible for her to have the following things:

  1. A cell phone.
  2. Permission to set up an account on a popular social media site.
  3. Permission to date.
I'm not sure how effectively we communicated this, but Danielle is putting us in a very difficult position.  When she behaves as dreadfully as she has been, and then suddenly changes it up because she wants something, it's very frustrating.  Worse, we know we'll see the good behavior only until she gets the item she wants, and then we'll go right back to the status quo.


Do I want my kid to have a cell phone?  Not really.  The last time we gave her one, we ended up confiscating it more than she had it because of bad behavior on her part. In the end, it died a sad little electronic death because she dropped it on our concrete driveway one too many times.  Even though it's been quite some time since she's had a phone, there really hasn't been a need for her to have one.  She never goes anywhere by herself, and when she does go on an outing with friends, there's usually an adult or another teen with a phone available.

What she really wants is an Internet-enabled phone so she can surf the web and get on her favorite social media site.

I'm not exactly enthusiastic about letting her on the social media sites, either.  We've caught her several times setting up fake accounts where she lied about her age, and I'm not sure that it's really all that good of an idea.  Given that she did not follow our rules, boundaries and limitations when it came to her old cell phone, I'm not convinced that she'll obey with respect to social media sites, either.

As for dating, I'm not too keen on the idea. Given her impulsive nature, I think allowing her to date solo is a recipe for disaster.  Not only is there the possibility of unplanned pregnancy or an STD, there's also the real possibility for a guy to take emotional advantage of her as well.  Last summer, she carved the name of a boy she was crushing on into her skin, even though she wasn't allowed to date and didn't have a relationship with him outside of school.  It should come as no surprise to anyone that by the following Fall, he'd broken up with her, saying some incredibly cruel things in the process.

I think what Danielle said earlier this week is absolutely true.  She's not going to behave unless she wants to, and that will last only as long as it takes to get what she wants.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Law of Unintended Consequences

I guess our friends over at Mythbusters had a little accident.

If the video happens to go away, here's a link to similar coverage from the San Francisco Chronicle.

FosterEema and I love the show (Danielle hates it) and we watch it whenever we can. I think the show is hilarious, and we love watching them blow up stuff in new and different ways.  My favorite detonation is probably the cement truck explosion from a few years ago.

Now I'm quite glad that nobody was hurt in this mishap.  Although I am sure the affected property owners aren't so amused, I couldn't help but laugh.  Their accident sounded almost like a cartoon, with a cannonball missing its intended target, blasting through a wall, bashing in the front door of a house, rolling up a staircase, crashing through a bedroom and out the wall, flying across a street, bouncing off a neighboring roof, and finally smashing into a minivan.

It's hilarious.

Of course it wouldn't be if someone had been hurt.

Now I've watched enough episodes of Mythbusters to get the impression that these folks are a pretty careful group.  They really try to anticipate, and safely prepare for, the consequences of their detonations.  They try to the do the right thing, and I'm sure that the people whose houses and property were damaged will be fairly compensated for their trouble.

This is sadly a case where things went terribly, horribly wrong, and it brings to mind the law of unintended consequences.  The Mythbusters staff didn't plan to damage two houses and wreck a car, but they did.

Earlier this week, Danielle exploded, though her explosion wasn't nearly as funny as the Mythbusters-gone-wrong cannonball accident.  The "high point" of her explosion occurred after she'd been asked to step outside to cool off because she was being verbally abusive.  There, she threw rocks at the house, screamed and yelled, continually slapped the doormat onto the concrete,  repeatedly kicked our glass storm door (nearly breaking it), and scrawled profanity (which she misspelled) on the driveway with a white rock.

Danielle is 16 years old.

She is way too old to behave like this.

Afterward, when things were calm, she told FosterEema that she wasn't going to obey us or follow our rules, no matter what we did.  Here is a transcript of part of that conversation.  FosterEema recorded the conversation on her cell phone, which is why we know in such detail what was said.  The conversation has been slightly edited to remove identifying information.

FosterEema: So, what I heard you say, though, was basically that you're not going to behave the way we want you to.  You're not going to conform your behavior to our expectations, and so there's no point in even trying.  Is that right?

Danielle: Yeah.

FosterEema: That's how you feel?

Danielle: (inaudible)

FosterEema: So, so am I understanding correctly how you feel?  That you're just not going to do what we want and there's no point in trying?

Danielle: Well it's not that I'm not gonna do what you want, it's just I'm not going to change when you want me to. I'll change when I feel like it.

FosterEema: Okay...but how's that working for you?

Danielle: It doesnt...really matter to me if it's working or not.  It's just...

FosterEema: So...

Danielle: ...kind of  difficult.

FosterEema: I'm confused.  'Cause you're saying you are doing things that aren't working for you.

Danielle: No.

FosterEema: You just said, "It doesn't matter to me whether it's working or not."

Danielle: It doesn't matter if it's working for me or not.

FosterEema: So then you are doing it even if it's not working.

Danielle: Right, and I'm doing it even when it is working.

FosterEema: Okay, well it is working right now?

Danielle: Geeze, does it look like [it] to you?

FosterEema: Well, I'm asking you, 'cause you're the one that's doing it.

Later, the conversation covered the subject of apologizing. Danielle insisted that I should apologize to her for giving her a consequence for  mouthing off, but that even if I apologized, I wouldn't be forgiven.

FosterEema: What do you mean you are going to forgive her?  She's supposed to forgive you.  You're the one who did the thing that was wrong.

Danielle: Still, you should still apologize to the person who you [wronged].

FosterEema: Why? You haven't apologized for any of the things you've done for three years.

Danielle: Uh...Yes I have.

FosterEema: Not and meant it.  You said so in [therapist's] office.  You said you're not going to apologize because you know you are not going to change your behavior.

Danielle: Well then don't expect me to apologize.  I mean, really.  You've seen the pattern that maybe [Danielle's] apology doesn't mean anything.  You still want an apology, even if it doesn't mean it?

FosterEema: Mmm hmm.  But you need to mean it.

Danielle: Right, and that's the part I have a hard time with.  I don't mean it.

FosterEema: Why don't you mean it?

Danielle: I say sorry to make the person feel better, but that doesn't mean I mean it.

FosterEema: But does it make them feel better if you don't mean it and you do the same thing again?

Danielle: That's what I'm saying.  That's why I don't apologize.  I mean, you've got to understand, here.  Okay.  You're dealing with a stubborn, bratty child, okay?

FosterEema: Yeah, I've noticed.

Danielle: So...I'm always going to be stubborn and bratty, so I'm going to say sorry to make her feel better.  If she doesn't like it, tough shit.  No offense, it's a whole waste of my breath.

Now I suppose in the larger scheme of things, it's probably great that Danielle was so honest in explaining that she isn't going to obey and that her apologies are meaningless.  Although it's been clear for a long time, this just gives us another data point in understanding that, not only is Danielle unwilling to obey, she has no remorse about her behavior.  In fact, the tone of her voice even seemed to convey a certain amount of pride in her actions.

This unfortunate conversation will be the catalyst that triggers a whole raft of unintended consequences for Danielle, for us, and for our family.  For starters, FosterEema and I have realized that we need a break from Danielle and her behavior, so she will likely be going to a new respite home for the majority of her winter break.  This certainly wasn't in any of our original holiday plans, but the realization that Danielle is deliberately and consciously choosing to disobey has made us both realize just how tired we are.

I am sure when the Mythbusters crew set off that cannon, they had no idea what was about to happen.  They were out there, doing their jobs, and trying to do the right thing.  I think that Danielle's adoption has been very much like this accident.  We tried (and fought) very hard to do what we thought was the right thing, but instead of finding a happy result, we've triggered emotional wreckage that wasn't supposed to happen.

I never thought, when I signed my name to Danielle's adoption paper, that it would turn out to have so many unpleasant unintended consequences for everyone.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Feelin' Like Captain Kirk

The following video clip is from the movie Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

Here's the transcript:
Kirk: Give me your hand!
Kruge: (growls and tries to pull Kirk over the cliff)
Kirk: (kicking Kruge in the face) I...have had...enough of...YOU!

This clip completely sums up how I am feeling today.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Today I'm Thinking About Corey

Long-time readers of the foster care and adoption blogosphere will probably be well-acquainted with Corey, the nice lady that has put together a retreat for Moms caring for traumatized kids that takes place in Orlando each year.

Today I'm thinking of her.

You see, last January, she invited everyone to participate in a 5K walk/run.  She promised everyone who participated (whether they attended the Orlando event or not) a cute little keychain with a foot on it.

I signed up for the run, even though I wasn't going to Orlando.  The run was scheduled during the March retreat, and I figured I'd be able to complete it pretty easily.  At the time I'd finished the Couch to 5K running program, and was part of the way through the Bridge to 10K program.

But then, I got sick with a very bad cold, and started having some health problems.  I had to stop running for a while, and by the time came to run Corey's 5K, I was in no shape to run the entire thing.

I did finish by walking and jogging, but it wasn't the glorious finish I had anticipated for myself.

Despite my lackluster finish, Corey kept her promise and sent me a keychain with not one foot attached, but an entire rainbow of them!  I was delighted, and the keychain has been hanging from a peg on my desk ever since.

I didn't run again for several months after that, as some health challenges kept me down, but eventually I got back to running.  I once again started the Couch to 5K program, and when I finished that, I moved on to Bridge to 10K.  This morning, I started my last week of the Bridge to 10K program.  Today's workout consisted of 5 minutes of walking, followed by 60 minutes of jogging, and concluding with another 5 minutes of walking.

So this morning, I jogged for an entire hour.

When I got back, I took a shower and eventually made my way back to my desk.  Corey's key chain was hanging in its usual place, and I couldn't help but thinking of her this morning.  I finally felt like I deserved the key chain, which I felt I hadn't truly earned before, because I hadn't run the entire 5K like I had planned.

Today's run was more than a 5K (though considerably less than 10K because I am old, fat and slow) but it felt like I had accomplished something.  I had finally reached a goal I tried (and failed) to reach earlier this year.

So Corey's feet made me smile this morning, but they also made me cry.  I wept out of gratitude, because they reminded that me that someone, who I didn't even really know in person, cared enough to let me know that I'm not alone.

Thanks, Corey.

And yes, I still miss your blog, though I completely understand and respect your reasons for quitting.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Funny, But Not

We shared the story that Danielle thought Margaritaville was a real place with our family therapist.

The therapist was absolutely delighted with the tale, and got a good laugh out of it.  She told Danielle that it was "simply adorable" that she was still so naive and innocent.

It was all I could do not to slap myself in forehead during our session.

Yes, we got a good laugh out of the story.  Yes, it was cute.

But there's also a darker, more frightening reality to this tale.  It's another example of how Danielle doesn't have much in the way of common sense, and it illustrates her inability to figure things out.  Sure, Danielle's expression of shock was quite funny, but it worries me greatly that she's not able to decipher the difference between truth and fiction.

Cyndi left the following comment on my post:

Exactly why your kid is not going to survive on her own.

I fear she may be right.

Now I think all parents, at some time or another, take quite a bit of pleasure in telling silly stories to their kids as a test of their gullibility.  Certainly my parents did that when I was younger, and the discovery of the truth was always worth a good laugh.  We played similar games with Danielle, and briefly had her convinced (at different times) that cars reproduced by laying eggs, and that they were made out of old, crushed beer cans.

I fondly the time that Danielle very seriously asked me if cars really did lay eggs while we were driving somewhere.  She was about 11 at the time, and we all laughed so hard when the truth was revealed that I almost ran off the road.

But stuff that's funny when a kid is a kid, doesn't always stay funny when they become a teen.

Maybe this is just another one of those things where it's better to laugh about something than it is to cry.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Wasting Away Again in Margaritaville

Yesterday, we all had a huge belly laugh at Danielle's expense.

First, there's a bit of back story to this tale.

My wife and I collect and enjoy wine. Although I don't claim to be much of a connoisseur, we do have quite a collection of inexpensive wines.  Most of my family and friends enjoy a tipple now and again, though we generally confine most of our drinking to camping trips so we won't have any reason to drive anywhere.

Being fans of Jimmy Buffet, his tunes, It's Five O'Clock Somewhere and Margaritaville, have been played many, many times at our house.

And of course, when we go camping, the phrase, "It's five o'clock somewhere," is frequently uttered when it comes time to pop open an adult beverage.

So yesterday afternoon, right after Danielle came home from school, she made a reference to five o'clock.  She was referring to the time of an appointment we had that afternoon.

"I bet you wish it was five o'clock," she said.

She was referring to our appointment, but I made a joke.  "It's always five o'clock somewhere," I teased.

"It's probably five o'clock in Margaritaville," she replied.

"It's always five o'clock in Margaritaville," I laughed.

Danielle's eyes flew open in surprise.  "The time doesn't change Margaritaville?" she asked, completely serious.

"Of course not," I answered. "The clocks never change there."

I didn't think Danielle's eyes could have gotten any wider, but then they seemed to pop out of her head just a little bit more.  "Really?" she questioned.

I started to snicker.  "Your realize that Margaritaville is an imaginary place, right?"

Danielle's expression of surprise was classic. "It is?"

"Yeah, it's a made-up place in a song," I laughed.  By this point I could hardly breathe.

Danielle started to laugh, too.  "Oh boy, now I feel stupid!" she exclaimed.

"Why's that?" I guffawed.

"Well I've been asking all my friends at school where Margaritaville is, because I want to go there for vacation, and they've all looked at me like I was crazy!"

FosterEema and I both burst into another round of uncontrollable laughter.

"It sounded like a really nice place," Danielle insisted.

"That it does," I laughed.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Should We Push for Early Emancipation?

These days, it seems that all we hear from Danielle are two things: 1) the myriad ways in which her birth family was superior to ours; and 2) how she can't wait until she turns 18 and is able to move out.


She rarely stops talking about it, even though my wife and I are completely tired of hearing about it.

I've been asking myself a lot lately if we should just start pushing for her to do the things she needs to do to emancipate early. If she really wants to get out of here so desperately, maybe we should start guiding her in the direction that might allow her to leave the house early.

Now I have to say, it's a pretty tough sell in our county.  The local court system doesn't like to emancipate minors early.  Even kids who are in foster care, who have graduated high school early or passed the GED, and have a job and a place to live lined up find it a very tough sell.  Only the best and the brightest are usually granted emancipated minor status, and even those "lucky" few are rarely approved much before they are 17 1/2.

But I've wondered, given Danielle's continual harping, if we'd all be better off if we started to guide her out the door.  In many ways, it doesn't feel like the right answer because we'd have to act as if we are pushing her away.  I know that won't improve her difficult attachments to us.

Now the truth is, no judge in his right mind would ever grant Danielle emancipated minor status based on her current emotional, educational, and behavioral development.  It's pretty clear to everyone (including us) that she won't be ready to launch early, and it wouldn't be in her best interest.

Still, it it is what Danielle really wants, so maybe we ought to dangle the carrot anyway.

If she was made to think that she has the opportunity to leave early, she might knuckle down and do the necessary work.  She might start pushing herself when it comes it academics, and it might motivate her to get a job, start saving money, and do all the things she would need to do to be successful.

Or, she might follow her regular pattern, which is to get very excited about an idea, but not actually complete any of the steps to achieve that goal.

Still, if it really is what she truly wants, maybe we ought to give it to her.

Of course the real answer to this is that it depends on Danielle.  If she wants to emancipate early, the onus is on her to prove to a judge that she's capable.  She would need to pass her GED, get a job, and have the means to obtain housing.  If she could do those things, then she might be on her way.

Even though the chances of Danielle being able to convince a judge she's ready to move out are basically nil, I wonder if dangling that carrot might put an end to the constant complaining. If we can reply, "You will be able to move out just as soon as you do x, y and z," maybe it would motivate her to work towards that goal.

And then again, maybe not.