Real Life Transition of a Foster Mom!
When I met Chris, I knew he was perfect for me, but his ten-year-old kid was shaking me to the core. On the very first day of meeting Tom, I knew he was a rebellious & an arrogant kid and even though I tried hard to interact with him, I found him retracting to his shell!
Anyway, Chris and I were truly in love and nothing seemed to matter more than our togetherness. We got married. But, soon, the house became a synonym of pandemonium. Tom turned a vicious attitude towards me and I felt really low, since I wanted Tom to be my own! My stressful equation with Tom started spelling trouble for my marriage. Chris and I would often argue over Tom. May be I had to establish my motherhood for Tom in Chris' parameters as well. Would I let the relationship melt if Tom was my own child? No. The child will have to be explained things until he accepts it willingly. So, the first step was to understand him.
Now, I was more concerned than angry with the young boy who was finding it hard to come to terms with his parents’ divorce first and then marriage. Many kids go through it. Thanks to stress and impatience, one in every three Americans is a part of a step-family. Tom too could be demarcated as the stereotype of a class of troubled children with a turbulent childhood. I decided I would make ends meet. I talked to a child psychologist regarding the strange predicament I was in and she guided me.
According to her, as soon as you turn into a foster mom you will have to imbibe loads of calmness in you. Children are never vicious by nature, but situations change them. For Tom, his parents have failed him. He is a helpless victim of his parents' decision. Therefore, instead of being egoistic you will need to be forgiving, patient, and extremely caring. The best way to show you care is to get involved in his daily activities, try to know his likes & dislikes, and spend quality time with him. He may resist you initially, but all a child seeks is 'genuine' affection. Give that. Simple words like ‘let me help you’ can work wonders. The faith of the child has already shattered and you need to have the perseverance to win it back. However, Caring for Tom does not mean you will have to give in to his tantrums. Rather, be very strict where required, but never cross the limits of gentility. Make him understand the reasons for your rigidity in certain cases. Harsh words and shouting can be a deathblow to your new found and sensitive relationship.
Apart from the emotional swings, a foster mom has to deal with some situations intellectually too. And you never know one such scenario can give your foster relationship the needed 'real' push. One such day I found that Tom was stealing food and storing it in his room! I let him enjoy the cookies he had hidden under his bed. Later that day, I then explained to him how the bits of food are inviting insects in his room and how stealing amounts to cheating. And no logic proves it right. He understood what I was trying to tell him and said nothing. No argument - Our first cordial step towards each other. Then on, more thick and thin moments of life brought Tom and me closer.
So many years down the line, when Chris and I are growing old in Berkeley, matters are different now. Tom has his own job in Seattle and is busy with his career. But, he never forgets to call and visit his 'new' mom at least once every fortnight!
-By Tina Bhattacharjee, Writer, TSS