Foster Mom Developing
My nephew Henry was the most beautiful little boy I had ever known. If I were to become a mother, I wanted a boy just like Henry. When Henry was four years old, he visited me and my husband for the weekend; we had a rescued kitten and Henry walked around the house carrying the kitten and smiling. He asked the name of the kitten and there wasn’t yet a name. I asked Henry what we should name this kitten and Henry smiled and said; “Charlie.” “Charlie” the cat lived with us for seventeen years and frequently reminded me of the four year old Henry.
My husband and I divorced and years later, I gave birth as a single mother to a beautiful baby girl I named “Ivy;” Henry was ten years old. Henry’s father is my brother who was happy and proud that I was so deeply fond of my nephew. I have only one brother and he shares beautiful brown eyes, a goofy smile, and a clever wit with his son. When Henry was fifteen, he lived with his father, step-mother, two step-sisters, and a step-brother. This was a good, blended family; my brother and my sister in law cared deeply for their four children who were a handful as they were teenagers. One of the children in this family was killed in a tragic accident and my heart was broken for this family of mine suffering such horrific grief and loss.
I do not know if Henry behaved badly because his family was having a difficult time or the influence of his friends at his school, or his adolescent brain was short circuiting on him, but Henry was having a difficult time. At the age of fifteen, Henry was so out of control that his father felt that he needed “tough love,” and told Henry to move out of his home. I believe my brother thought that if Henry had no options, he would change his behavior. My brother called me and let me know that he had kicked his son out of his home, and that he thought Henry would call and ask if he could stay with me. He asked me not to let Henry stay with us. I could not refuse my nephew a home, and I do not remember if I told my brother that I could not follow through with his wishes; or if I just listened and didn’t respond. It has been too long. I do remember being frantic with worry about my nephew.
Finally, it was agreed that Henry would stay with my parents. Ivy and I were dispatched to retrieve him. During Henry’s first night with my parents, my father called and told me he thought Henry might be on drugs because he would not get out of bed. I went to see Henry and discovered that he had a high fever. My brother took him to the doctor the next day and he quickly recovered. My parents, however, were anxious and fearful; not because Henry was behaving badly, but because they were afraid he would. I persuaded my brother to let Henry stay with Ivy and me, at least until we could figure something else out. Henry did come to my house, and the kid was tied to my belt-loops; he went to work, meetings, and social events with me. Within three weeks, Henry became more animated and happy, he enjoyed my co-workers and they enjoyed him. Henry was ready to go back to school and live the life of a15year-old boy as opposed to a 40-year old woman.
With the blessing of Henry’s parents, I enrolled him in the local high school. He quickly made friends and started getting good grades. Henry even got a job at a nearby home improvement store. After three months, my brother wanted my nephew to return home. Henry made friends, had a job, and was doing well in school and he wanted to stay. He was anxious about telling his father. I told my nephew I would tell his father myself. Whatever I said to my brother, my choice of words was wrong. I could have been careful to talk about the friends, the job, and the school success that Henry didn’t want to give up on. I wasn’t careful about my words and my brother flew into a rage.
There was no opportunity to correct what I said. My brother would not speak to me. He would not visit my parents if I was at their home. For the next two years, our family was completely torn apart. After two years, my brother came to my mother’s birthday party, Henry joined the Navy and our family came back together again in an uneasy peace.
I came to understand that even good families have terrible struggles and that teenagers can be as vulnerable as young children. I love my nephew, and I loved being there when he needed support. I was glad when Henry moved on successfully. I had a spare bedroom now and I thought maybe this would be a good place for another teenager in transition.