Lea, Ivy, Billy and I are doing well. This means that we are enjoying ourselves as a family. Health is good all round, and members of our household are doing what each is supposed to do which is go to school and treat one another with respect and affection. Lea and Ivy are in the 5th and 6th grades at the same school. Lea has made friends and is doing well. Billy is in the 10th grade at high school, and in JROTC. Ivy is more academic, she reads for pleasure and her friends are more subdued. I am no longer working outside the home. My girls need additional counseling services and as much time with me as possible. I do spend time on school board activities and responsibilities. Except for evenings when I have school board meetings, we have dinner at home together every night. Dinner at home, at the table with a well balanced meal is how we gather as a family and I can be sure that at least once per day, everyone eats vegetables and drinks milk. Dinner time is mostly pleasant. We find out what has happened to one another and learn some civilized behavior. Lea’s table manners are impeccable. Ivy’s are perfectly respectable. Billy has rough edges, really rough edges. I choose to pick my battles, look for, and acknowledge behaviors I like and try to adjust unpleasant behavior one little baby step at a time.
Ivy and Lea notice Billy’s lack of manners, specifically; talking with her mouth so full of food that it falls out of her mouth and not using her silverware. I don’t say or do anything about table manners. I think I need to wait. She goes to counseling once per week and her counselor, Carla persuades Billy to let me participate in the sessions some of the time. My parents enjoy Billy; she talks to them and likes to do things with my father. She is very good at gardening chores, and my mother pays her to do yard work. My mother does not like Billy’s table manners and speaks roughly to her. Billy thinks I should stand up for her. I tell Billy that I do not like her manners either, but I don’t want to fight about it, and if Granny doesn’t like them, she needs to do what Granny says. I point out to her that Granny is very good to us. I am not always comfortable with the way my mother speaks to my children but I step back. I step back because we depend on my parents, they are entitled to respect and I want my children to develop a relationship with my parents that will stand on its own. If I were to interfere, then the relationship my children have with my parents would be undermined. I do commiserate with my girls if Granny is especially stern but I do that away from my mother, and I insist they do what my mother tells them to, regardless. Soon, Billy starts using her fork.
Lea is about to graduate from elementary school. I find a woman who will braid her hair and she looks beautiful. Soon, school is out for the summer. My social worker asks if we can take an eight year old girl; Mona. She wants me to ride with her to the foster home Mona is living in so we can talk on the way. Mona is talkative and engaging. Her favorite cereal is Lucy Charms and her favorite color is blue. Mona is also in counseling and I plan to make sure she gets to her weekly sessions. Mona is high maintenance; she cannot be still, even watching TV. She says provocative things to the other girls and is constantly tattling. We even caught her tattling on someone for tattling. I took her to our doctor for a checkup and he assertively states that Mona has ADD. He prescribes medication. I learn later that the dose was so small; I would not have noticed a meaningful effect. I do notice occasionally that Mona is quiet and reflective but those occasions are rare. Mona is sharing a room with Lea. Lea is very sweet to Mona and enjoys the big sister role. One evening, as I am tucking the younger girls into bed, I am sitting on Lea’s bed. Mona complains that I will never sit on her bed with her because she is on the top bunk. I climb up on the top bunk and tickle her, there are many laughs and giggles and Billy and Ivy come running to see me on the top bunk with Mona.
One night Mona is very sick with a high fever and some vomiting. I ask her what her mother did for her when she was sick to make her feel better. She says; “my mom would put a bowl next to my face on my pillow.” I bring her a bowl and wipe her forehead with a cool cloth. I bond with every child who comes into my home. I am not afraid of getting too attached. I am afraid of not attaching and not giving them something good to remember and maybe repeat. I attach by knowing every child’s favorite food and learning what it is that makes them feel better. I make sure that I have some characteristic I share with each child. Lea and I are the only people in our family who like lamb chops. Billy and I have the same size foot. Mona and I like our baked potatoes with lots of butter, no sour cream.
We are going to go camping. It is a lot of work to prepare, and we are all getting ready. Lea is good at packing and does a great job helping Mona pack her things. The house is bustling and camping equipment is spread all over. I hear a scream. Billy yells that Lea just threw a lamp at her. I look at Lea just as she is picking up a very heavy camping lantern to heave at Lea, in addition to the lamp she has just thrown, if she misses Lea, she will surely hit the sliding glass door. I tackle Lea and take her down to the floor. Lea is screaming, wild, and out of control. I am able to control her only because I am heavy and she is not. I am laying on her with all of my body and she is punching my arms. She says she cannot breathe and each time I move off of her a little, she tries to jump up again. Finally, she settles down. Lea begs me to get off of her. I tell her I cannot because I am afraid she will hurt somebody. After a while, she is completely calm. I let her up, she goes to her room, brushes her hair and changes her shirt and behaves as if nothing has happened. We go camping. The next morning my arm between my shoulder and elbow is purple with bruises. I have no idea what set Lea off, she doesn’t seem to know either. She cannot explain it to me. Billy is unhurt.