Like many kids who have come from the system, El Oso is an enigma wrapped in a mystery wrapped in stubbornness wrapped in self-esteem issues wrapped in a rabbit hole of baggage. We have been working with him on no short of 20 bazillion issues all at once. Ok fine, maybe a little short of that. I digress. It’s been rough, no surprises there. He has been improving on so much, though! He came to us with the maturity of maybe a 10 year old, and I’d say he’s up to 13ish now, which is huge! He’s getting better with his social cues, his knowledge and understanding of wrong and right, his acclimation into a normal family life in general, and a crap-ton of other things.
The big problem right now?
Schoolwork. AKA the bane of my existence.
It’s an interesting concept when I have to sympathize with my parents and all they had to deal with when raising me and/or my siblings…only 8 years after they were done doing it. It helps that they are still in the thick of the child-rearing with my sister, but still, it’s super weird to talk teenagers with them when I was one a mere 6 years ago.
We were/are brought up to believe that school was an important key to getting to our goals in life. We wouldn’t fathom not turning in homework or not studying when we needed to or not participating in class or any other things that we could control in regards to school without fear of lengthy lectures followed by some form of punishment. Ahem, discipline. Sure, I didn’t always study, but I didn’t always need to study, and I knew that and had the wherewithal to regulate and manage my own crap. My brother forgot to turn in homework all the time in high school and was usually punished for it. He is also smart enough to where he could literally be on his phone the entirety of a class period and then ace a test on what was covered. Stupid smarty pants. This is why he is in med school though. Glad one of us can buy that retirement beach house my parents have always dreamed of, I guess.
The point is, we had 14 full years of of parenting before we reached high school. My parents had 14 years to teach us how to be responsible and how to care about our grades and how to expect the best out of ourselves. We weren’t always perfect of course, believe me, (I once spent a good 2-3 solid months grounded. My siblings have been in similar predicaments, but they read this blog and one of them still cares about the world knowing this stuff. So if you want to private message me…just kidding) but it went a long way. So what do you do with a kid who has been told his whole life that trying in any capacity at all or that doing even a small amount of the work in any shape or form constitutes “him trying his very best?” My anger and frustration fades to sympathy when I realize that this is truly not his fault. He doesn’t know. Sweet Oso. (Or Oso Dulche, as the creator of his nickname would say it.)
So this is where we are. The past week, or more maybe, I try to lose count, we have had a blow out every single night about the stupid schoolwork. I’m exhausted. Bryan is exhausted. El Oso has to be exhausted.
The problem, and I say “the problem” like it’s the only one or like I even fully understand “the problem,” is that he has never had the expectations that he has now with us. He all of the sudden has people checking up on his crap and calling him out on it and he is acting like the freaking apocalypse must be nigh.
Now let me be clear. This is NOT a situation where he is truly only capable of his current output. He is not lower functioning and hasn’t had even HALF of the experiences that most kids in the system have dealt with. He has experienced very little movement during his time in care and has managed to not only NOT fall behind one to two grades as is common in foster care, but has maintained being a year AHEAD of where he should be according to his age and the cutoff date. This has been accomplished via years of skating by. He has had it drilled into his head that if he can just stay below the radar, everything will be fine. Don’t excel, don’t fail too hard. As long as other kids are falling on their faces harder than I am, everything will be ok. And this has of course laid the groundwork for a whole crop of laziness to grow as well.
My reaction to this has been very mature and understanding. I always speak in soft tones and refuse to let my frustration translate out of my brain and into a vein slightly protruding from my forehead, or, Heaven forbid, a snarky comment…or two.
I’ll let you decide whether or not that is fact or crap.
On the real though. This ridiculousness continues to be HARD. On Monday we opted to order take-out so that I could spend the entire evening walking through his homework and studying with him. We made leaps and bounds of progress! Developed a new system! It was wonderful! And then while I was still patting my own back for a job well-done Tuesday evening, we found him fallen asleep mid-homework with almost zero of the Monday’s knowledge having transferred. Cue another lengthy conversation about responsibility and listening, and selfishness, and rebellion and blah blah blah blah blah.
Can you see it? ALL OF THE MATURITY SPEWING FROM ME, THE PARENT?
Sometimes, I want to declare responsibility bankruptcy too, kid. Do you have room in the center of the universe for me as well? Does this sound a bit harsh? Just wait for the annoyingly hard lesson that always comes after I get too wrapped up in someone else’s problems.
During my epic tantrum is usually when God comes in all High and Mighty (<– see what I did there?) and is like “You see it don’t you? How ridiculous you’re acting about something that you do as well, but on a bigger scale?” Ugh God. You and Your logic. The theme continues: I learn more about myself and my bratty, ungrateful, selfish nature by getting mad at someone else for doing it to me. God: “El Oso’s stubborn and refuses to see the logic and do the right thing for the hundredth time? Hmm sounds like someone else I know.”
Alex: Still zero.
I’m glad someone’s got this, because I sure don’t.
For fellow foster/adoptive parents: This is not news to you and I would love to have coffee with you. Everyone else, I welcome your comments and encouragement IN LOVE.