Thursday, February 04, 2010

Wrong mascara

So, a while back I told my mom about this new mascara of mine, that was just like the Lancome Definicils that we have been addicted to for the last ten years, but it's like one one hundredth of the cost. She asked me if it was waterproof, to which I responded "no". And she was like, "well, how do you manage?" And I was like, "well, I am not prone to crying fits on a daily basis, and it doesn't run down your face when you sweat, so it's no big deal." And she acted like she didn't believe me about the daily crying fits.

So, I had a bit of an exhausting day today. Brought on by me..who else..because why would you want to burn the candles at both ends, when it's so much more fun to dice the candle up in to itty bitty pieces with a mandolin, and then light each of THOSE ends on fire?

Stayed up far too late at book club..thank you ladies for a rousing discussion about the lust we feel for evil men, the repercussions of inbreeding, the role that race played in the 1800's, and the comparisons of religious customs that are comforting..oh, and every child's fascination with swearing.

And so I was not as prepared as I would have liked to have been, for the test I took today..which sucked. It also sucked that the study sheet that the TA gave us looked NOTHING like the test. Thanks dude for the royal waste of my time. I would have done better to have thrown darts at the book and studied what they hit.

So, running from class to class, picking up and dropping off playdates, checking in on my mom who has been an interim-mother for my children this week that Gavin has been in India, and then it's off to a volunteer orientation. This is mandatory in order for me to get a regular volunteer gig with a state agency, so they can give my program director the green light that I am not going to make the people I will be trying to help even more messed up. I get it. It's just that..can't we count the ten thousand volunteer hours that I have already put in on the PTA counsel, or the SCC counsel, or the Fundraising committee? And I have managed to keep three small children alive and happy for the combined total of fifteen years, so shouldn't that have some bearing on my character?

But whatever..I will go and do the thing that thou commands. So I show up to this place...and it's a miracle I find it. For some reason, I had imagined a shelter for children who have just been removed from their home, as being in the McCune Mansion on Main Street in Salt Lake City. Like Daddy Warbuck's home, where Annie and all her newly scrubbed and curled little friends can slide down banisters with Punjabs waiting on them, and showing them how to charm snakes.

But this place was located exactly where you would never want to live. It's that place that's right in between the Fire Station, and an abandoned lot, next to the train trax so that the place practically rattles every time the train passes, with the old run down industrial buildings flanking the sides, and the noise from the freeway rumbling in the background. So this is where we stash the kids who had to flee their homes in the middle of the night, and left with nothing but the ratty shirt and undies on their back. Welcome to your new home kids.

The inside was decent enough. But how smart of us to ship them off to this out-of-the-way that we can forget that there are kids in our state..just three miles away..who are homeless..who are abandoned..who are terrified..and who are property of the government. Property of an institution. An institution with no arms to hold, and no heart to break. How convenient for us to be able to go about our lives and never have to give it one single thought.

We prospective volunteers were gathered in a conference room, and were given handouts on the center and it's various roles. The 0-7 year olds who lived on site. The older kids and their needs. The teenagers and the kids who were transitioning out of foster care-reaching adulthood never having had a childhood. The safe house for kids who were runaways. The area where the cops brought kids, while they were figuring out if they wanted to press charges.

And I am watching the Power Point presentation, and following along with my handout, while the coordinator nervously explained how the center relies solely on donations so that when the kids need a new blankie or a new pair of underwear, they can give them something. They can't give a caring parent..but underwear. So, she gets to a slide on boundaries. And my breathing becomes shallow.

It states that:

Any child who is older than two years of age is not allowed to be picked up or hugged.

And I think, "are you effing kidding me?" I mean in my mind I know that in the past there have been some wacked out pervs who have taken advantage of these little lambs that are already completely helpless, but so now you are telling me that I can't pick them back up and dust them off and hold them? Instead I can give them a high five or a side hug? No picking up children older than two? Because at the age of two you can do without physical contact?

So of course Garrett's face pops in to my mind. My almost two year old, who can hardly utter a word, and feels like a newborn to me still. And I try to imagine him, with his little green blankie that has the satin sides all gnawed off, trying to figure out why some one won't pick him up when he is tired and confused and sad. And I have to force that image out of my mind. Because I might not be able to breathe if I keep thinking that thought.

The presentation ends and the coordinator puts in a video for us to watch. And why she didn't warn us, I do not understand. Because even though there is not one single image on the entire short film, it so completely undoes me, that I have to cover my face with my hand so that they can't see me shaking with sobs.

Then we go on a tour. And by tour, I am thinking the reception area, but no..we are going to see the facilities where these kids are all And we get to observe them, and stare at them, and make them feel even stupider and less human than they already feel. So this giant group of twenty five adults swings open the door to the teenager's shelter, and I spot a boy curled up on a chair while two girls stand around a pool table. There is an elderly volunteer standing next to the girls. And we look at them with the guilt of able adults who could whisk them away at that very moment at take them back to warmth and safety and a bed but who don't out of indifference and apathy.

And this lanky teenage boy has his knees drawn up to his chest and won't look at us. Like maybe he doesn't need another group of people who need to avenge their guilty consciouses treating him like he's a monkey on display at the zoo. But he isn't there anyway. His hurt is so palpable that we could wade through it. His body sits there on that chair like a zombie, but his soul is checked out..wanting to fly off somewhere safe.
I think of Dalton..and I have to avert my that this huddled lost boy doesn't consume my thoughts.

But shouldn't he consume some one's?...

People ask questions, as if the kids can't hear, about "what they do to run-aways" and "how do they keep kids from killing themselves here"?

We move outside to go to the next building, which is the shelter for little girls. Then it will be on to where the little boys reside, finishing up with the infants and toddlers shelter. And I can't. I can't go in. I can't see their faces. It will haunt me. They will haunt me. How can I not leave with all of them in my car? So I sit outside while the group goes in to the girl's home. And when they come out the director takes a look at me and her face tells me what mine must look like. She says that I can leave and that we can talk tomorrow. She is kind..but I am too weak, and she can't have me weighing down the group. So I walk to the main building, and out the doors to the parking lot.

I feel completely defeated. Body, mind and soul just overcome with dejection and hopelessness. I look in my rear view mirror and see what looks like Alice Cooper staring back at me. It's no wonder I caused the director to worry. Mom was right. The non-waterproof mascara isn't worth it.

I talked to myself in my head the whole way home. How could I take in foster kids? Could I adopt them? How old? How many? How would my children feel? How would Gavin feel? Suddenly I wanted to abandon my urban setting and move to a big piece of land where I could house every one of the kids. I am telling myself that there is no way I can do this, because I don't consider myself a "good enough" mother to the three I already have, so how am I going to give to any more? But I can. Really. I know I can.

Who knows when I can. But why not? Because it's not neat? It's not two boys and two girls, who look just like the parents, and are spaced the perfect 2.5 years apart? It wouldn't make for good travel accommodations down the road when we take our trips to Disneyworld, or Europe? It doesn't work with the vinyl lettering in the hallway, or the genealogy tree that I have created in the entry- showcasing our proud lineage and how we all neatly fit together? or two of my thoughts have wandered there. We almost didn't have Garrett just because our plane seating configuration gets markedly more complex with an odd number. So, what? Now I am going to get some extra capacity van and just have some gangle of kids pouring out of it? What happened to matching outfits during the holidays? And mother-daughter trips..our Disney cruises? This is going to screw everything up. But couldn't it be a good kind of screwed up? That is what I am wondering.

Watch this: Multiple Transitions: A Young Child's Point of View about Foster Care and Adoption - Google Video - Truveo Video Search


Erin Vorkink said...

tough stuff, and you are very brave! i'd like to do something, too. are you still going to be volunteering there? i'd like to donate some hats for the little girls. i'd actually take them all in if i could. and thats crazy about hugs, really?!!! thats what they need, this is going to consume me...

Delia said...

That was heart wrenching to read. I have often thought about becoming a foster parent too, but I too feel like I barely successfully parent my own children. Can I take on children with a whole slew of problems that I don't know if could help with?

Chip and Lisa said...

I know how you felt. I have joked with my degree with you before in that it was a party with the youth degree but I actually worked with troubled youth in a detention center. I was young and I thought I could change the world but some of those children have been so hurt in their lives and they need so much, more then I could ever give. I think you should go back and spend time with them and use your talents to give them your love, even if it's through words instead of hugs. It makes me miss that in my life.

Chip and Lisa said...

I know how you felt. I have joked with my degree with you before in that it was a party with the youth degree but I actually worked with troubled youth in a detention center. I was young and I thought I could change the world but some of those children have been so hurt in their lives and they need so much, more then I could ever give. I think you should go back and spend time with them and use your talents to give them your love, even if it's through words instead of hugs. It makes me miss that in my life.

Abbey Rice said...

Holy smokes, Ashley. What a post. I totally felt this one. I've always been interested in adoption/foster parenting but Curtis is a no-go with that idea. The whole concept of children with no one devoted to their happiness is heartbreaking. Curtis does a lot of child protective work with his law practice now and it is beyond unbelievable what some kids survive.