Foster Care Nightmare

6 06 2009

Here’s the truth about working from home with kids: it doesn’t work. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying or her kids have formed an unhealthy bond with the television set.

I know this because this past week, I tried to meet a deadline while the kids had a week off–you know the one when school has ended but camp hasn’t yet begun? Right, that one.

I thought, no problem. We’ll take little day trips and I’ll work at night after they go to bed. HA!

On Monday we went to the skating rink. Roofie right then (perhaps prematurely) pronounced it the “best summer ever.” On Tuesday we went rollerblading on the greenway, and to the neighborhood swimming pool. The kids were still glowing. Hooray for summer! Ice cream and swimming and frosty glasses of lemonade. This was a honeymoon worth remembering. But as with all honeymoons, it wouldn’t last.

The next day I had to force myself to take them to the library to sign them up for the summer reading program. I wanted to take my laptop along to see if I could sneak some work in. But alas, no. I wasn’t in the mood, or in the zone, or whatever you call work mode. (this is a problem with fluid freelance deadlines, by the way)

By Thursday Juniper was moping around the house complaining about how bored she was. All of her friends were either at their lakehouses or had started camp. Roofie continued to make demands–to go to the swimming pool once more, to make a trip out to the dollar store for a squirting water toy, to have raspberry pancakes for breakfast.

The week was wearing on me. That carefree bounce in my step that I’d had on Monday with the kids had soon given way to a shuffle. Soon I was making eye contact with them minimally. I’d grown tired of Juniper’s sulking, so I told her to look in one of her cookbooks for something to make. Something long and involved, something like bread from scratch or flan. She brightened at the idea and set to work.

“You can’t ask me every few seconds if we have this ingredient or that,” I warned her amid the clanking of mixing bowls and whisks.

“I won’t,” she said.

Not five minutes into her spice cake endeavor, she asked me how much 16 ounces was.

“It’s two cups. You have ounces on that measuring cup, you know,” I said without looking up from my laptop.

A few minutes later: “Would you say this is an eighth of a teaspoon?”

I wanted to say, LEAVE ME ALONE. LEAVE. ME. ALONE. But instead I said, “Go with your instincts. They’re pretty good sometimes.”

We were in each other’s faces for a long time, and I’d had enough. I needed a break. Monday, I thought. Just hold on until Monday.

Then last night I had the most awful nightmare. Somehow  the kids were taken away from me and put in foster care. Yes, it’s a mystery to me, too.

Weeks later (interesting it took me weeks), I went to pick them up, as if I were picking up  dry cleaning or a computer that’d been shipped off for repairs.

So Juniper came out first. The really terrible thing was that whoever put them in foster care put them in separate homes. On second thought, seeing how they fight sometimes, maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea.

Anyway, Juniper came out looking pretty good, being her usual cool as a cucumber self. If her foster parents had been branding her with hot irons every day, she wasn’t letting on.

Then out came Roofie, who appeared to have had quite a different experience in foster care. He was filthy, his hair was sticking up every which way, and it was full of lice and these little white bugs that were just circling his head. And he turned to me and said: Thank you for getting me out of this HELL where I’ve been failing.

Huh?

I didn’t know what it meant, but we embraced anyway. Then I woke up.  It left me with that awful feeling, you know when you wake up from a dream but it still feels real and your heart is pounding out of your chest? Maybe it was my subconscious telling me to relax and enjoy them. Perhaps the moral of the story is this: enjoy your kids today, because you never know when they might end up in foster care.

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