Sunday, March 21, 2010

Waiting For a Bus

This blog post was originally posted on February 17, 2009, on a blog I am gradually shutting down. If you've already read it, feel free to find something else to do. Otherwise, enjoy.

I think foster care must be kind of like waiting for a bus. You sit at the bus stop and you wait and wait. People told you that a bus was coming, and maybe they even told you what time to expect it, but the bus seems as though it never comes. You don't have a bus schedule, so you don't really know for sure about anything. People come and go at the bus stop. Sometimes you overhear them talking about when the bus will come, and it sounds as though they have different information than they gave you. Sometimes the bus comes, and the people get on the bus, but then they won't let you on because, they say, "This isn't your bus."

Different children have different reactions to spending so much time at the bus stop. If I talk to my fearful child about the bus stop the dialogue goes like this:

Me: So how did you feel about waiting at the bus stop for so long?
Child: I didn't like it. The bus stop was scary.
Me: Why was it scary?
Child: I don't know. It just was.
Me: Were you happy when the bus came?
Child: Kind of. But I was kind of scared of the bus.
Me: But the bus brought you here.
Child: It did? Oh yeah. I was scared when the bus brought me here. But now I'm not scared anymore.
Me: Do you think about being at the bus stop?
Child: Sometimes. It makes me worry I will have to go back and wait there. I don't like to think about it.

If I talk to my impaired child the dialogue goes like this:

Me: So, you were at that bus stop for a long time.
Child: Uh huh.
Me: How did you feel when you were at the bus stop?
Child: Ummmm.....bored?
Me: I don't know, maybe. Did you hope the bus would come?
Child: Once the bus came and took me to the pool to go swimming! It was awesome!
Me: Did it take you back to the bus stop?
Child: (sadly) Yeah. I wanted to live at that pool!
Me: But you were at the bus stop for a long time. Tell me about that.
Child: Well.... they gave me sandwiches to eat at the bus stop. They were salami sandwiches on wheat bread. With mustard. I love mustard.
Me: So that's what you remember about the bus stop?
Child: Yup! Those sandwiches were GOOD!

But these are the children who wait at the bus stop, who largely get ignored. In general, they wait quietly. Then there is another daughter of mine, who is highly intelligent, easily bored, and demands some control over her destiny. I can see her pacing the bus stop impatiently, grilling each person waiting for any information about scheduled buses. I can see her demanding a bus schedule, and cursing the idiots who run this whole bus thing. All the while she has a pretty clear picture of what her bus should look like and where she thinks it is taking her. But the problem is, it never seems to come. Over a short period of time, this child gets angry and fed up. She decides her bus is never coming, but she'll be damned if all these other people are going to get to ride buses and she won't.

She begins muscling her way onto "wrong buses". She knows they're wrong buses, and she knows they won't take her where she wants to go, but riding a wrong bus is better than sitting at that stupid bus stop. Eventually riding wrong buses becomes a way of life. Finding yourself in a strange part of town, being lost, figuring out how to get back to the bus all becomes an adrenaline soaked pattern. Sometimes you meet cool people on those buses. Often they give you things because you are lost. Most of the time their sandwiches are better than the ones they give you at the bus stop.

The problem is this, when your bus finally comes, it looks lame. It's a boring older bus, headed for Boringsville, and this child isn't sure if she really wants to ride that bus after all. But they grab her and hustle her onto that bus, and off she goes. No more bus stop. When she gets to her destination, she discovers that buses generally don't stop there. She wanders around trying to get lost, but the folks from Boringsville always seem to find her and bring her back. She spends a lot of her time trying to figure out a way to get back to the bus stop, but she just can't, so she is angry and frustrated all of the time.

The folks at Boringsville don't think it's so boring anymore. In fact they never really did, but now it's way more interesting than even they could have imagined. Sometimes they wish they had a bus stop in Boringsville, so that Mom and Pop Boring could get out of town. But then, that might be way too tempting. But I did hear that some of those buses go to some pretty nice places, and they've got good sandwiches too!

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