The home had been give a large, “big toy gym” which needed stripping, refinishing and other work. This was the job my husband and I were given to attend to. As we were putting sealer on the swing set, Stephanie, one of the fifteen-year-old foster girls, offered to help. She was dressed in a typical teenage outfit: tight jeans, suede boots, frilly top, long ear rings with her raven black hair hanging about her shoulders. “You will need to change clothes,” said her foster parent.
“Why?” she asked.
“Because when you paint you wear old clothes so you don’t ruin your good ones.”
“Okay,” she said, seeming to be a bit confused. Ten minutes later she returned wearing long, baggy checked cotton shorts, tee shirt and sneakers. “Where can I start?”
The next moments were getting her in her spot to begin. My husband no sooner poured the sealer in the container and she kicked it with her shoe climbing onto the swing set.
“I messed up already,” she said, clearly upset.
“Not a problem,” I assured her.
With that, she started on the task before her. Chatting she shared she’d always lived in Tucson, in the city, and didn’t know what to do with herself in the country. She lived with her Grandmother and missed her friends and family something awful. I have no idea the circumstances of her separation from her family, but it does makes me wonder and it makes me sad.
When my husband and I travel and are away from our children and grandchildren, we miss them a lot. We have email, phones, and skype or face time to keep in touch. This said, our relationship is good, so any contact is welcomed with great enthusiasm and joy! If we didn’t share this feeling of love and family, interaction between our children and grandchildren would be hard, at best. It’s likely there would be no communication.
It makes me ask what causes families to fall apart? Why do children have to pay the price of a parent’s mistakes? What makes a child rebel so violently they become wards of the state? What makes them turn to drugs, alcohol or other harmful things? How is it possible these young people reach a point where suicide seems to be the only answer? Do they not think through the consequences of their behavior?
I don’t begin to know the answers to these questions. I do know the problems are very real for far too many young people. It is not an isolated problem relevant to a single race, nationality, social status or economic level, geographic area, educational standing or religious preference. It affects young ones (and often older people, as well) across the board.
Being separated from our family for any reason, physically or emotionally, creates an unparalleled loneliness, much like the young foster child at the mission school. So I challenge you to reflect on your children. Are there ways you could help them feel closer to you so not to be drawn into harmful behaviors?