It has been nearly a year since my wife and I received our first foster child into our home. Since that day, we have had a total of six foster children come into our care. Currently we have a three-year-old girl and a 12-month-old boy.
One of the things I do not think my wife and I were fully prepared for is the level of psychological trauma young children deal with. I am not running the full Eugene Marathon because of the trauma level of two former foster kids… which resulted in me getting physically injured.
On television and the movies, children are not always accurately portrayed as dealing with trauma. Sometimes they are shown as being quiet, or that they don’t trust strangers… but I have not seen kids who express trauma on television the way that children in our home have expressed trauma. Real life is certainly not the Disney version of child trauma.
Have you ever had a two-year-old in your home who won’t stop talking? Sure, maybe. But have you ever had a two-year-old in your home who won’t stop talking because the noise of words helps distract the kid from how shitty his/her life is?? Whenever that two-year-old stops talking, the kid gets sad or angry.
Or… have you ever had a three-year-old talking about suicide and drowning himself in the river?
What about a three-year-old who is obsessed with fire and talks about burning the house down?
Have you ever known a three-year-old who is not afraid of strangers… because strangers are the only people that provide food?
Have you ever not slept at night because you were afraid the four-year-old might stab you in your sleep?
Have you ever known a child with eyes that changed color when angry?
Our twelve-month-old foster kid seems okay enough, considering he is in foster care… but he was so dehydrated when he came into foster care that the doctors could not take a blood sample (not enough blood).
Television shows are short… and movies generally do not have time to fully develop characters. But child trauma is a lot more than just a quiet kid who doesn’t like strangers.
Every child in foster care is different… but the last three kids we have received who were older than twenty-four months have all been diagnosed with psychological issues. You might think–“They’re just kids… they can’t be diagnosed with psychological issues!” But you would be wrong.
Kids (toddlers) in our home have already dealt with lots of trauma… and by the time they have reached our home, they have the angst of teenagers who hate life.
High school kids, sure… maybe a high school kid can be aware that his/her life is shit… life is unfair… and that life with his/her parents has not been equal to other kids because of the drug or alcohol problems the parents have/had. But by the age of three or four … to hate the world because life has fucked you over… it’s still hard for my brain to fully comprehend even though I myself was in foster care.
Today I ran nearly five miles. Yes… I ran five miles, walked two miles… and felt pretty good. I cannot run the full marathon on July 27th in Eugene. That is a fact I have reluctantly accepted. But the half marathon is still a possibility. Plus I ran the full Seattle Marathon in December… so it’s not like I need to prove to myself that I “can” do a full marathon.
However… I do not have plans to run the entire half marathon. I will run as much as I can… walk parts… and just try to enjoy it. My foot was injured not from running, but from two aggressive foster kids.
I still enjoy getting outside, and I paid for the Eugene Marathon long ago… so I will still do it. But at this point… I have accepted this will be my slowest time ever. I’m okay with that.
The fact that I can run at all at this point is impressive… I had nearly two months where just walking was uncomfortable during the spring of 2014. Sometimes victory is in the eye of the beholder. So just finishing the half marathon will be a victory.
It has been a long time since I posted, and with good reason.
The boys are gone. We almost quit foster parenting.
Some types of trauma can not be healed in a family foster home, and that is hard to admit when you are the foster home in question.
Some types of trauma do not show up in a child’s behavior in public, but only in private, behind closed doors, when nobody but a sibling is there to witness it.
Some types of trauma leave no scars on anything but a child’s psyche, and a child’s psyche can not be presented as evidence in a court of law.
Sometimes it isn’t possible to track abuse to its source. We will likely never know the identity of the person who first hurt these boys.
We did our best. We taught them manners, how to ask for things politely and how to…
I am probably not running in the Eugene Marathon at the end of July. If I do run, it is unlikely I will run the full marathon. Most likely I will run the half marathon and barely manage that. This is a far cry from my December triumph in the 2013 Seattle Marathon.
We had two foster kids who were emotionally and physically destructive.
Both kids were under the age of six, but I was afraid of the younger one. The explosive anger of the younger one kept me on pins and needles 24/7. When the younger one was asleep I worried about the younger one waking up. In addition… the younger one’s eyes sometimes changed color whenever angry. My wife and I found something online that said when some people get angry, the blood vessels in their eyes constrict, causing it to appear as if their eyes change color with mood changes. Super freaky.
My wife had toys thrown at her head! I was repeatedly kicked in the knee! I had my feet repeatedly stomped on! This was not the Disney version of foster care. Thankfully it was not the Quentin Tarantino version of foster care, but my home was not a safe place to live. Add to that, running is one of the ways that I burn off stress… but I couldn’t run because of repeatedly getting kicked in the knee or having my foot stomped on.
I am still emotionally recovering from this placement that my wife and I had. The two kids are gone… and I have been able to start running again. Finally.
My foot and knee are healed from having foster kids. But emotionally I am still off a little. The Eugene Marathon is the last week of July… and I am currently only running four miles (slowly).
I spent Father’s Day sad, and relieved, that there were no children in our house…
The system failed these two children. The kids have had a shitty life. I get that. But there had to be a better way for these kids to process their emotions… than for me to be a punching bag for their rage…
July 27th, 2014 is when the Eugene Marathon happens. That’s just over two months away. I was once excited about running this marathon, which would have been my second marathon. But 2014 has been a year of weird challenges. At this point I’m not even sure I could run over half of this marathon.
I was sick for the last week of February, and the entire month of March… then I was healthy for a few days in April… but then I was sick again for another week. Three colds and one sinus infection. So I did zero training during that time.
When I was healthy, our foster kids kicked stomped on my foot or kicked me in the knee. All of this adds up to me starting training approximately two weeks ago.
I ran four miles today… but clearly had nothing left in the tank. Finishing the Eugene Marathon (a mostly flat course) in under six hours will be a real challenge for me right now. I am frustrated… but trying to approach running as a way to burn off stress instead of a way to set a personal record. My wife suggested to not put pressure on myself for this marathon. I should just run and have fun.
I think that is good advice… especially considering that right now my body feels like a 1967 Ford Mustang. Not a fully restored Mustang… but a rusted Mustang with a leaky gas tank and peeling paint … that Godzilla stepped on.