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Two Enemies, Part 2: Expectations

2012 August 17

“What are your expectations of foster children?” the case worker doing our final interview before certification asked us.

“That they will be kids,” Jennifer said.

“I don’t have any,” was my answer.

Either one will get you there. Jennifer’s answer is the recognition that they are children and everything is filtered through the child mind; rather than an adult in a smaller body. They deal with things as children and, most importantly, they want to be children just like everybody else.

My answer is what I strive to maintain. Pride may be Enemy Number One, but expectations come in very close as Enemy Number 2!

Expectations will knock you off your game and become a self fulfilling prophecy of failure. Kids who’ve experienced trauma, abandonment (often repeatedly), and abuse do not react “normally” to every situation and circumstance.

“Allein – Lonely” by Jan Hutsching

I’ve had it said to me once, “You’re just taking on someone else’s problems.”

My response, “Wow, that is so weird… so are they!”

These things have been imposed upon them; don’t expect them to just shrug them off because you came along.

And don’t expect them to shower gratitude on you for taking them into your home. They are too preoccupied with waiting for you to let them down to be bothered with that. What they might be grateful for is if their actual parents got their acts and themselves together and they could all be the family they really want. That’s not likely to happen. However much they may recognize this themselves it is still disappointing and heartbreaking. They have expectations too.

Keeping all that in mind is difficult. On a personal level, I let my expectations creep in now and then. Especially driving home I often look forward to being greeted at the door by happy children. It can happen. Sometimes. But expecting it can be disappointing; and when I let that happen I’ve taken my eye off the ball and made it about me.

Don’t let either of these enemies win. Be vigilant and above all honest with yourself about how much Pride and Expectations are interfering with your goal of healing these kids and breaking them out of the cycle they were living in.

It’s called winning.

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