Reality Check

After months of waiting, I got what I was waiting for; a reality check. As Barry said all through training, when faced with a situation, always assume you don’t know everything. Oh, whoops. Guess I forgot that lesson. Had I remembered, perhaps I would be feeling differently right now, but it has happened- I have finally had a bad day.

By now, I have three cases of adorable kids. About 15% of the time I spend with my kids is basically high five-ing and playing air guitar (I clearly have no shame). 40% is focused on fending off questions regarding my gender (“You’re not a girl!”) which I find mostly hilarious and endearing. Who would have thought that four year old children already have the gender binary programmed in their brains so deeply? The remaining 45% is used to really get down to the nitty-gritty. We work on homework problems, talk about their foster families and try to find tangible solutions to their heartbreaking problems.

For some reason, it has come as a genuine shock to me that kids like me. Then I realized that painful and obvious truth; I am a child. They laugh at my jokes, listen when I give a little advice, and sometimes call me Coco. Even though I leave my home visits (which average about 90 minutes) physically exhausted to begin a two hour commute home (who wants to start a MTA book club?), I always feel like I really did well. I helped foster a tiny change in a kids life, I made a foster parents night run a little smoother, I assisted in altering a family’s perspective regarding their childs “problem” behavior. But not tonight.

I failed! I totally, absolutely failed. It was brutal. I didn’t do anything that I planned on doing. I bought one of my kids a coloring book and crayons as a treat for good behavior, but there was none. I tried to talk to him about school, and listening to grandma, and working on a behavior chart I made with him. No luck. He ran around, cried, crawled under the table, fought his brother, screamed, and ignored me. His family looked to me to help them, but I couldn’t. I had absolutely nothing to say, nothing to do, nothing. Blank. And when I gathered my things to leave and he hugged me and cried and begged me to come back tomorrow, I said, “See you Wednesday”. I went to say good-bye to foster mom, but she just looked at me and I knew I absolutely failed. I walked into their home this evening feeling like I was going to change the world and I did nothing. Yikes. Heavy. Maybe it doesn’t sound like a failure, but it feels like one.

So here I am. Watching “The Wonder Years” (Kevin + Winnie Forever!) and drinking a Coca-Cola with my cat plopped on my lap. One bad night won’t ruin a case, but it sure does shake a gals confidence. I know I have the tools and the capacity to really do this work, but there was a moment tonight where I questioned myself and my ability. I guess what I’m trying to say is that being able to recognize what a failure looks like means you care enough and are capable enough of doing this work. Making mistakes, owning those mistakes, and going to work the next day ready to make another mistake is all a part of the field. Right? Anyways…  as Kevin Arnold said, “Every kid deserves to be a hero. Every kid already is.”


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2 responses to “Reality Check

  1. viviane

    “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” You did not fail greatly but you will achieve greatly because….you care! Thanks for being you.

  2. colleenwh

    Thanks Viv! I had my second bad day today and just got home. Reading your comment really turned my day around for the better, thank you for being so supportive and wonderful. No one lied to me; it’s a tough job. But honestly, it selfishly feels so wonderful to be advocating for these amazingly resilient kids.

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