This morning my foster child, a 6 yr old boy, wanted to bring a toy to school. I reminded him that the school does not allow children to bring toys to school. He didn’t agree, stating the fact that there were some kids who brought toys to school, and even his teacher had told him that it was ok for him to bring a toy, so why couldn’t I let him bring one? I referred back to the school handbook and the day that we read it together and he signed his name agreeing not to bring toys. He scowled up his small face, and told me that he didn’t think that was fair; he didn’t remember signing that part and he never even heard that part. I reassured him that it was there, and we could look at the book if he wanted to. He turned away from me and headed into the living room. I was right behind him as he picked up a silver bracelet of mine that he found last night. “I just really, really love this, and I want to bring it with me…” I interrupted him, taking the bracelet from him, and told him that he was welcome to play with it, excuse me, wear it, after school, but he was not allowed to bring it. I was countered with a sobering, “ok”.
A few moments later he asked me about the mini lego set he got for Christmas. “Remember the police one, and the chef? And what happened to the fireman one? Oh! I know! It flew into my backpack yesterday, and when I got to school, it went over to my friend because he said he wanted it and I wanted to give it to him but you said I couldn’t take it to school. I don’t know how it got in there! It just musta flew in there!” The crooked smile on his face and the twinkle in his eye were a dead giveaway. As he was talking, I remembered a conversation from a night or two ago when he asked me if he could take it to school. I had reminded him then that he couldn’t. Apparently he snuck it in his backpack.
As a parent, I know what I wanted to do. I wanted to laugh with him and really get the enjoyment out of the moment. But, as a Parent, I knew what I had to do. I had to be stern and let him know that it was not acceptable for him to do that. I had to let him know that now he needed to turn his pockets inside out for me each morning before he left for the bus and that I would be checking his backpack each morning as well. The look of surprise on his face was classic. He didn’t want me checking his pockets…NO WAY! That just wasn’t fair at all! …and he started to run away. I grabbed his arm and pulled him back to me. He twisted and started to dart away again. I grabbed the waist band of his jeans and he gave up. I told him I wasn’t playing. I reached my hand in his left pocket and turned it inside out. “This is what I want you to do for me each morning before you go” I said, in the firmest voice I could muster. As I reached my hand into his right pocket, a look of complete despair came over his face. My hand found something he didn’t want it to. I pulled it out as he moaned, “Noooooo!” I looked at him and in a moment of frustration, I claimed the toy. It was now mine. He knew it would come to that. Somewhere in his mind, he knew.
I have no idea what the immediate future holds for us; for him, for us, for us with him. I want to claim the child as mine. But I can’t do that. I want to know that he will always have someone to check his pockets before he goes to school so that at 17 he doesn’t end up having the police checking his pockets for weapons or needles. Right now, his life, his very life…all of it…not just the here and now, but the forever of it, is in my hands. My hands.
I hope that the toys in his pocket are always a silver heart bracelet with a cross and a mini transformer.