The above description fit me perfectly.
Yes, me… perfectly.
Marie came to live with us at the age of 6. She had been picked up off the street at 4 in the morning, barefoot, in her underwear, looking for food. We took her in as an emergency foster placement because I knew American Sign Language and Marie was deaf. She looked like a wild animal…disheveled, matted hair, flaming eyes of distrust, so filthy everywhere that even an hour in the tub did not wash off all the grime. Her teeth were dingy yellow, and her body was emaciated. Being the “good” middle class mother that I was, I cleaned her as best I could and then I took her to buy some clothes.
In the store, she immediately disappeared. I impulsively called her name, (as though she could hear me.) When I finally found her, she was in the candy aisle, shoving candy bars into the pocket of her pants. I screamed, “No! No! No!” She looked at me and ran in the other direction. I finally tracked her down in the pet aisle, just as she was about to open the cage to the hamsters. I screeched and said “No! No! No!”, and proceeded to grab her, pick her up, empty the candy bars in her pocket, and tote her back to the car without buying anything. If I thought this would teach her a lesson, it did not. She was not used to buying anything, so she could not appreciate something she never had.
We ate out for lunch at McDonald’s. Marie ate her sandwich and drank her milk and threw the wrapper and container on the floor. No! No! No!
The next day I gave her a stern talking to (“signing to?) and told her that we were going shopping for clothes and that she needed to stay with me. As though THAT was going to work! As soon as we got into the mall, a place she obviously had never seen before, she skirted UP the DOWN escalator, laughing with glee. Mortified, I screamed and said No! No! No! and then watched in horror as she slid down the banister of the escalator. Big scream! No! No! No! Home we went.
Once at home, she got an orange to eat. She grabbed the butcher knife to cut it and I screamed and caught her hand just as it was about to demolish the orange. No! No! No!
The next day we were going to take a walk to the library. She broke free from the grip I had on her hand, and ran across 4 lanes of traffic. Scream! No! No! No!
Later in the evening, while watching television, Marie climbed onto my husband’s lap, where she attempted to rub his “private parts” and kiss him. SUPER BIG SCREECH! No! No! No! Oh! This child was so “bad”! WHAT was I going to do with her?
At the end of the week, I went to Marie’s school where she was part of a dance performance. I was glad to be able to be there, as her birth mother had never been seen at the school before. I watched with pride as she danced and twirled, often sneaking a peak at me to see if I was looking. When the dance was over, I saw her talking (signing) with another student who commented that Marie had a new mom, and how did she like her? Marie looked over at me for a minute and crumpled her nose, telling her that all I ever do is scream and say No! No! No! I was shocked. I had never thought of it before, but she was right! I was so busy chasing and correcting her that it would seem like all I did was scold her. And what was I scolding her for? For what I, as a middle class mother, think is wrong. I had never taken into account that Marie had been raised to do all of those things…to steal food, to take what she wanted from stores, to litter, to be sexually promiscuous (at the age of SIX!) and to have no worries about safety, thinking she was invincible. This young child, who had lived on the streets and managed to survive without any parental care, just parental abuse…WAS invincible! She did what she needed to survive.
I was so embarrassed. Embarrassed because I was judging her by my standards and not stopping to think of what her standards were. I vowed never to scream No! No! No! again, but to explain things in a loving manner to her.
We do not steal. If you want something, I can probably buy it for you.
We do not run into streets with cars, use butcher knives, or slide down escalators. It is not safe.
We do not just throw garbage on the ground, but in our family we pick it up and put it in a garbage can.
And, most of all, there is no need to make money by being “friendly to men”. We have plenty of money so you don’t have to do that. And it is not fair that you had to do that instead of just being a little girl. And you never have to do that again.
Marie did not change overnight, but each time she would fall back onto old habits such as stealing or being unsafe, I would lovingly explain why she no longer had to do that. She had a family that loved her and it was our job to keep her safe.
Then there was the time when, walking in the mall with a soft drink in her hand, she unwrapped the straw and threw the paper on the ground. My eyes widened, and she laughed when she saw my reaction. “I was just teasing you” she signed. “I know I don’t litter in this family….”
No more screaming from me…
Link to the Readers Digest review of my book: