My last post was pretty intense and scary I must admit. Me putting my life out there for the world to see and know, makes me very vulnerable. But the cool part is, it makes the readers vulnerable too.
Maybe they could relate to who I was as a child and who I have become today. Maybe they ARE my mother and don’t want to admit it. Maybe they are a bit of both. Who really knows?! All I can say is that sometimes being offended opens our eyes to something other than ourselves. And this is where me being a bad mother comes in.
I spent several year of my adult life justifying my actions towards my foster daughter when she was 15 years old. Sometimes I feel that what I did was right because it changed her behavior, but other times I think “there has got to be a better way.” Let me tell you what happened.
Ever since my foster daughter came into my life (at birth really, but I was too young to care for her so I had to let her bio family do it until I was old enough) she was about 10 years old. She had always known me as her second mom. I came home from college, having graduated with a BA and several licences to pound knowledge down kids throat as quickly as possible, I assumed the permanent position as “mom.” I had the dream of one day adopting her so that I could move to the USA and give her the kind of life that I didn’t have. But this was not going to be an easy task.
Her visa was rejected several times and we decided it was time to take a break. So I came back to my country and proceeded to teach at a private school where I knew she would get a scholarship since I was a teacher. Schools in this country cost well around 7000 dollars a year and that does not include uniform, food, or extra curricular activities.
Just because you graduate from college does not mean you have money, in fact, quite the opposite. So I took a job that paid me about 500 dollars a month. At least my daughter could get a somewhat good education for sorta free. Her books cost around 500 dollars for the year. Holes were being created in my pockets-all four pockets. But we made due, having about 150 dollars left to spare after rent, electric and internet were paid. I was blessed, because most people live off of a dollars a day and I was living off of…..(well, you do the math) a day. So I was blessed and most importantly, we were happy.
My daughter came into my life permanently when she turned 10 and in my mind it would be a piece of cake to raise her…..SHIIIIIITTTTT-I was so wrong. Because she came into my life at such a later age, her mind was already formed academically. Now, all I could do was reinforce what she had learned in school and help her create a mindset that would help her become a successful and happy person. As a teacher I know that children’s brains begin to be less spongy around the age of 7 or 8. So whatever they have learned between 0 and 7 is what they are pretty much fixed to be able to do. (that sentence was super confusing and i don’t know how to reword it and i’m drinking smirnoff right now so if I try to reword it, it may come out even worse…lol). Everything else will prove more difficult to them, like learning a new language. But she came to me with her mind already concrete in what she had learned and was missing. I paid for her schooling ever since she started (age 4). She went to a private English school in 1st grade and then to a small private Christian School that was all in Spanish. I was not making enough money selling my body in college so I couldn’t keep paying for the English School. (totally kidding about the selling of my body ;)-that is going to bite me in the ass). I was actually making and selling Jewelry from my dorm room and at other events on and off campus to make sure my daughter was in a good school. But that well dried up so she had to transfer to a Spanish school.
Anyway, she remained at that school from 2nd through 5th grade. Her grades were very horrible and when she came to me at 10 (at the end of 5th grade) she still could not really read or write. And she had ZERO English skills. We worked so hard to get those up to par. When I began teaching, she was in a sink or swim situation and she swam. It was a tough 8+ years to get her to the level she is at now. She is now 19 years old and in University, loving the courses she is taking and hoping to one day be a social worker. (on last sunday may 30th we played several doubles tennis games and enjoyed our time together) So where does the bad parenting come in you are wondering. Get to the point Author, for real, I gots me some things to do! The bad parenting comes in when I cut my child’s hair.
In a culture where cutting hair is a sin, I did it. I took scissors and practically flat lined her head. She hated me for years for that. Let me tell you what happened and then you be the judge. At 15 years old, my daughter was staying at her biological parents home (whole other blog…just wait for it). I had custody of her from the children’s court so anything that happened to her would fall on my shoulders. I was ready to be put in jail for my daughter. But for some reason, I opted to have the fostership be open. I don’t know if it was because it gave me a break (by this time I had 2 more children living with me full time), or if it just was me feeling super guilty for not letting her family be a part of her life. Either way, they were and it was the hardest thing for me to deal with and (in hindsight) super confusing to my daughter.
Her bio parents were lay people. Very simple, extremely permissive and easily swayed by their “perfect” daughter. As my daughter became more educated and picked up the English language, she was now an asset to them. She could be the spokesperson in her mothers little business, bringing in more clients. They wanted me to continue to support her and care for her and provide everything for her, but they also wanted her to be part of their life.
This was tough for me because I didn’t really know what was right. I had pretty much just gotten out of college (about 5 years) and everyone appeared to be happy on the outside. But one day she was visiting them and at night, she decided at the age of 15 to go to a little town (with someone else) and get drunk and dance the night away until about 3:00am. She came home Sunday at the usual time, around 5pm and I noticed she was wearing make-up. I was not upset about the make-up because she was allowed to wear it but she smelled really funny. She smelled like alcohol. I dismissed it also because I knew her father drank a good bit at home. As the evening wore on I started to get suspicious. She was acting more tired than usually and she asked to go to bed pretty early (at 15 she no longer had a bedtime).
When she closed the door to her room (each of my kids had their own room as I liked to give them privacy as they grew up) I got on my computer and logged into facebook. Immediately I logged into her account and noticed that her status said “out”. I ignored the status and went to bed. The next morning around 9am, she was still asleep. My daughter was not a late sleeper (Very unique to my 12 year old now). So I thought it was strange that she was still sleeping. All it took was 10 hours or so for her picture to show up on facebook, in the town she had gone to and partied all night. When I looked at her profile pics, I saw that her friends (and my younger brother) had uploaded photos of her with alcohol in her hand and a super prostitute-like outfit. I did a double take and couldn’t believe my eyes.
I never had a problem with her going out, she just had to let me know so that I could be there for her if she needed help. As a matter of fact, I would usually drive her to the town, park in a lighted area and read a book until the early mornings because I wanted her to have a safe ride home and be able to have fun with her friends. So why she chose to do this, I do not know. Before she woke up, I called her biological parents and they completely sided with her(though I had not asked her about it yet. So I knew there was something wrong with this scenario). When she awoke at 11 (believe me, I wanted to yank her out of bed as soon as I saw the pics) I asked her about it. She strongly denied her presence at that place and as a matter of fact said in perfect English “You know I would ask you if I could go out.” I then showed her the facebook pictures and she began to turn red. She will admit it now you guys are thinking.
Haha! She denied it even more. I kept asking her and then I decided to drop it telling her “for every day you lie about this honey, you will lose 3 inches off your hair.” WAIT A MINUTE!!!! So lets go back in time for a second. Let me give you some background. My daughter and I have always had the agreement that if she lied, she would lose an inch of hair. Nothing else worked on her. Grounding failed, time-outs were pointless, taking away things she loved was ineffective….except for her hair. She idolized her hair and often times put hers above her siblings because she had the “good” hair. What is “good hair” you may ask.
It is the hair that children from Haiti dream of, it is the hair that kids who are mixed race wish they had. It is the hair that flows, and flows, and is easy to manage and is awesome, amazing and any other positive adjective that can be attached to it. So she treasured it and was extremely prideful of it, to the point of making fun of her siblings for not having it. So she, and I, have always agreed that this is the way we would help set things straight, and walk on a straighter path. Usually when the hair was cut, she would be better for a few months. Her hair would grow back and things would be fine again. But this particular day, she decided to lie. She lied for about 6 days which resulted in 18 inches (or a foot and a half) of her hair being cut off. As She went to get the scissors, she continued to say she was innocent despite the photos that tagged her in facebook.
I did not cut her hair out of anger (it was done slowly and carefully)-it was actually a scary action on the giving and receiving end. In my mind I was thinking why and how she kept deny it given proof and evidence. I was thinking in the moment not in the culture. I regret that part of it all. Cutting her hair grew me as a person, and shortened her (no pun intended) fuse. She became bitter and in a way more rebellious but she was more honest with me, which was the intention. She and I actually have a closer relationship now than we did when she was a child. Children grow and parents learn from their mistakes. Each child is different.
I would NEVER cut my Haitian daughter’s hair as punishment because I know her hair does not grow as fast as my Dominican daughter’s does so this would become an issue of looks. She cried for days and was angry with me for years. When I talk to her today she will say “well yes, but you didn’t have to cut my hair”. And as much as I want to say “well, yes I did because that is the only thing that would work for you” I know that there probably was another way to do it. Today, I can’t think of another way that would work. In your facebook comments, please, suggest what would have been better, or maybe my actions were ok for the time and situation. I am not sure. I remind my daughter that I did not cut her hair to make her feel less pretty. I cut her hair to hopefully help her realize that the things we love the most can be put on hold until we are ready to appreciate what is important to us. For me it is HONESTY!