There is nothing more infuriating to me than when someone tells me that I’m not capable of doing something. I recognize this is a personal problem and I’m working on it. But even when I know in my heart that I am capable, I become enraged when someone tells me that I am not. It’s a problem.
Best I can tell, it all started my junior year of High School when my swim coach, who had spent the better part of the last four years telling me that I would never amount to anything as a swimmer, told me I was too stupid to make it through college and shouldn’t even bother with the SAT. He told me that “swimming was my only chance at a future and that I was failing at it.” I wasn’t really shocked by his rhetoric. He wasn’t the first or last adult to tell me I was stupid. All I remember thinking was, “Oh my God, he’s a lunatic. I’ve actually believed the things this man told me about myself for years and he’s a lunatic.” It was a terrifying realization – that I had repeatedly taken to heart the ramblings of a mad-man. I imagine it was like a mild version of how a former FLDS member feels when she finally escapes the clutches of Warren Jeffs. And who even makes a “future” out of swimming? I guess swim coaches but, I mean, even Olympic athletes usually need some sort of side hustle…
I left practice that day – like actually walked out and went home. I quit swimming soon after (not because of that comment but because, as I’m sure you can imagine, there were other issues). Ever since, I literally LOSE MY MIND when someone even implies that I can’t do something. Because they are always wrong and it is always about them and not me and its always super obnoxious.
And, so, I had a big test during foster care licensing: my home-study interview. We would each need to each complete a one on one home study interview with our licensing worker. Even before going in, I suspected from our joint “couple” interviews, that my solo interview would be chock full of implications that I couldn’t be a good foster parent. And I was right – not because my licensing worker is mean or doubted me or my intentions (I have no idea what her personal thoughts were or are). I am sure she was just doing her job.
My job, I had decided, was not to tell her to go fuck herself.
As I recall, my interview went a lot like a conversation with an older relative who questions the concept of a “working mother” and thought that, as a childless 31 year old, I had maybe never actually seen or interacted with a kid before in my life. I basically battled my inner voice the whole time – like evil kermit was sitting on my shoulder just egging me on. Here’s some of what I remember of the hour and a half interview:
Licensing Worker: “You’ve never been a parent before. What experience do you have caring for children?”
My Inner Voice: “Once, I complained because a Baby was crying at a restaurant.” [Eyeroll]
Me: “Well, I am not a parent. However, as a teenager, I regularly helped care for my younger cousins and neighbors. Professional babysitter here! I also coached the local Special Olympic Swim Team and taught children with special needs how to swim. Until recently, I also volunteered regularly to care for children at the Salvation Army homeless shelter while their parents/guardians attended support groups.”
Licensing Worker: “What will you do for childcare while you are working?”
My Inner Voice: “Wait -can’t I just lock them in a closet during the day?”
Me: “We are seeking a license for school-aged children. So most days, the children will be in school. However, on non-school days (or, in the unlikely event we receive a child that is not in school), we will utilize a DES approved day care provider.”
Licensing Worker: “What if school and day care is closed? Or the child is sick and can’t go?”
My Inner Voice: “What!? I can’t care for a child during the day!! I’m a professional!!! I wear suits! I’m an evil working woman who could never be trusted with a child all day long!!! Haven’t you seen Baby Boom!? I’d clearly have to quit my job and move to the Country!!!!!”
Me: “Either my husband or I would just work from home during the day or take the day off.”
Licensing Worker: “How would you decide who stays home?”
My Inner Voice: “Oh – did I misspeak!? I meant I would stay home because I have a vagina and only people with vaginas can care for children. I would never make a person with a penis miss work. I’m not a monster.”
Me: “Whoever is more capable of staying home that day would stay home.”
Licensing Worker: “What if the school calls and the kid has broken his arm in gym class?”
My Inner Voice: “I tell them to let him go through the rest of the day with a broken arm. Natural consequences. That’ll teach him.”
Me: “I leave work. Get the kid. Take him to the E.R.”
Licensing Worker: “You seem to be driving this decision and your husband is just along for the ride.”
My Inner Voice: “Fuck. You.”
Me: “While I was the one to bring up the idea of foster parenting five years ago, we decided to go forward together. Unless you know something I don’t (and if you do, tell me), he’s on board.”
Licensing Worker: “It just seems this decision is really yours.”
My Inner Voice: “Bitch, please.”
Me: “Let me tell you a story. A few years ago, I wanted to learn to play golf. It looked like fun. There’s typically eating and drinking involved. You’re outside. Cute outfits. It seemed like a sport I could get behind. I asked my husband if he wanted to take lessons with me. ‘No way!’ he said. ‘Absolutely not. Never.’ He thought golf was way too ‘boushy.’ The whole idea of golf basically flew in the face of the way he thought of himself. He was a rock climber. Not a golfer.
So I said, ‘okay’ and recruited my friend Lauren to take lessons with me. The morning of the lesson, my husband followed me around the house like a puppy dog. ‘You’re going without me?’ he asked. Within weeks, he was crashing our lessons. Within six months, he had bought himself a set of golf clubs. Now I literally CAN’T KEEP HIM AWAY from the golf course. He packs his clubs when we go on vacation. He takes himself to the driving range to clear his head. He loves it. But when his sister calls, he tells her that I “got him to take golf lessons!” Which is, I suppose, technically true but maybe not the most accurate way of putting it. This led to me being lectured by my mother in law that I shouldn’t force him to play golf if he doesn’t want to.
The point is, just like golf, he often credits me with this foster care decision. But we wouldn’t be doing this unless he was really all-in.”
Licensing Worker: [Questioning smile – I don’t think I really proved my point…].
At the end of the hour and a half interview, I finally gave in to my evil Kermit…somewhat. I was still holding back – but I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t end it how I ended it.
I looked at our licensing worker and said, “Listen. I know this is your job and I have no idea where these questions are coming from or how you personally feel about my ability to be a foster parent. But here’s the thing: if you really have any doubt about whether we can or should do this, tell me now. Because we are rapidly moving towards the point of having an actual human child in our care. And that’s a big deal – and not the sort of thing you just want to roll the dice on. It wouldn’t be fair to the kid. So if you don’t think we can do it – tell me now.”
For a split second, my licensing worker’s gave me the look I get a lot when my evil Kermit takes over. I call it the, “holy shit, this bitch is for real” look.
Then she said, “You can do it. Lots of people do.” She paused for a moment and then said, “You’ll be surprised how it changes your relationship. Having children – it changes things.”
My husband’s one on one interview lasted less than an hour. He didn’t have any hypotheticals. Mostly they just talked about our family and neighborhood; placement preferences. You know, facts mostly. Fucking male privilege, amiright?