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The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson

Quality Insider

Take the Plunge

Don’t hesitate to embrace a commitment if your heart says it’s right

Published: Monday, May 16, 2011 - 06:00

“I hate you! I’m going to kill you tonight after you fall asleep,” screamed 9-year-old Jerry to his foster mother. It was hard to believe such hateful words could come from this adorable child with big blue eyes and an impish face.

Dee loves Jerry (I have changed their names to protect their privacy) and wants to adopt him, but these angry outbursts frighten her. She tries to imagine what he will be like, if he does not learn how to control his anger, when he is a teenager and she is outsized in both height and weight. The court says she must make a decision this month on whether to keep him. She is torn about what to do.

Two years ago, 45-year-old Dee, a beautiful redhead who never married, decided that the only way she was going to have children would be to adopt. She became a foster parent with the hopes of finding a child she could love and raise. Within a couple of months, the agency called with an 8-year-old redheaded boy who resembled her enough to be her own. Dee was warned that Jerry had serious anger issues. The boy had been passed from foster home to foster home since birth and had never known a stable home life. Dee’s heart went out to Jerry.

Although she comes from a large family and is Auntie Dee to many, she had no first-hand experience raising children herself. Jumping into the deep end with a troubled little boy was the proverbial sink-or-swim situation, but Dee threw herself completely into it. She went from being a carefree single to a single mom with a steep learning curve. It’s one thing to start from scratch with a baby, where you get to learn as you go along; it’s a whole other story when a child comes preprogrammed with years of neglect and abuse.

She went from just having to get up and go to work, to having to get up and get a little boy ready for school. There’s homework to be checked, meals to be prepared, additional laundry, and all the shuttling to and from school, sports, and counseling. It’s not all work; she is also enjoying the fun parts of raising a child: going to the playground, reading stories, cooking meals together, and savoring the adoring words of, “I love you Mom.”

The deadline to adopt or not is only weeks away. With each passing day, Jerry becomes more belligerent. When Dee asks him to put on his shoes or brush his teeth, he refuses, throws a fit, and calls her unpublishable names.

Adding to this dilemma is that Dee was laid off from her job in April. Once she adopts, the resources for fostering a child provided by the government will end. She has been able to pick up some temporary work here and there, but she is concerned that she may not have the money necessary to provide Jerry with the ongoing counseling he needs.

Dee and I met at an advertising convention five years ago, and even though we live 3,000 miles apart, we have become good friends. I have followed her saga with Jerry closely. Recently, knowing that I’m a single parent, she asked me what I would do. Here’s what I said, “I encourage you to adopt Jerry. I believe when he sees you make that commitment, his behavior will improve. His behavior is getting worse right now because he is afraid. In his mind, it is safer for him to purposely fail than it is for him to get his expectations up that you will adopt him. He has been there before—over and over again—and has been disappointed. He knows how much it hurts, and it would cause him too much pain to give in to hope again—and lose. He has created a survival mechanism that is all about fighting you and threatening you because if you reject him, he will at least have a reason he understands. Jerry is shielding his heart from being broken again.

“Dee, I know it’s a risk, but I hope you’ll choose him. I believe it will save his life. You have great resources already available to you through your family. In my experience when you commit to something, more resources always appear. I believe with all my heart that he will become the son you want—because you will have shown him that that is your intention, and he will want to live up to it.”

If you are sitting on the fence about a commitment, my suggestion is to go for it. Jump in feet first and find out where it takes you. I’ll write more on commitment next time.


About The Author

The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson’s picture

The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson

Robert Evans Wilson Jr. is an author, humorist, and innovation consultant. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and with people who want to think like innovators. Wilson is also the author of the humorous children’s book The Annoying Ghost Kid, which was self-published in 2011. For more information on Wilson, visit www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com.