Note: This column appears in the 9/10 issue of The Glendale Star and the 9/11 issue of the Peoria Times
Last Friday my wife dropped our foster daughter off at daycare, only to discover that the previous day, she had spit at her teacher.
I’ll let that one sink in for a minute. Believe me it took a while for it to sink in with me. The first thought that came to my mind was when “Pumpkin” spit at “New York” in the first season of Flavor of Love, and so I immediately saw our foster daughter as a future reality show contestant where she competes for the affection of the hype-man of a formerly great rap group. Is any of this making sense? No? I am sorry.
Now, this may not be that much of a surprise to you, the average reader. A foster child exhibited questionable behavior? Alert the authorities. But this is most certainly a shock to anyone who knows my wife or I. Especially my wife. Because let me tell you something: Had our little one attempted her loogie technique within 50 yards of us, I can assure you that the mere glare from my wife would have rendered her glands unable to produce saliva for at least the next six months.
And therein lies the confusion. How could this child, who knows darn well how she is expected to act around us, act so differently when we are not around?
More importantly…spitting? Where did she even learn such a thing? I don’t spit. I don’t even like when guys inexplicably spit in the urinals of public restrooms. It certainly wasn’t from me. I don’t think.
As two people who are frequently put off by the misbehavior and often disrespectful nature of some people’s children, we now found ourselves on the other side. It was embarrassing.
Even though I was on the road miles away, I am fairly certain that I faintly heard the gasp my wife let out upon first hearing the news. When I went back that day to pick our foster daughter up, and I explained to the people there my utter disbelief at what had occurred, I could feel the penetrating glare of disbelief: Uh, huh. Sure, yeah. No idea how this happened. Yep.
When the dust settled, we realized that it was -– even though an innocent woman had taken a loogie to the torso –- our precious egos that had been damaged the worst. It was a hard, but valuable lesson in parenting. We had fallen victim to the “not my child!” syndrome. Even more amazing considering the child in question is not our child.
Somebody –- probably Winston Churchill; that guy was always saying cool things. Or, maybe it was my mom –- once said that parenthood is humbling. Indeed, it is. And while that motivator to be a great parent is a crucial element to the loving discipline so essential to all children, sometimes the focus needs to shift towards the child, and away from how we want other people to see us as parents.
However, should I ever become the parent of a contestant on a VH1 reality show, I will be humbled. And a failure. There is work to be done.