By P. Berman, K. Hecht & A. Hosack
Please, please don’t call on me. I don’t want my nightmare to come true!
Claire was sitting in the back row of her morning class feeling stupid and unprepared. Just as always, she was two chapters ahead in the assigned reading and had studied hard. Somehow, that didn’t give her any confidence. She had learned everything she knew about how to organize her time and break her assignments into manageable chunks from the Carsons. At dinner time, they would always ask her about what she was learning. Their praise of her hard work always made the effort feel so worthwhile. But… that was at dinner. By morning her anxiety was already building. In the class room, she was just a stupid foster kid not a well- prepared student.
A miracle had been occurring at the end of each grading period -she had received all A’s and B’s. The Carsons’ faces always lit up and they always said how proud they were of their great student. She didn’t feel like a great student. She felt like a fraud and one day they would find out and …..she didn’t know what but it would be bad.
Claire tried to act like the Carsons when she taught Davy things. Right now, she was helping him learn to count to ten. Whenever he tried, she gave him a big smile. Whenever he got at least three right, she hugged him and twirled him around- this made him laugh and hug her tight. When she tucked him in bed at night, she read him a story, kissed him the cheek, and told him she loved him. He always gave her a sleepy smile and said he loved her too. It felt so good to hear him say this.
Why did she still feel so stupid and unlovable?
Her teacher walked in slowly looking around. Claire just stared into her lap. The teacher said good morning to everyone as usual- and looked so serious, as usual. Sweat began to pour down Claire’s back – as usual. Maybe she didn’t read far enough ahead? She looked around. Everyone looked smarter than her. Was she going to start failing everything?
Stop, Stop, Stop…..
Why couldn’t these awful thoughts just disappear from her head. Oh no, all the other students were raising their hands. While she had been stuck in the “worry zone” the teacher must have asked a question.
Claire had lived with the Carsons for two years now and was learning her way through a different kind of world. In this world, her life with Davy and the Carsons was pulling her in the direction of love, hope, hard work, and many possible futures. But, the world she had grown up in with her parents and siblings was still pulling her in a direction full of fear, despair, and pain – where nothing she did mattered. The competition in her mind for which thoughts should guide her life often interfered with her concentration.
The Carsons have taught Claire that would succeed and become a dental hygienist. She just needed to work hard and not give up when things got tough. It was so hard for her to believe this, even as she was seeing the results on her report cards. She had so much anger and pain inside. Sometimes it just erupted out of control. One weekend at home she had thrown one of her books out the window. Then, she had to rush out in the rain to get it and do her best to dry it off.
Stupid foster kid, that was such a stupid foster kid thing to do.
Claire never told the Carsons about these thoughts. They were the most wonderful people in the world and she didn’t want to ever disappoint them. It made her feel guilty when they noticed her book was all wet, but she lied and said she had forgotten to zip her backpack closed and it had fallen out.
How could she lie to them? But, how could she tell them the truth?
Once and a while, Claire has thoughts that it is her hard work that brings her good grades and she has the right to feel proud of herself. Most of the time she just thinks this time with the Carsons is a dream that will end. She doesn’t really deserve to live a life without violence.
Claire is exhausted a lot because she is both working hard in school and trying to pay close attention to Davy. She has learned from Head Start that a “responsive parent” notices what is going on with her child. If Davy looks sad, she is supposed to “label” the feeling for him and give him ideas for how to get the sad feeling out and a happy feeling in. If Davy is tired, she is to do something to help him sleep like singing him songs or reading a book.
The U.S. Department of Education has a list of books that can be helpful for children’s Davy’s age. You can find them at: