ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the May 2014 Creative Jam. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] dialecticdreamer. It also fills the "tickling" square in my 10-6-13 card for the [community profile] origfic_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Danso thread in the Polychrome Heroics series.


"The Making of a Man"


In some ways life was great
after Danso and the younger kids
moved in with the Muffler
("You can call me Hannah, or Mom,
or the Muffler, whichever you like.")
because they had a roof over their heads
and food on the table and clothes that fit
and nobody was trying to hurt them.

Danso told Hannah all about the kids --
what they liked to eat if they could get it,
how Hadyn and Rosita liked pink
but Lakia hated it and wanted boy clothes,
how Nathaniel loved trucks but not trains.

"Rosita will do just about anything for a tickle,"
Danso explained as he changed the baby's diaper,
"but all the other kids seem to hate it."
Rosita lay quietly until he was done,
and then when he tickled her tummy,
she giggled and kicked her feet.

"Babies need a lot of loving touch,"
Hannah agreed, reaching over
to tickle Rosita's toes.

In some ways life was not so great.
Hadyn was so afraid of her power
that it made her skittish in general,
trying to avoid arguments and
sometimes any contact at all.
Lakia was used to coming and going
wherever she wanted, with no real rules.
Nathaniel still hadn't figured out
that his body wasn't bothering him as much,
and fussed out of sheer habit.

As if that wasn't hard enough,
Hannah argued with Danso
about who was responsible for the kids.
"You need to let me be the mom now,"
she said. "You did a great job caring for them,
but it wasn't really your job to do that."

"It is now," Danso said,
because he'd chosen it
and he'd earned it.

Whenever Rosita cried, he got up
and checked to see if she needed
a diaper change or a bottle or anything else.
Hannah was always there and it bugged him,
because he'd been taking care of Rosita
and just because it made him tired
didn't mean he wanted to stop.

"You know, in a healthy family,
people take turns," Hannah said
as she tickled Rosita's chin,
"It's okay for a big brother to
feed the baby or change her, sometimes,
but he shouldn't have to do it every time
just because no adult is there to do it."

"I don't mind doing it," Danso said.
(He really didn't.) "I love Rosita."

"That's not the point," Hannah said.
"You need time for yourself too.
I want you to get a good eight hours
of sleep every night, not get up
and take care of the baby all the time.
So if you need to check on her,
you come to me first, and then
we'll do it together so that you'll trust
I'm really here for both of you."

"How do I know you'll actually do it?"
Danso pressed, nibbling his lip.
His time on the street had taught him
that adults weren't always reliable,
and the ones who asked for trust were
the least likely to be trustworthy.

"Try me and watch what I do,"
Hannah said. "Then you'll know.
Did you ever have someone
that you loved and trusted,
who always took care of you?"

"My mom," Danso admitted.
He still missed her bitterly.

"Then you know what that's like,
so you should recognize it
if you see it again," Hannah said.
"I can't replace your mother, but
I hope I can do a good enough job
that I can earn your trust."

It was weird, but Danso went along
because he wanted Hannah to keep them.

Hadyn waffled back and forth between
clinging and not wanting to be touched.
"She's been like that as long as I've known her,"
Danso said after the fifth time she refused a hug.
(He couldn't blame her; he knew about her dad.)
"I just let her hang back if she wants to."

"Hadyn, you can always say no to a hug,"
Hannah said, "but I'm going to keep offering
because hugs are good for people.
If you want to be the one to say when,
then you can ask me for a hug any time."

Hadyn nodded silently.
She didn't get much more huggy,
but she helped them tickle Rosita
and smiled when the baby laughed.

Lakia couldn't seem to mind the little fence
that marked the edge of the yard,
which meant that Hannah wouldn't let her
go play outside by herself,
which made Lakia even more unhappy.

"She's used to running loose,"
Danso pointed out. "Her parents
never cared, or the other foster families,
and on the street we didn't have no yard."

"If you want to go somewhere, tell me,"
Hannah said to Lakia. "Sometimes
I'll say yes and take you there myself.
Other times I'll say no."

"I can take care of myself!"
Lakia protested.

"Maybe you can, but you shouldn't have to,"
Hannah said. "You're only six.
You deserve to have a grownup do that."

Lakia pouted, but at least
Danso didn't have to worry
about her running around in traffic.
He cheered her up by pretending
that he was going to tickle her,
and she laughed because
they both knew he really wouldn't.

Nathaniel cried if left alone
where he couldn't see anyone.
He balked at trying new foods
(and no wonder, some made him barf).
He detested shoes and refused
to leave them on for five minutes.

Both Hannah and Danso did
everything they could to keep him happy,
but it was hard to tell what would work.

Hannah said, "You've known him longer.
How about you write down all the things
that you know he likes or doesn't like
or is somehow allergic to, and then
it will be my job to navigate that."

Danso felt less like he was being
pushed out of position that way,
and so he agreed. It helped.

He was getting a little more sleep, at least,
because Hannah insisted that if he woke up
when Rosita wasn't actually crying,
he was supposed to lie there for half an hour
before getting up to check on her.

It was hard, because he loved Rosita
and worried that she would somehow disappear.
Maybe she'd teleport despite the null field,
or maybe her real parents would find her
and take her away instead.

But it didn't matter what the clock said --
1:01 AM, 3:42 AM, 5:13 AM --
if Danso got up to take care of Rosita
then Hannah was either already up
or would come as soon as he woke her.

It was weird, but part of him liked it.

He didn't like the fact that Hannah
kept urging him to return to school.
He didn't want to spend that much time
away from the younger kids,
especially since Hadyn and Lakia
were nowhere near ready to go back
and did their lessons at home.

"You should take time for yourself,"
Hannah said yet again. "You're a teenager.
You need to finish school, and you need
to do fun things with people your own age."

Danso just shrugged. "Nah,
we don't have much in common,"
he said. (Lucky them.)
"They're still just kids. Besides,
they're ordinary and I can do things
with other people's superpowers."

"Maybe it would help if you made friends
based on common interests," Hannah said.
"There are groups for teen parents, for example."

"I thought those were just for girls in trouble,"
Danso said, but it would be pretty cool
if he could talk with other young parents.

"There are teen fathers too," Hannah said,
"and some of the groups include them.
We can check around."

So they did, and Danso found a group
that he liked, with some people his age
who actually understood the kinds of things
that mattered to him these days.

"Have you thought about what
you'd like to do with your life?"
Hannah asked him one day.

"I dunno," Danso said.
"I've got a family now.
They have to come first."

Hannah smiled. "That's a fair rule,"
she said. "In order to take good care
of your family, though, you also need
to take good care of yourself."

Danso thought of an idea that
had been slowly growing on him
since he moved in with her.

"I was wondering if maybe
I could do what you do," he said,
"taking care of baby soups."

"God knows we need more of that!"
Hannah said. "There are more kids
coming up with superpowers
than we have adults to look after them.
But if you want to do that, then
you really need to finish school --
and not just the classes, but also
socializing with other teens."

"I've done okay so far," Danso insisted.
He'd kept the kids alive on the street,
and mostly clothed and fed.

"Yes, you have," Hannah said,
"but with a full education you could do more.
Besides, growing up takes a lot of work.
You have to figure out who you are
and what you like to do, before
you can teach those skills to anyone else."

"What do you mean?" Danso asked.

"If you want to be a good father,
then you need to be a good man first,"
Hannah said. "Suppose you're raising kids --
they all turn into teenagers eventually.
How are you going to help them then,
if you don't know what it's like yourself?"

Danso had never thought of it
like that before, never realized how
scanting himself could hurt anyone else.

"I guess," he said slowly,
"I should go back to school."
(He still didn't want to.)

"Let's make a schedule," Hannah said
as she took out a sheet of paper.
She was big on planning things out.
"You can set aside time for school,
for hanging out with your classmates,
and for helping me take care of
your little brother and sisters."

So they made a schedule,
and Danso went back to school.
It was hard, but it was a better school
than the ones he'd attended before.

There were only two other boys
in his home economics class, and
he thought one of them might be gay.
They got into a tickle fight one day
and that was more fun than
Danso had in months.

In the afternoons he did homework
at the kitchen table while Hannah
taught the girls how to cook
(taught Hadyn, really, because Lakia
hated cooking and wanted to learn repairs)
or tried to convince Nathaniel that
fingerpainting could be fun.

Besides his schoolwork, Danso also had
a set of workbooks that Hannah found --
one on self-awareness, one on socializing,
and one for career planning.

Hadyn had her own workbooks
about what her father had done to her.
Lakia had coloring books that
she didn't really know what to do with,
but Danso and Hadyn were teaching her.

Danso was allowed to cook supper
once a week, and to help the girls
with some of their assignments
if he knew the subject well enough.

Rosita usually rode in a baby sling
on somebody's back or front, but now
it didn't always have to be Danso
and he was learning to be okay
with the fact that he could look up
and see her wherever she was
instead of reaching down to touch her.

If Hannah was right, then Danso
wanted to make a man of himself,
a good man, a whole man,
(despite the mess of his life
that had left him the streets a while)
so that he could be the kind of
big brother that the little ones needed.

That night a cry woke Danso from sleep.
By the time he reached up to the clock --
2:22 AM --
Rosita had already stopped crying.
Danso could hear Hannah singing a lullaby
and Rosita giggling from a tickle.

He thought about getting up
just to make sure the baby was really okay,
but it sounded like Hannah had everything in hand,
and besides he had a test at school in the morning.

Danso rolled over and went back to sleep.

* * *

Notes:

Adopting foster children typically comes with a "honeymoon period" of a few weeks to months, before things get rough. Adopted children go through stages, and usually mesh in sooner or later.



Sometimes family bonding proves difficult both for parents and children. Here is an audio with tips for older child adoption. There are ways to help your adopted child bond with you and to bond with your adopted child. Hannah has a lot of experience in nurturing family bonds.

Children may run away from foster care for many reasons, but maltreatment is a leading one. Lakia has little experience with safety.



It can be challenging to keep siblings together in foster care, yet that gives them a better chance of success. Parentification often happens when an older child looks after younger siblings or has to do too much self-care. There are ways to help a child overcome parentification.



Teen fathers need help as much as teen mothers, although their needs may be somewhat different. Early intervention helps, as does planning a strategy. Interestingly, New Zealand has done a lot of work in helping teen fathers. Danso has been acting as a father, and shifting to the role of an older brother is hard for him.

Finding yourself can be difficult after childhood upheavals. There are many workbooks and other resources for troubled children. They cover topics such as self-awareness, socializing, career planning, good touch/bad touch, talking about abuse, and coping with sexual abuse.

Coloring pages offer an alternative to coloring books, where you can choose whatever topics and pictures you like. Here are some free coloring pages for family, people and places.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-31 11:50 am (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
Oh. Oh!

Danso wanting to raise soups warms my heart. Seeing him slowly relax and get time for himself so he can be even more wonderful was amazing. And seeing all the little details of everyone's lives and the way they're settling in and just <3

Favorite part

Date: 2014-07-31 01:50 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
My absolute favorite line is Danso deciding to go back to sleep.

It's "selfish" because he's finally handing off the night feeding to Hannah, and it's WONDERFUL, because he's being a teenage BROTHER and not a teenage FATHER.

I still adore this particular poem. Thanks for it this morning.

Re: Favorite part

Date: 2014-08-01 03:08 am (UTC)
mdlbear: (happy-turtle)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
My favorite line, too.

A lot of this series seems to be about finding one's niche -- I like that.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-31 11:21 pm (UTC)
thnidu: Lucy bright and bold. Lucida Bright font, boldface: backslash, small-o, slash: YAY!! (yay)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Oh, YEAH!!

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-08-01 03:35 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu

And here at first I thought it would be about Victor, Igor, and Adam.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-01 06:09 am (UTC)
helgatwb: Drawing of Helga, holding her sword, looking upset. (Default)
From: [personal profile] helgatwb
I love seeing them again, especially seeing them starting to get better. I have a lot of respect for Danso.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-01 03:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lb-lee.livejournal.com
I feel like reading Danso's stuff teaches me how to be a better human. Thanks.

--Rogan

Aww...

Date: 2014-08-01 03:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
That is so sweet! I'm glad you find it inspiring.

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