Fostering for Jack (A Parent's Story)
This is a wonderful real story written by Ellen who takes foster children into her family. It has been compiled from her postings in our message forums and clearly is a reason why we keep this site going, inspite of all the challenges we face.
Posted by Ellen on May 30, 2006 at 00:15:04
I have been reading this site for about a year and now feel the need to thank all the contributors for the reasons outlined below. I realise that not many women contribute to the forums here and although I am not a wet clothing fan myself my husband and kids are, and I respect that.
Don and me have two children, Danny 14 and Emily 11 now, and some four years ago we started fostering, mostly short-term stays whilst their own parents were unable to cope for various reasons. We only ever have one foster child at any one time and none of the stays have been longer than a couple of months. Our last child had left us a month earlier when I got a phone call to ask if we could take a 15 year old boy as an emergency and possibly for a longer stay.
Jack arrived the next morning. A tall, slim, tousle haired boy who was sullen and uncommunicative and slightly aggressive. He refused to join in any activities with the family and spend his first weekend with us slouching around the house or laying on his bed listening to music in his room.
Jack was constantly getting into fights at school, there was even a suggestion of bullying by one teacher, but his grades were good and all the teachers said he was bright, but unwilling to put himself out. He was good at sport, when he could be bothered, but they had given up trying to force him to get involved. It was apparently the same with music; he had a good knowledge of both pop and classical, for which he showed some particular enthusiasm, but was unwilling to participate.
Washing The Cars
The only time during the first few months he was with us that I saw him openly laughing and having fun with Danny and Emily was when a water fight broke out as they washed the cars one sunny weekend. Danny had thrown a bucket of water onto the roof of my car and Jack had stepped inadvertently into its path as it splashed over the other side, his t-shirt was soaked instantly.
I was watching from the kitchen window as Danny and Emily both froze, waiting for the aggressive outburst that they, and I, had come to expect. Instead of which, Jack burst out laughing, picked up the hose and sprayed them both with a huge grin on his face. Within seconds they were all drenched, shouting and laughing and chasing each other around. When Don innocently walked round from the back of the house to go to the shops he was hosed down by Jack as he appeared and then took a bucket of soapy water over his own head in return in perfectly good humour.
For the rest of the weekend Jack was in the best humour we had ever seen. But by school time on Monday he was back to his usual sullen self. It was pouring with rain that day.
Rain After School
When I went to collect them from school, I could see Jack standing by the railings on the pavement outside the school gates, there was a huge puddle in the gutter and I could see that his clothes were already shiny wet, he was leaning on the railings watching the cars approach. The one in front of me splashed through the water unable to swerve to avoid it because of oncoming traffic, and Jack briefly disappeared from view as the water sprayed over him, I could see his mates standing to one side just laughing at him, he didn't move a muscle, just glared sullenly at the passing cars daring them to splash him.
In the heat of the moment, I was furious and decided to teach him a lesson. He saw my car approaching and started to walk along the road towards the lay-by beyond the gates where Danny and Emily were already waiting, sheltering from the rain.
I could see as I passed him that Jack was absolutely soaked, he slouched along looking his usual sullen self seemingly unconcerned at being drenched. I opened the boot for Danny and Emily to put their bags in before they got in the car and then told Jack to put his in as well before telling him that he was going to have to walk home as he was "not getting in my car in that state". He just grunted "OK" and walked off.
We only live a mile or so from the school and the kids normally walk to and from unless I text them to say I'll collect when its raining. They can take a short cut across the park, so I was expecting Jack back home maybe fifteen or twenty minutes after us. And I was working my way up to giving him a good talking to about his attitude when he got home, I even rehearsed my most choice points several times over just to get the emphasis right.
Danny and Emily were upstairs in their rooms when the doorbell rang and I suddenly realised that nearly an hour had gone by with no sign of Jack. I guessed he had lost his key or something so I was well prepared for giving him his telling off as I went to the door. It was Jack, but he was with our near neighbour Mary. He was still soaked, had blood on his nose, mouth and chin and his blazer sleeve was partly torn from its socket.
Mary apologised, said not to worry too much and that she had to shoot off with her son to the hospital and would be back to explain; she ended by saying that Jack had been great and to take good care of him, "He'll tell you what happened, but he refused to let me take him to hospital, just wanted to come home".
I took Jack through to the kitchen, sat him down and asked him to explain. When he looked up I could see he had a split lip, a bloody nose, a black eye forming and some minor cuts and bruises to his forehead, chin and cheeks. It looked far worse than it was, as it turned out. I told him to get out of his wet clothes and chuck them in the washing machine whilst I went to get a towel and the first aid kit.
When I returned to the kitchen Jack was pushing his clothes into the washing machine now wearing just his dark blue boxers. He waved me aside as he loaded the machine with powder and softener and switched the machine on. I was surprised to see that he knew how to use the machine properly, he hadn't been near it before, as far as I knew.
I sat him down and started to attend to his face, I asked him to tell me what had happened. He grudgingly explained that he had been walking through the park when he had spotted Mary's younger son Jamie being picked on by a group of four older boys from his own year. He said they were known as bullies.
He had told them to stop and had ended up fighting three of them off before they had run off. Young Jamie had had his mobile and money stolen and Jack thought he had had his wrist broken when he was pushed to the ground when they had first attacked him. He'd then walked Jamie home and Mary had brought him home before going on to the hospital with Jamie.
Jack's Painful Past
It was only when Jack stood up to go and get dressed and turned his back to me that I saw the array of scars on his back and his upper legs. They were well healed and not recent, but were very visible. I was deeply shocked. I gasped his name and he turned back to face me, he must have seen how shocked I was. I saw the realisation dawning as he guessed why and it was then that I saw the tears in his eyes.
As I tried to ask him what had happened, he stepped over and hugged me tightly and began sobbing his heart out. After a while he sat down again and started to explain. He changed from being a sullen uncommunicative trying-to-be-hard young man into a vulnerable, sad teenage boy before my very eyes as he sat there.
Between the tears and occasional sobs, out poured the story of his Dad's death some six years earlier and his Mum's affairs with several men, before she finally settled with a chap called Sam.
Sam hated having the nine year old Jack around and treated him badly from day one. Seldom in work, Sam had lived off Jack's Mum and taken to giving Jack a sound belting on the flimsiest of excuses, often when Jack had returned home from school and before his Mum got back from work. He ensured Jack's silence about this with threats of him being taken away by social services and, being young and knowing no better, Jack had kept quiet.
Hiding His Scars
He had played up at school to avoid any activity where he might have to get undressed so that he could hide the effects of the beltings and the eventual scars. Sam had left after two years and Jack had learned to bottle up all his feelings about his mistreatment, telling no one lest the threatened separation from his Mum became reality.
His only happy memories of his Dad had been the fun they had had together, particularly his joy at getting soaked in water fights or at days out at theme parks, where his Dad had been quite happy to get soaked and spend the rest of the day dripping wet and getting them both drenched again at every opportunity.
Turns out that the water fight with Danny and Emily had bought back all those happy memories and then seeing young Jamie being bullied had bought back memories of Sam and his hatred of bullies like him. That and his own fury with me for making him walk home wet had combined together and he had decided to fight back.
Over the intervening years his Mum had become ill and needed regular treatments in hospital, Jack had become reconciled to stays in foster homes but had hidden his enjoyment of getting wet in case people thought him too weird and he had ended up in a children's home permanently.
Jack Found Wacky Wet World
Jack had discovered Wacky Wet World in the last year or so and had realised that he was not alone in enjoying getting wet fully clothed and that had helped him get rid of some of his guilty feelings that had added to his aggression. I reassured him it was OK and how Don and the kids thought it was fun too.
His outpourings ended with a sincere apology for being, in his own words, "an ungrateful little bastard" and a promise to try and be a nicer person in future; now that he had finally confided in someone he'd felt a great relief.
That was all a year ago now. Jack asked if he could stay with us whilst his Mum went through more treatments and she is shortly to have the last planned one, so we may well soon be losing the now bright, cheerful and mature young man who has been living with us for the year since that rainy afternoon. I know we shall all miss him being around but will hopefully be keeping in touch in future.
I know that Wacky Wet World has played a significant part in Jack becoming a better adjusted young person, simply by putting things in perspective for a young inexperienced mind. Keep up the good work.
Posted by Ellen on May 30, 2006 at 08:34:57
I hope that any other teenagers who are worried about their wet clothed fun being seen as weird and abnormal in any way, will learn to accept that that is not a true view and that Jack's story will help in some way for them to see how beneficial "coming out" (wrong connotations here, but can't think of better way to put it) about getting wet can be.
Jack is quite open about the fun he has getting wet and came home last Friday wet and muddy having had a kick around with his mates in the park on the way home. Don and the boys ended up soaked after a sudden cloudburst whilst they were washing the cars on Sunday. All good fun.
We learned this morning that Jack's mum will be getting her final treatment next week and that her previously estranged sister has been in contact with her. She is going to spend the summer with her sister in the Lake District recuperating so Jack will stay with us now. She wants him to stay with us until he finishes school in summer 2007, but he has yet to decide on that, there's plenty of time for them to sort out their future lives together and no rush to decide anything yet.
By the way I changed names and some other details so that Jack and our family cannot be easily identified, but he gave his full approval for the posting; another sign of his now mature attitude.
Posted by Ellen on July 21, 2006 at 18:56:06
After Felix was good enough to feature Jack's story on the site, I thought it appropriate to give a quick update in the light of recent events. Jack's mum had her final treatments for the cancer she was suffering but sadly the years of alcohol and drug abuse had taken its toll on her body and she suffered a fatal heart-attack two weeks later whilst at her sister's in the Lake District.
Jack is obviously devastated, but was lucky enough to have spent the previous weekend with her in the Lake District. We all went up there for her funeral, a surprisingly joyful occasion that celebrated the good parts of her life. Jack bravely did a reading at the service.
Jack's aunt is a lot older than his mum, and made it perfectly plain to Jack and us that she was unwilling to take him in as his only living relative. It was a sombre journey home, with Don and me trying to put a positive light on the future when questioned about it by Jack, whilst trying not to let Jack know that it had occurred to us that with his mum now gone, social services may have other plans for him than leaving him with us. Danny and Emily were both very quiet, until Danny suddenly piped up with "What about us adopting Jack ?"
Jack's face lit up like a million watt bulb and he said that was the best idea Danny had ever had, he even kissed him, much to everyone's amusement. The result is that we have now completed the necessary paperwork, got the full support of social services, the relieved agreement of his aunt and Jack's enthusiastic encouragement to get it all sorted as quickly as possible. It should be finalised by the end of August.
Don and me never thought we'd have another addition to the family, but are just so happy with this decision that I sometimes just cry with happiness at the sight of my now-three happy kids playing with their dad and each other. I'm sure Jack will continue to read this web site enthusiastically and enjoy his wet clothed activities for a long time to come. Best wishes to all.
Posted by Ellen on July 24, 2006 at 15:57:26
Thanks for your comments. We are all happy with this outcome. Jack reads this web site so I am sure he will appreciate the comments made by all.
I have been much heartened by the obvious goodwill that emanates from this site and many of those who frequent it. Maybe the language is sometimes either a bit "off" or explicit to people of my generation, but many youngsters like Jack encounter far worse on a daily basis among their peer groups and the over-riding impression is of a community of people who enjoy whatever pleasure getting wet and muddy fully clothed may give them.
We've all found more happiness with him around, it has been as rewarding for us as for him. It took little prompting for a good water fight to develop this afternoon, it has been very warm and humid here (for UK at least), whilst the kids were watering some of our more delicate plants.
Jack received several buckets of water over his head when he returned from his Saturday job at lunchtime whilst still fully clothed in jeans, polo shirt and trainers. He gave as good as he got as they all appeared at the lunch table soaked to the skin and dripping wet and very happy to be so.
Posted by Jack on July 27, 2006 at 21:46:34
What can I say - Ellen has told my story much better than I can.
I had a really bad experience after my Dad died, my Mum was either drunk or high and didn't take proper care of me. I was frightened by what had happened to me and kept quiet because of the threats made against me, despite the bodily harm I suffered, I believed somehow that my Mum agreed with what was happening to me, how else would she have allowed it to happen ?
I realise now that I should have spoken to someone, a teacher maybe, but I was scared and didn't want to admit it. My only way of reacting was to become aggressive to stop people asking questions and keep myself to myself in the hope that I wouldn't draw attention to myself, I couldn't stand the thought of being separated from my Mum by the social workers.
When the inevitable happened and Mum could no longer take care of me because of her illness, I accepted that I'd have to go somewhere whilst she was in hospital. I tried to show I was strong and independent when I went to Ellen and Don, but I guess I just acted like a real arsehole. I was so angry when she told me to walk home and then I saw red when I saw the bullying going on. I just let rip at the little bastards that were doing it.
I was truly shocked when I saw the look on Ellen's face when she saw me loading the washing into the washing machine and for a moment I couldn't think what she was so horrified by, then it just flooded back - all the beatings, the abuse, the excuses when Mum wanted to know what he had done to me - and I recognised that same look as the one I had seen on Mum's face. I just felt a huge relief at being able to tell someone - for the first time ever I felt loved unconditionally as Ellen hugged me, something Mum never did.
When Mum died I was very fearful about the future, but I couldn't believe my ears when Danny suddenly suggested adoption as the solution, it was the longest moment of my life waiting to hear Ellen and Don's reaction. I was so happy I could have kissed Danny - in fact I'm told I did (never again, Uggh).
I realise that I have been extremely lucky and I mean to make the most of what I have been given; I shall never forget Mum or Dad and the good times we had (particularly the wet ones with Dad) but I know I shall have many more to add to those in the future with Ellen, Don, Emily and Danny.
I get great pleasure (and arousal) from getting wet and muddy. Wacky Wet World has helped me to realise that I am not unusual in this. Thanks for spreading the word and stay wet and muddy forever.