The airport.

The airport.

A long time ago, we had a wonderful 5 year old and 7 year old brothers as foster sons.

One weekend as a new, and naive foster dad, I took the boys with me to visit my 88 year old Granny in Vermont. The visit entailed four plane rides (two each direction).

Before we left, I told the boys I’d need their best behavior for Granny. As an incentive, I told them I’d give them $3 at the start of each day of the trip. The deal I offered is that if they were disobedient, I’d fine them a dollar.

New foster dad thought this would work great. Fining kids a dollar. Perfect.

The first flight from St. Louis to Chicago was flawless. New foster dad for the win.

In Chicago, the boys decided to buy a snack. They looked and looked. Gum? Or candy bar? So many choices.

But then. Our flight was announced over the PA. Time to leave the giftshop.

I called to the boys: “Time to go, fellas. Can’t miss our flight.”

“No,” said the older one. “We haven’t picked our snack yet.”

“Yes,” I said confidently. “And give me a dollar. For being disobedient.”

He turned to me, his small jaw set square. He drop-kicked his backpack across the store.

“You are a mother f*cking indian giver!” He bellowed.

I stared in disbelief. So did the cashier.

He added loudly, “And you are the worst damn foster father ever!”

Before he could dropkick anything else, I carried him away.


This story is funny now and makes me laugh even as I type it.

What I learned from it, though, is that sometimes we all have hidden “wounds” that pop up in the most surprising places. Granted, paying kids to behave is a terrible idea, which this new at-the-time foster dad didn’t know.

But what I also didn’t know is that those brothers had been forced to beg by their parents, and relinquish their meager earnings to their mom and dad. And so when I “fined” him a dollar, I reminded him of deep trauma he had experienced. Lesson learned.