Even after 6 months, we are still learning the things that trigger L.
99% of the time, she is a perfectly normal 8 year old girl. A little bratty, a little bossy, a little too obsessed with looks and material possessions. But generally loving and obedient and so very smart. There's nothing about her behavior that would strike me as odd in a child that one of my kids was friends with from school or church. And then, something will happen and she will react all out of proportion to the event; at that moment, I remember again that no child enters foster care without some sort of trauma in their history.
We were shopping for new clothes. She'd had a great time--I'd given her a budget limit on what we were going to be able to spend and some guidelines limiting her to things she actually needed, and we spent a couple hours hunting through racks and she tried on a bunch of things and was so proud of herself for coming in well under the budget cap I'd set while still scoring a lot of new clothes that she loves. A good trip. Until we got the the cash register.
While we were waiting our turn to checkout, another customer set off the security sensors at the exit, although she appeared to be carrying only a large purse. This customer began protesting loudly that she was leaving and she hadn't done anything wrong and they couldn't make her stay there and she wasn't going to show them what was in her purse. After several minutes of passively trying to prevent her from leaving the building without cooperating with them (mostly by blocking her path and speaking calmly), security personnel told another employee to call the police.
By now, L had her head buried against my hip, her arms tight around me, and whispered that she hoped that wouldn't happen to me. Trying to be casual, I said it wouldn't and talked about how I would react if the sensors went off, because in my case it would mean there was a mistake and we would all fix the mistake together. I thought I had her calmed down, although she was still glued to me.
On the way out, we even got to witness the police cars arriving and attempting to get the woman to get out of her car, which was still in the parking lot. And later in the night, what may have been the real concern came out when L said she hoped that woman wasn't her mommy. (It wasn't.)