Technically it’s only been 2 weeks since Snoops and Goofs moved in with us permanently, but I am fairly certain the Honeymoon period is long but gone forever!
We were told this ‘will definitely happen soon‘ (professionals), ‘might not happen for a long time‘ (fellow adopters) and ‘it might never happen’ (naive, but well meaning friends and birth parents). Well, it’s safe to say the Pros won this round!
On one hand the Pros (Social Workers, School, Play Therapist, Clinical Psychologist) keep saying it is a good thing, because it means they are settling in well and feel comfortable enough to drop the façade and be themselves not to mention they feel safe to express their feelings…etc. And we are expected to rejoice over this!
What they conveniently forget is that they see the boys for an hour every week, but I have to spend the other 23 hours with them every day! I have to pick up the pieces of a challenging day in the new school, I have to stand between them when they are having a full on fist fight or when they are still not asleep at 10pm.
As they settle in more we gradually get to know them better and we are now seeing some patterns and occasionally we recognise a trigger BUT recognising a brewing meltdown and actually being able to prevent it are 2 very different things as you can imagine.
Yesterday started off on a bad note; one kid attacking the other for seemingly no reason. After the cries and shouting stopped we tried to have a civilised breakfast. Snoops wanted to go to Breakfast Club while Goofs didn’t. Together we reached the compromise that we will go for the last 10 minutes so both boys can have their wishes at least partially granted. I was walking them to school and from the moment we closed the door Goofs was running away. Snoops was playing well his coping mechanism of ‘I am good today so you will have to love me and hopefully you will not send me away’ by holding my hand and chatting happily about everything and anything. On the surface it looked like an idyllic picture of a well behaving child, but his over compliance comes from feeling insecure and terrified about his future with us. It breaks my heart every time he does this! He keeps painting things I LIKE and present them as HIS favourites only to see me smile then he asks if I am pleased with him and no amount of reassurance is enough to let him know we will love him even if he hates the things I like…
But back to yesterday morning. Goofs is presenting a ‘naughty boy’ behaviour by running away from me and doing the opposite of anything I suggest or ask. The school is on the same side as our house so there is no reason to cross the road, but yesterday it did not matter to him and before I could blink he crossed the road without even looking. Naturally my heart stopped and did what every parent would do in this situation: lost my cool and shouted after him to come back. By this point Snoops was getting agitated saying ‘it’s not fair he can run freely and I can’t‘ and wanted to jerk his hand out of mine to run after his brother. In the meantime Goofs was looking at me with a dare in his eyes and ran across the road a few more times and because he was looking at me he ran in front of a car!
Me (while fighting back a heart attack and an unhappy boy) tried to get closer to him but each time he ran away even further. Thank God in that very moment Hubby appeared from nowhere with a car. He jumped out and went after Goofs while I walked Snoops safely to school. On my way back from school I saw Daddy and Goofs walking hand in hand towards the school. As soon as we got closer Goofs was hiding behind Daddy and refused to even see me or hear what I wanted to say. The shame/embarrassment was so visible in his behaviour that all my anger flew away and all I wanted was to hug him and kiss everything better. But naturally he didn’t want to have any of it! I even offered the option of going home with me instead of going to school, but he chose the school and went in. We both kept our cool and in a warm and quiet tone we explained that we have been worried about him, that we love him and that we are not angry with him. He even managed to look at me for a second or 2 and was able to accept a hug from ‘his evil new mother’, but you could see in his head he was so confused about our reaction. He genuinely expected shouting and physical punishment and if I am honest he wasn’t far from receiving the formal from his terrified mother…
Hubbs and I walked back to the car while he filled me in. Goofs ran off into a side street and was hiding there. We already knew that he doesn’t like me or accepts my authority (or care for that matter), mainly because in his head it would make him unfaithful and disloyal toward his beloved Foster Carer, while he adores his new Daddy since he never really had one. But we know the Honeymoon is definitely over when he is rejecting Daddy as well and runs away even from him! It took hubby a good 10 minutes to reassure Goofs that he is not angry and will not hit him or shout at him if he stops running. In his little head he figured ‘I didn’t want to go to school so I disobeyed her so there is no point stopping now and wait for the punishment so I just keep running.‘ It’s actually very logical and makes perfect sense if you think about it… Except that is not a safe solution for anybody, but of course when he is in that stage you can’t reason with him!
Fast forward to 3.15 pm he was so happy to see me when I went to pick him up from school. I grabbed his hand and said that from now on this is how we will walk on the street. He just looked at me and asked ‘is it because of what happened in the morning, right?‘ Damn right kiddo! In the house we tried to have a conversation with him about the morning but he would not have any of it. Following the instructions of our SW we made sure he can’t leave the room and we tried a non threatening way. We knew it failed when he was using all his force to hurt us as he tried to escape so Daddy had to restrain him, which resulted in him shouting how much he hates us and this house. When hubbs let go of him he ran and hid under the table, but he kept on peeking to see how we react. We stayed on the floor and eventually he calmed himself down and came back to sit in Daddy’s lap so we could have a chat. After much nudging he told us he didn’t want to go to Breakfast Club because the day before a boy had been nasty to him. THERE! Finally we knew what the real issue was! It only took a whole day of freaking out on both his and my side, an hour on the phone with the SW and lots of tears and punches!
We agreed that ‘tomorrow we will not go to Breakfast Club but have a nice family breakfast in the house’. Guess what was the first thing he said to us this morning…
Yup! Daddy walked two very happy kids to Breakfast Club!