I normally wait til the boys have gone home before I post about a visit. This one is a bit different though. The boy's carer had asked us if we could look after them when she had some surgery. That sounded fine. What we didn't realise was that the surgery would suddenly happen while we were on holidays - it was meant to be in March. So last week, while away from home, we got a call asking if we would take them at the end of the week. While we were still on holidays. Actually, while we were with our college year on a "weekend" (Thu-Sat cause all the guys work on Sunday) away. It took a bit of working out, but we went ahead with it. So the boys were brought to us where we were going for the camp and stayed with us there, returning home with us at the end. Mr 6 has, along with our boys, returned to school. Mr 5 starts school for the first time tomorrow.
Observations so far:
In an unfamiliar environment with lots of people the boys very quickly went between having a ball and being completely overwhelmed. This generally came out in meltdowns and bursts of anger. Poor little guys. They did have a fabulous weekend though.
My boys are amazing. Just so amazing. Without whinging they took on extra responsibility and unbegrudgingly gave up our attention. Mr 12 started high school yesterday. Normally this would have meant a lot more attention on him than he received. He was very gracious about it. They've waited patiently when the little boys have interrupted or started yelling when we were talking with them. And the big one - they put up with listening to a younger audiobook in the car even though we only had 2 hours left on a Harry Potter book!!!!
We can see some routine/understanding of expectations coming in. In the past we've had a hard time with some behaviours that we would not normally be ok with. When they're only with us for a day or two there's not really a lot you can do. But with them being with us a bit longer, and school happening we've had to reign some of that in. We can see already some acceptance of what we expect in certain situations. Just little things, like when we say no more of something (eg a tv show) they've come to realise that nagging or yelling at us won't actually change our minds. We generally operate on a policy of sticking to our word. I think it's better if kids know what to expect, and not to change the goal posts around all the time. If you say one thing and then relent later, you're just asking for nagging. If kids know that when you say something you mean it, then they learn to trust what you have to say to them. Even if it's stuff they don't like - like not getting more tv when they want it. It gives me hope seeing these very slight changes in the boys behaviour. I think respite is quite different to permanent care in that you can't generally establish norms and routines very easily. We have tended to go along with what they are used to, even if it's different to what we normally do. Having them here longer means that we need them to come into our routines instead, particularly with school and our boys busy schedules.
Did I mention how amazing our boys are. I've seen patience from Mr 12 that I've not observed before. An other-person-centredness that he doesn't get the opportunity to display enough being the youngest. I watched him patiently create and explain a game using his favourite new speedcube with Mr 6. And Mr 14 is a legend. He quickly assumes responsibility for the boys when needed. Just sees a problem and works to help resolve it. Just wow.
My boys have been sharing a room for a few days now. It looks like a bomb has hit it, but they did just come back from two weeks away. The good side has been seeing them get along well and work together on things. While we were away we went to a thanksgiving service for the son of friends of ours. At 16 he was called home after fighting cancer for the last 12 months. His elder brother spoke at the service - beautifully. It really impacted my boys and I wonder if this is a bit of a result as well. I've seen more loving kindness toward one another in the last few days than I have in a very long time. They are generally pretty good with one another, but lack an appreciation for one another at times. I wonder if the combination of the reality of death, and having two extra little people around has lead them to learn a little more appreciation of one another.
Hearing the words "I've wet the bed" very quickly brings back memories you thought you'd completely suppressed. When you hear it again the next night you go and buy pull ups.
There are times this time around when I've felt a little bit of "buyers remorse". Just a niggling doubt about whether this is such a fab idea. And not so much for the current arrangements, but for the possibility of future permanent care. I'm not completely surprised by this. There are definitely costs to foster care, and if you only focus on those then very quickly you'd feel great remorse. I think it's ok to mourn for things that are not going to be the same. That can happen in any new situation, no matter how joyful. New babies, marriage - both good things. But both come with some loss as well. You generally don't resent the loss because what you have gained is so wonderful. It's a little more difficult to find the wonderful with foster care. But it's there. Or it will be - it might just take time for it to unfold. And some of the stuff that we might mourn might actually be good to let go of. Because it's born out of selfishness. And some stuff is just about finding new norms and new routines. Adding two extra people into a household of 4 has a physical impact. More washing, more dishes, more lunches, more washing, more washing. There's just a lot of washing. Particularly with the bedwetting. This physical impact will have less of an impact in time as we learn to adapt our routines to it. Also, we aren't actually set up for permanent care at the moment. So we've got kids living out of suitcases. And another sleeping in one room with most of his belongings in another, and nowhere to put his "stuff". And boy does he have a lot of stuff. So I don't think remorse equates to regret or doubt for the future. It may tailor what we end up doing because it's given us a more realistic picture of expectations.
Anyway - a little Mr 5 is wanting to read books. So off I go for now.