In the last post I was going on about what Christmas is like in fostering.
One thing I deliberately didn't mention was our new arrival; Romeo. It's been his first Christmas with us, he only arrived a couple of weeks ago.
He's settling in. That is to say he knows where everything is, our basic routines and a bit about what each of us are like as people.
We are getting to know him, and matching the experiences we know he's been through with the behaviours.
EATING AND SLEEPING
The two basics to start with. His eating is below standard; refuses to drink water or vegetables. He likes junk food available at all times, in his room, playing the PC. He doesn't always eat it, takes a bite then lets it sit at his elbow. Comfort of knowing he'll not go hungry. At school lunchtime he leaves some of his packed lunch in the box so he's got food available all day at school.
He sleeps okay once he's gone to sleep, but kicks against bedtime. Normal child in this respect, except he rejects bedtime stories: "stupid", gets out of bed and kneels at the top of the stairs making the smallest of noises in order to be detected (wants to know we won't get cross with him for being out of bed). Probably more to this than fear of dark and being alone. We wait for clues. We think he wants to stay vigilant to re-assure there's no rough stuff going off downstairs.
By 'compliance' I mean responding to reasonable requests to do things no child wants to do such as pause the PC and help lay a table or go clean teeth before school. He now trusts me enough to dispute the request;
"Wait. I'm nearly at a new level".
"I brushed last night and I haven't had any sweets".
Not shy any more, except of the other children in the house. They are all older and he's learned from the playground there's no mileage in trying it on with a bigger child; you'll get your comeuppance in ways which our other children wouldn't dream, but he's not yet secure that he can trust them. With his foster parents, different story, and a common one; he's transferred his own family to us; the 'dad' is frightening, the 'mum' must be challenged, so I'm getting snipes about being useless, bad language when no-one else is about and snubs.
HIS REAL FAMILY
His mother is out of hospital. He is worried sick she's going to die. They had a conversation on the phone before she was released. She sounded drowsy but bolshie with me. Then I handed the phone to Romeo and he didn't get a word in, just "Yeah", "Yeah"and "Nah". The absence of "I love you" or anything close when the call was ending was pointed. "Bye" sufficed.
The dad is not on the scene. Romeo has two older stepbrothers of his father's who are with their mother, and a stepsister by his real mother who is with the father (not Romeo's father) and this guy's current girlfriend and their two children plus her son from a previous relationship.
HIS LIFE BEFORE CARE
His social worker has done a great job piecing together how things were for him, and we foster parents owe them for that because the more we know about their past the easier to understand how they are and what we need to do. Romeo was more neglect than abuse. His dad was in and out of his life; he used Romeo's mum's social housing as a convenience; a bed when he wanted, food and presumably other necessities and niceties. They fell out a lot over substances; she wanted to escape, he wanted to bulk up. The dad was physically absent, the mum was emotionally absent. Romeo looked after himself as so many kids like him have to, and knew when to keep out of other people's way, but had the normal urge to engage and seek support and affection, which was non-existent.
So that's where his anger will most likely be; when he is treated with kindness.
You get used to the fostering paradox; the kinder you are the more unkind they can be. Your kindness reminds them of a birthright they never got at home.
I have sometimes had more peaceable relations with some foster children when I was out of steam and reduced to giving them no more than the basics and precious little TLC. It goes against the grain though and I'd rather risk a hissy fit for being nice.
Contact with the mother is planned. I'm not looking forward to the first school morning either, but then there's this;
PEACE AND CONTENTMENT
He was sat playing Minecraft on Christmas afternoon. He was gently humming.