Our newest foster child is coming on.
Hugs are a tricky business in fostering, a child needs to understand the value of an arm round their shoulder...here's what happened;
We were woken up at 5.00am by a whimpering from the bedroom, Romeo was having a nightmare. I went in and woke him gently to rescue him from whatever was going on in his dream.
Romeo begged me not to leave him, the dream was still too real. I put my hand on his brow and gently stroked his head. He let me do this, which is a big first - up until now he's resisted any contact.
You find yourself wondering what sort of contact, if any, some foster children have to put up with. How awful for a child to go through life's setbacks and scrapes without the comfort of a caring adult resting a supporting hand on their shoulder. Romeo can't even let anybody sit next to him on the sofa, that'll give you an idea of how phobic he is about contact.
And of course we all respected that totally, while watching out for any shift in attitude.
Next day I had to go into his school to return a chit giving permission for him to take part in sports day, I'd forgotten to put it in his backpack.
The school secretary collared me for a chat, I find school staff are often very supportive of children in care, she's a lovely lady is Charlie. Mind, I would say that wouldn't I because she's a dead ringer for me. We're two peas in a pod; same haircut, colour and type. Same height, same body shape, same eye colour. Husband has remarked on the similarity. This is what Charlie said;
"I must tell you what happened yesterday" (same day Romeo had his nightmare and let me stroke his forehead).
"I was going through the school hall when Romeo called out 'Mrs Wilson!'...I turned around and he was running towards me and he said 'Hug! Hug!' And he put his arms around me and gave me a proper hug, which I thought was lovely."
I agreed, a bit jealous maybe, but progress. She went on;
"One of his classmates, Becky, often chases me for a hug, I'm guessing he's seen that happen and wanted one too."
I got home thinking about this, and this is what I reckon:
Romeo has seen other children enjoy a hug. He'd felt comforted by a gentle hand on his head, and had started to wonder if he could manage a hug. But rather than ask me for one, he went to the trouble of finding someone who looked like me, and tested the water.
I made up my mind to give it a few days - he might be shy, overly cautious, afraid of rejection, all sorts of negatives. If he hasn't taken the plunge I'll try resting my hand on his shoulder at the right moment and see what reaction I get.
This might all sound like minutiae to some, but it's the sort of little baby steps that I think are worth looking out for in fostering if we're going to make a difference.