Time for a quick update on our recent arrival. I say 'recent' but time flies, he's part of the family now, but in his own way.
That's the big difference between foster children and one's own children; foster children have begun to be who they are going to be before they get to you. Your own children grow into themselves with you alongside, so whether everything's alright or not, your own children don't have to learn to fit into a new family, they've always been a part of it.
Difficult challenge for all concerned, for the child and the family; helping them to find their place.
Age is the first big consideration because maturity and physical size determine a child's place in any pecking order, and though we try to minimise the pecking order in our house, it's a logical thing that a 5 year-old feels not quite equal to a 10 year-old.
So Romeo (not his real name) has slotted into his age-related place in the family beautifully well. He tests his arguing skills mainly against my other half Bill (also not his real name) using the second language most British men speak fluently namely sport. To be precise football. Romeo's team is one of the top Premier League side's and Bill's...well...isn't. This is perfect because Romeo can bash Bill by boasting about his team's superstars and the fact they're on telly every week while Bill's team gets ten seconds at the end of the regional sports roundup.
There's a powerful attachment going on between males when they discover that each other likes the same sport, it's quite endearing to watch, and in Romeo's case it's a yardstick of how well integrated he is becoming in our family.
Which is just as well because his situation is starting to look permanent. His mother has found a new man and the new man is calling for her to make a 'him or me' decision, and Romeo is going to lose.
I know, it's shocking and heartbreaking for the kid, that his mother is going to choose some guy she only hooked up with a few months ago over her son. The man is by all accounts no shining knight - how could he be if he's dug his heels in and said he wants the woman but not the woman's child?
Romeo has wind of all this, so is totally excused his low points.
And he has low points. Fostering is not a bed of roses, I'm always honest about that. I get frustrated when I hear parents talking about their children "always trying it on". You hear them saying "I tell him to do one thing and he does the other". It frustrates me because this so-called bad behaviour is almost always an expression of a need to constantly explore the love the adult has for the child. They're testing us, testing our application, testing that they are important enough for us to tell them off, testing how much we love them.
So yes, Romeo tests us from time to time. At his previous home the only way he could get any attention was by transgressing, so he learned to get a form of affection by making a racket in another room or drawing on a wall or smashing a toy. And getting yelled at.
So one thing I try to do ( I have to concentrate) is this; when he's been up in his room quietly playing by himself for half-an-hour I go up with a lolly and tell him what a good boy he is.
An even harder thing to do is to pay no attention if he starts smashing a toy. But I try.
And he's testing us less and less.
BTY; who came up with the phrase "A bed of roses"? It surely means the opposite of what it's supposed to mean. Would anyone get a decent kip in a rose bush? I don't think so.