Saturday, July 15, 2017

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF FOSTERING PART 5





ON THE ROAD


             11.05am Joe won’t be seen out front of our house with his foster mum if she’s wearing cargo shorts. Funny, he didn’t mind me wearing them to Halfords. Must be something to do with awareness of neighbours. Again; revealing about what mattered in his old home. 

I put on jeans.

11.15am Outside he cycles up the road on the pavement. I don’t tell him how far he’s allowed to go before turning back, I’m interested to see how far he feels confident going. About fifty yards. He stops, and looks round at me, one foot on the ground. He looks ahead again, wondering if he dare go further, but decides not to, jerks the bike round and cycles back to me, slowly. Repeats this a dozen times. Often, when he's fifty yards away up the road he stops and seems to meditate on his situation. Being fifty yards away from his foster mum is close to some kind of freedom or independence. I wonder if he's ruminating about cycling off out of his life and never coming back. 

But each time, he does come back. It turns out he was wondering this; “Can I go in the road?”

11.45am Jeez. I shouldn’t really allow. But there’s not been a smidgeon of traffic, and it is Infinite Tolerance Day. I explain that if a car appears he’s to immediately stop, get off, and walk the bike onto the pavement. And that I'm going to trot along beside him.

WE ARE THREE HOURS INTO INFINITE TOLERANCE DAY AND FRUIT IS BORN! THERE IS NO WAY BEFORE ITD THAT HE WOULD HAVE AGREED TO A CONSTRAINT, NO MATTER HOW SENSIBLE, BUT HE DOES!!! WITHOUT A WORD OF DISAGREEMENT, WITHOUT A TRACE OF PANIC, HE AGREES AND COMPLIES.

My heart pounding slightly in case a hotrod suddenly roars round the corner, Little Joe sets off on a nervous wobble next to the kerb. He’s on the road, in more ways than one.

We do this several times. Him cycling in the road, me trotting beside him. 

12.05pm He asks if he can do it on his own. I agree, nervously repeating the instructions about stopping pronto if a car appears.

He nods sagely, like a grown up would. 

As I read my diary notes back to myself I’m reminded that I ought to have expected a backlash, a common reaction in disturbed children, a backlash against their feelings of guilt at being treated with kindness, love and respect. I’ve had this phenomenon explained to me by psychologists more than once, but I’m afraid it’s still Greek to me.

But there was no backlash, not this time. Joe cycles up and down half-a-dozen times, then does a circuit, riding away from me on the road, doing a careful u-turn fifty yards away and cycling back on the other side of the road. 

12.30pm That done, he was done with cycling. He’d achieved what he wanted to achieve, and that was that. Looking back, it’s significant that he hardly ever again asked to cycle on the road, at least not for about 4 years, by which time he was doing so because he needed to go somewhere rather than merely experience a rite of passage. 

I shouldn’t say ‘merely’, it must have been HUGE for him. 

12.35pm We go in. I put the bike and helmet away and Joe shuts himself in the front room with Spongebob for 20 minutes. I take him a snack, say nothing and leave him too it. He’s luxuriating.

1.00pm Joe emerges from the living room and asks for my mobile phone. On it are several videos I took of him cycling on the pavement, then on the road. He plays them over and over back to himself. I can feel waves of pride coming off him. But it doesn’t materialise, instead he ends up cursing; “I look stupid”. I delete the videos.

1.20pm Joe goes upstairs to where husband is replacing  a bedroom light switch. The upstairs lights are off at the fuse box. His toolbox is basically a junkbox and he and Joe go through all the old screws, rawlplugs, folded bits of sandpaper, half-empty glue tubes and mystery tools. Joe plays ‘monsters’ with the vice grip's jaws. 

1.30pm Joe comes downstairs and asks to make a video of himself.

Joe uses my phone again to video himself presenting a “News”. About poo. That’s all I can remember about the “News”, that the top story, the only story, was poo-related, I deleted it once he was done watching himself back. He watched himself a dozen times.

I noted at the time that this viewing of himself on phone videos could be useful; a growing sense of how he comes across to others might help him realise the impact he has on others around him. 

Not expecting miracles, but Infinite Tolerance Day? So far so good.

I'm knackered already by the way, and we're only halfway through. I'm having to concentrate so damn hard to make my every action and reaction ones which won't Trigger him, it's exhausting mentally. 

But no wobbly, not yet anyway, that's the main thing.

continued




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