You may remember that in my last post, Placement Day, I said the following:
I’m happy to say that so far we haven’t had any significant meltdowns, but they are missing their foster carer so one may be imminent as they miss them more.
A meltdown came and it was probably the most awful thing I’ve ever seen a kid go through. We were expecting the meltdown to cover things like “I want the foster carer back!” and “YOU’RE NOT MY DADDY!” Neither of which is what we actually got.
The lead up
A few days before the meltdown we noticed that our older kid was talking about his birth parents fairly regularly. This is something the foster carer said he never did.
My wife and I were taking this as a positive thing – firstly, we have absolutely no intention of keeping the fact that they’re adopted away from them both. Second, the fact that they are opening up to us after a little more than a week is really good.
We still felt that something wasn’t right, so we continued to be as therapeutic as possible (which is really difficult when they’re being annoying) to try and help them label their feelings.
Bath time had finished and everyone was in good spirits as it’s always a lot of fun – except for the time I accidentally got shampoo in BOTH the kids’ eyes. DOH!
I read a story to our youngest and my wife was intending to read to the older one. I finished with the youngest and he was well on his way to the land of nod. So I headed into our bedroom to say goodnight to the older one.
I walked in to see him lying on the bed in floods of tears and my wife comforting him. I’m not talking about the tears you get when they fall over and scratch their knee. I’m talking about uncontrollable whaling, like he was bereaved.
Wifey waved for me to leave the room for fear of snapping him out of it and ending the disclosure. So I left and waited outside of the door. My wife then asked if he would like Daddy to come in and talk too. He said yes, so I headed back in.
So why was he whaling on the bed so uncontrollably? Had he hurt himself? Was he missing his foster carer? Was he upset that he was due to go to bed?
None of the above.
He was whaling because (and this is a direct quote) “I don’t remember where my other Mummy & Daddy live and I will never be able to see them again because I don’t know where they are!”
That is not a sentence that should come out of any child’s mouth, and it was heartbreaking to hear.
Worse still, we couldn’t lie to the poor little guy. We had to tell him that he won’t be able to see his other Mummy and Daddy until he was a grown up. The best we could come up with on the spot was “they struggled to look after you, so social services had to step in and you lived with [foster carer] for a while. Now you live with us. Social Services know where your other Mummy and Daddy live, so if you want to see them when you’re grown up, you can.”
It was a pretty poor response in hindsight, but it was the best we could come up with at the time.
He then went on to ask if my wife and I, his younger brother (who we also adopted), and his other Mummy and Daddy could all live together in one big house? That way, we can all be together.
Again, we had to be honest so the answer was “we can’t mate, we’re sorry.” Once again it was an utterly futile attempt to try and console the poor little guy.
We didn’t want him to go to bed in such a state, so we let him get it all out; then, once he had composed himself slightly, I pulled out my best stupid faces and voices to try and cheer him up. Which, I’m happy to say, worked.
Luckily for us the foster carer and her family was due to come and visit the boys the next day. So seeing some friendly faces was bound to help, we hoped. We reassured him that we both love him, we’re here for him and his foster carers are coming to visit him tomorrow. So although he couldn’t see his birth family until he was grown up, he does have a new, very large family that love him dearly.
I think this did the trick, because through all the tears and snot (yes, there was LOTS of snot!) we got a few smiles and a great big hug at the end.
He went to bed and we immediately got on the phone to the foster carer to tell her what had just happened. Mainly so she knew what to expect the next day, but also so we could replay the whole thing with someone experienced to get their thoughts.
She was really shocked and advised we speak to social services ASAP to ensure he is getting the professional support that he needs, but to also keep doing what we’re doing.
The next day
The foster carer and her family turned up, worry monster in hand; she and our oldest little guy went off for a talk. Again, we expected her to come back with “he doesn’t like it here and he wants to come back and live with us.”
But once again we were wrong. What he actually said was that he really likes living here with us, but he felt conflicted between our family and his birth family.
Ok, he didn’t use the word “conflicted” because he’s a young kid. I’m paraphrasing, but that was the gist of his concerns.
We were so relieved to hear that he does like being here with us. He’s been playing up a lot – pushing our boundaries, acting silly and constantly vying for our undivided attention. If he doesn’t get it, his behaviour escalates until he does.
After speaking with both our social worker and theirs, the general consensus is that this disclosure was absolutely massive and a huge step forward in him accepting his new life with us. But he needs help, and they’re working to get him that help. They also reiterated what the foster carer said – keep doing what you’re doing.
We’re under no illusions that there’s a long way to go, but my wife will continue to re-parent him in a therapeutic way, and I will continue to nod in agreement and make it look like I know what I’m doing. And if that doesn’t work, there’s always my silly voices and faces to fall back on!
Although this was incredibly upsetting for both us and him, we’re taking the positives from this disclosure and hope that it’s a step in the right direction for our fledgling family.
That’s enough for today, folks. So until next time Dad, out.