The rollercoaster has picked up speed and it is now already one week since the boys first came to stay at our house. This is just a quick update for those of you who have been asking as well as my first chance to sit in front of my laptop for 14 days. My wonderful husband has offered to make tea tonight as well as bath time for both boys, providing me with a much needed escape to the upper loft room for an hour.
Introductions started on 31 January and within eight days they had their first overnight stay. I have not had time to breath, think, sleep or even to look at anything online in this time, and rightfully so, as our focus has been on helping make the transition for the boys as acceptable and comfortable as possible. This post may jump all over the place, as that is how my mind is working right now, it may also not make sense, have poor grammar and for some be an outpouring of the mundane and obvious. For me it’s a real chance to put down just some snippets of how the last two weeks have been.
We started introductions, naturally apprehensive and nervous as to how they would go. The previous post talked about the the first two days and I can honestly say it continued to grow and blossom day after day. Yes it did feel strange and disconcerting being in someone else’s house, having to look after these two wonderful but confused boys. Yes it did feel peculiar suddenly going from just us pair to a unit of four and then having to think of what we can do on the days we had them to take out and entertain but without knowing really what they like. Yes it did test us. Yes it did exhaust us but the whole time what kept us going was reminding ourselves just how the boys must have been feeling, what state of mind they were in and how we needed to help them as much as we could.
As introductions developed we had more time each day in the very precise schedule from the social workers as to what we would and can do. Suddenly we found ourselves looking after the boys for six hours in the day and taking them out on long walks, exploring national trust places and starting to build attachments. The magic started to build, the love started to grow. This immense task and responsibility started to really hit home and we went full steam ahead putting our all into the process and for the boys.
Thy watched the welcome videos we created on average ten times a day and this really helped with not only the second meeting, (when we turned up on the first day, after having already met in October), but also the week as it developed as they started to ask questions about their new forever home, us, our relationship, our cats and so forth.
The foster carers the boys have had for the last ten months were, and are amazing. They really helped during the introductions process and made us feel welcome as well as the boys feeling as settled as they could be. We quickly struck up a close and open relationship, meaning we could message and ask questions as they came to mind. The pressure was on and it felt like even though we have had months of information and in depth meetings about the boys now was the time when the small nuances and details mattered. Hundreds of little niggling areas came to mind. We suddenly had to learn the personalities and all that comes with each of the boys. And boy are they very different!
This is where I can only advise anyone doing this to have a list of questions like we did, ask them, ask more, watch, listen and learn and it will help with this transition. Our biggest fear was not knowing things which in turn could destabilise the boys even further. The list was endless, we had over 150 questions in the end that we wanted to learn, some of which came from various books so we can’t take credit at all. We just pulled lots of reading into one list and sprinkled in some of our own. Some key examples:
Do they wake up early before you?
Are they hungry right away or are they less keen to have breakfast first thing?
What do they both like / prefer?
Do you have a battle to brush teeth and wash?
Who chooses what they wear on a non-school day?
What are their favourites clothes each of them?
What process and success do you have in getting them ready to leave for school/nursery?
Arriving at school/nursery
Do you have problems with either of them being left for school /nursery?
Do they have a favourite routine when separating from you e.g.a wave and kiss goodbye?
What are each of their favourite ways to learn at home? Reading, play, drawing, etc…? Any that particularly work with each of them?
What are their most prized toys?
With what sort of activities have you seen them really develop?
With what sort of activities have you had problems?
Do they ‘pretend play’?
How are they in public spaces such as parks and open fields? Do they have a sense of safety?
Do they have stranger danger awareness?
Do they enjoy going to the supermarket and shops? How are they in shops and similar places?
What challenges have you faced whilst out and how have you dealt with them?
What are each of their favourites foods?
What are foods they really do not like and can trigger a reaction?
What favourite bath toys and games?
Do they protest at getting out of the bath?
Are they both good at going to the toilet when they need to?
Do they have a special routine?
Do they both settle quickly or do they need repeated settling?
Do they wake in the night?
How do they like to be comforted when waking in the night?
When they are upset
How do you know they upset? What signs do you notice?
Are they good at telling you or showing when they are upset or do they keep it internalised?
How do they express their feelings?
The list goes on for pages but it really helped to ensure we had a good, smooth-ish transition and we could try and reduce the amount of disruption and change for the boys. Even with this planning and list it was only really once the boys moved in that we realised just how much more there was to grapple with.
I must say the introductions eight days went well. We built on the connection we had, we showed them love, understanding and consistency and we made sure they were aware of each day and the activities planned. These boys need that and we developed a symbol and icon based approach to a visual calendar to help them see what was happening and to not be afraid, confused or have fear about being taken away again or moved again.
Each day we left the FC house the boys would give us more things to bring back to their forever home and before we knew it – BANG! It was the night of the first overnight stay.
Mr F and I didn’t really sleep that night. The boys were excited in their new bedrooms but were understandably nervous. We attempted to re-create the excellent bedtime routine the FC’s had developed and by and large it worked. They were bathed, relaxed and in bed within forty minutes and then there was silence. We sat downstairs listening to every noise wondering if it was them or not. Exhausted after ten days of intense introductions we ourselves hit the sack.
The next day was the official move in day and we woke to a voice crying out at 5 am. One of the boys was scared and we were then all up. We quickly turned the morning into fun and games and carried on some of the routines and games we had developed over the previous ten days. Then it hit us, this is it. This is our new family, this is our life and their life changed forever. Wow, the feeling was stronger than we had ever thought and it as a mixture of pure love excitement, fear, anticipation and the biggest sense of responsibility I have ever felt. It certainly put into perspective many other factors of our ‘previous’ lives. Working to deliver $30 million sales targets suddenly paled into insignificance as to what we now had to deliver.
The journey had started and on the whole, started well. More to come in future posts on the first week and the challenges and amazing times we have had so far. For now, I will leave you with this post and I can hear both the boys giggling in the bath and shower. A sound that totally and utterly grabs me by the heart and makes me so proud of them and how far they have come in such a short time. I am also so proud of MR F and I and he has been amazing. A rock.
Love is growing, love is building and our family is developing.