Two Dads, one very opinionated son.

Our Foster story, the journey from strangers to family.


Leave a comment

Lights, Camera, Drag?

In 2013 I was granted a fantastic opportunity, our local community television station was creating an GLBTIQ talk show, QTV Brisbane, I was selected as one of the hosts. The program was a great experiment for our community and a really fantastic opportunity to do something fun and entertaining. I got the opportunity to work with an amazing team of people to put the program together and they were incredibly understanding when I asked if it would be ok for Flash to come along to some of the filming. Thinking this would be a great time for him to get to see something really cool and interesting they graciously allowed him to attend and watch, providing he was on his best behaviour.

Having just started high school he was becoming a typical teenage boy, into everything and with an ever growing opinion about how he was always right. Naturally however he thought the idea of coming to see the show being filmed was “really cool.” After we’d recorded a few episodes and were into the swing of things I bundled him into the car with me to head to the studio.

Perhaps I’d oversold the idea a little bit, he’d probably gone into the experience thinking there would be bright lights, bustling film crews and a whole lot of “Lights, Camera, Action!” When we arrived to the small studios with a cast and crew of less than ten tucked into a small community TV station you could read the bemused disappointment on his fact that said “This is it?” We weren’t exactly on a high end budget, but we had a tight schedule and lots of work to get to, tonights topic: Drag Queens.

We’d had a chat in the car on the way about what the show would be about tonight and what a drag queen was, he didn’t find it that hard to understand.
“So it’s a boy?”
“Yes”
“And he’s dressed like a girl?”
“Yup”
“Can’t people tell?”
“Well, not always, but it’s more about creating a character.”
“Like an actor?”
“That’s right.”
“Cool”

Later we were sitting in the production meeting discussing notes for the show as he looked around earnestly, bored really, looking for something to do. After a knock on the door in walked Melody, with heels and hair she towered at about 7 foot tall as she strode in.
He eyed her up and down with a kind of wide eyed wonder as she did her introductions with everyone, striking up conversation as we prepared for the show. He looked at me sideways,

“Would you like to go and say hi?”
“Sure!”

He trotted on over with me and exchanged introductions, he warmed up pretty quickly.
“Would you like a photo with Melody?”
“Yes please!”
“Want me to pick you up?” She asked
“Sure!”
With that she swung down and picked him up in both arms holding him like a baby as he grinned from ear to ear. Laughing he turned to her,
“You know I know you’re just a boy in a dress right?”
I almost choked on my coffee but she laughed it off as she put the cheeky bugger down and he trotted off to find something else to do.

As we got ready for the nights show our producer Steve and I sat down with him to give him the run down on how to behave for the night. Covered in tattoos, piercings and facial hair Steve was a formidable straight main with an unshakeable passion for supporting our community. He took Flash under his wing but put him in his place pretty firmly as he showed him around the studio.

Once the camera’s finished rolling I looked around as Flash walked back into the room.
“Everything ok sweetheart? Did you like the show?”
“Yeah… it was ok, pretty cool…”
Casually evasive, he was up to something, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

We all worked to pack down the set, gather our things and head back to the production room for a debrief. As we became enthralled in the conversations around the episode and plans for next week, his little eyes began to flutter as he grew tired. Suddenly there was a knock on the door, a uniformed police officer stepped through revealing several officers behind him.

“Is everyone ok in here?”
“Yes, we’re all fine mate, is there something we can help with” replied Steve
“Well… we received a call for help from this building, we’ve been through the place and you’re the only ones here.”
“A call for help?”
“Someone dialled 000, said ‘help me’ and hung up”

Every set of eyes turned in unison towards a certain someone suddenly very awake in his chair looking around the room in wonder as to who this mystery caller might be.
Steve looked at him, then at me.
“Maybe we should step out for a moment?”

I followed him out with the officers into the hall shaking my head in exasperation.
“I’m so sorry, we all know who this was.”
The boys in blue weren’t impressed, Steve was not impressed, I was not impressed.
Flash, was packing it.
“I didn’t do it!”
Which was his code for “I definitely did it. Please don’t arrest me.”

Thankfully the police were gracious in their departure and saved him from a drilling,  passing it on to me instead. However he wasn’t saved the wrath of Steve who was chilling and calm in expressing his disappointment but graciously allowing him to return again, providing he was kept under observation at all times.

One would think it was a lesson learnt, but who are you kidding? He’s a teenage boy, this was our snapshot of the future ahead of poor decision making, stupid pranks and an absence of logic and forethought that only teenage boys can truly possess.

View the complete episode here

Advertisements


Leave a comment

The Next Chapter

The saying “time flies” seems like such a cliche, something your mother always says that makes you roll your eyes a little.

Fast forward and I wake up a few weeks ago to realise it’s been 5 years. Yes, a whole 5 years since our lives were changed forever.

The most fascinating change in 5 years in the difference in perception, where before he was just complex, now he’s a teenager.

“Oh how is Flash going? He must be getting so big now?!”
“He’s a monster who eats everything in sight, won’t stop growing, slams doors and refuses to talk to me when I ask basic questions like ‘how was your day?'”
“So… he’s a teenager?”
“Exactly”

Five years is a short time or a long time, depending how you look at it.
Just 5 short years or half a decade, but a lot can change.

From the stability of primary school he launched into high school, three new schools in just two years, moving house and the constant upheaval of our lives has put a test to our determination, our willpower and our strength, but ultimately as they say, love prevails.

It’s been a testing time to say the least and for the most part it’s the trials and tribulations of life as a teenager on a journey that’s new and unexpected for us all. We’ve watched him grow and develop, change, mature to become a resilient young man with more attitude and sass than we were ever quite prepared for.

When I say sass, I mean this boy is going to outdo us one day and rule the world.

We’re sitting on the verandah and a baby next door starts crying.
“Dad, they should have a mute button on babies”
“Yeah, one for teenagers too”
“Yeah or one for fat hairy old gay men too.”

*Mic Drop*

Yeah, he’s good, we’ll give him that.

He’s growing, he’s becoming an adult, but not quite there yet. His struggles at school and at home have been more than we could have ever expected. The highs have been high and the lows have been so very very low. But that’s what this has been, the next chapter. He’s graduated from the life he had to a time of friendship and development for himself and us as a family. More than anything we’ve opened and closed a chapter that is so intricate I may never find the words to show, but I’ll try.

So that is where I shall take you from here, to the next chapter.

Yes, I know these last few years the writing has been few and far between and the production of the original book has been so far delayed it’s hard to think it will ever eventuate, but it’s almost done!

So stay tuned, for the next chapter….

Follow the blog, follow us on Facebook, Twitter & Stay in Touch!


Leave a comment

I wanna be like you.

Sometimes it’s really easy for people to forget that the child who walks and talks beside us hasn’t been there forever. Obviously strangers on the street wouldn’t know any better but plenty who know us know that he hasn’t been ours since birth. Yet, this doesn’t stop them from dropping some of the silliest one liners on us that make us shake our heads.

We weren’t responsible for teaching him to walk and talk, but you’d be forgiven sometimes for thinking that he might have had a had in it. You see our son, precious as he is, when he came to us had a specific fascination with a pop star that’s well, somewhat contentious to those with a more discerning musical taste.

Now when I say fascination, I may be laying it on lightly, obsession may be a little more of an accurate description.

The artist in question, is one Justin Bieber.

Yes that’s right, the hair flipping, high voiced “baby” crooning, panty dropping, teen super star of the world.

Our boy is a Belieber , he has the Bieber fever and we realised pretty quickly there was nothing we could do about it.

In his scarce collection of belongings that came with him from his old house to ours came a throng of belieber material. Two copies of his movie on DVD, his albums (yes there was MORE than one?), posters and even, wait for it, the doll. Yes, there was a JB Doll, pint sized and plastic just like the boy it was created from in all it’s glory.

justin-doll

The one and only Bieber

But this was a shameful obsession for Flash, one approached with great trepidation. You see he had seen and he had heard the word from his peers, the Biebs wasn’t the coolest person in the world around school, well not for the boys anyway. So his approach was always like his own little coming out, he had to test the waters, poke and prod and search for a reaction first.

It was one of those things he had to drop in the first time we met as we asked him about the things he enjoyed, disliked etc.
Yeah, I like my bike and my cars and stuff and I like music…
What sort of music do you like
*Silence…*
Well you know Justin Bieber, I don’t like him at all! He’s so lame but ALL the girls love him.
His youth worker at the time casually raised his eyebrows at us with one of those looks, we smiled.
Really? We’ve heard he’s really popular, lots of people like him
*Silence…*
He looked up.
Yeah, well I do like some of his stuff, he’s kinda cool…
An admission, that was like releasing an avalanche.
Well that’s pretty cool isn’t it?
You could see the relief of the burden of judgement wash over him.

The thing about this little obsession was different to the ones we had over pop stars as kids. It wasn’t like that time I had scrimped and save to buy the Hanson video, so I could replay it over and over and over to decide which one I wanted to by my boyfriend.
Like the N’Sync and Backstreet boy posters that adorned my walls as a teenager and the slight obsession I had over Nick Carter for the better part of a decade.

This was an idol fascination. He truly looked up to the Bieb’s as someone that he wanted to “be” or at least be like. In all of the simplicity of his childhood and his search for attention and acceptance he was thinking “If I can just be like this guy, then more people will like me” which was essentially some smart thinking. He’d done the math, millions of girls like this guy, so wouldn’t it make sense to be like him? If he could master the magic of the Beibs then surely more people would love him, right?

However this only spelled itself out in the most painful and entertaining of ways.

We had a small BBQ with one half of our family shortly after he’d moved in and once he had them gathered in the houseand was feeling sufficiently comfortable he figured it was time to pull out his signature move.

“Ummm Excuse me, can everyone stay here for a minute, I need to show you my dance.”

His captive audience awaited.
The music started.
“Opps! No! Wrong song! Just wait!”
Stop. Start. Run out.

What followed was impressive.

He entered down the hallway, baseball cap pulled down over his face, plastic guitar across his back.
*Stop. Head down. Dramatic pause* 
The head slowly rose upwards as he stared at his adoring crowd, the performance was upon us.
He knocked it out of the ball park, A plus for effort. He memorised some of the top Bieber moves, the air grab, the pointing at the adoring fan in the audience, even some of the actual dance moves.
BAM.
The hat flew off across the room, he ran, jumped and slid across the room on his knees, the guitar came round as he smashed out his best solo effort, his adoring crowd cheered appropriately.

The song ended, the whole family applauded.
“Wait, I have to show you my next dance!”
He proceeded to play a different song and entered the room dramatically again.
This time,  performing the same exact dance, move for move, to a different song. His repertoire was strong, but not diverse.

Turns out this was a habit formed at school of all places.

On Fridays in a somewhat “Show and Tell” style segment they were allowed to chose things to show and do for the class. Apparently it had become a ritual that on Fridays he would perform his dance to the class, the exact same dance, each week.
To their credit his classmates never mocked him or teased him and in amongst all his anxiety and swirling mass of thoughts and ideas in his head he had the confidence to get up and do it week after week.

Therein lies the conundrum.

How to teach this exuberant child that has the confidence and the resilience to get up and perform like this to his peers and to relative strangers about how to reign it in and harness it without shaming him. At the end of the day there’s nothing wrong with his choices, he could be singing the Spice Girls and wearing a TuTu for all we could care. But this was about drawing the line of obsession and reading peoples interest and engagement to appropriate the best time and place and the best performance, plus work on that choreo just a touch.

Those were the questions we started to have over the weeks, the subtle poking and prodding.

That’s a really great set of dance moves, but I noticed they were really similar to the last set, have you thought how you could change them up between songs?

Finding different ways to shift his thinking and gauge his understanding of how people digest and perceive him was and still is an ongoing process but an important one. Later down the track he would end up in speech and drama classes that saw him thrive, like one of his fathers his seems born to perform.

But ultimately what was most frustrating at times was those little things that sometimes people would say, those little “WTF” moments. After they’d see his dance (he’d do it for strangers if we let him), we’d hear the odd laugh or smirk;
“Clearly you can see he’s learning from you”
“Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”
*Hint*
*Nudge*
*Eye Roll*

This would be all well and good if perhaps we’d raised him from a baby, but these comments sometimes could be deriding our confidence in raising him to be his own person. Not to mention our general disdain for Justin Bieber and combined talent at being terrible dancers, this part to him was all him and those comments serve to almost strip him of his identity by playing it back onto us.

He’d had nine years to formulate his own personality which was thriving and to have anything “flamboyant” about it thrown back to the fact he now had two gay dads could be frustrating. The comments would never come with malice, always in jest, usually from those we loved and treasured most. Still they added more weight to the growing complexities of raising a very energetic young man in a world where all eyes were on us and who we were raising him to be.

That’s not to say we don’t see our behaviours moulded on him on a daily basis. As the years go by we see him growing and developing, picking up pieces from the world around him. We hear his language start to shift, his vocabulary and his enunciation start to change to become reflective of ours. Sitting down cross legged one day I looked across to him beside me and it was almost comical, subconsciously he was sitting identically, book in hand with his legs crossed engrossed in the pages as my very own mini me.

It’s not like we walk him up and down the house and teach him how he should walk.
“No! Faster! Head up!”
“No! Move the hips from side to side!”
“But some SASS into it boy!”
“And 1 and 2 and 3 and STRUT!”
“Be fierce!”
“Where’s that pout? And point! Hair toss! And laugh!”

He’s a little person cultivating his own identity, piecing bits together form all the world and around him. Bits will come from us and from others. Whether those bits and pieces come together to make a straight man or a gay man are irrelevant. The only thing we’ll hope for is that they create a confident man capable of being whoever and doing whatever he puts his mind to. Maybe he’ll be the next Bieber one day? Who knows? Anything is possible.


3 Comments

Big Boys Don’t Fly

In the early days, not long after he had moved in, our greatest test began, his behaviour.
It’s hard to describe what it was like as it was so inconsistent, erratic, irrational and constant.
The slightest thing could set him off and we could have screaming, crying, swearing, throwing, running, you name it, he had it in his arsenal and every single moment of it was a test of our patience.

A lot of it stemmed from his time in residential care, in a world where you grow up with no adults, just youth workers, in a house that is not your own, where rules cannot be enforced and there are no consequences, you begin to make your own rules. His time there had taught him very little, except that if he didn’t get his own way, he only had to scream and cry, which would usually result in negotiations to avoid an escalation, when negotiations failed, get physical, escalate.

When we had visited the house in our first visits there were holes in many of the walls, several walls missing large areas of plasterboard, his bed at the time was broken at the end and he slept on somewhat of a slant. This was the nature of his understanding of consequences, “natural consequences” they called it. In the absence of discipline in any way their only option was to allow him to live with the results of his behaviours, in this case, the damage around him. How effective that choice was is debatable, after having lived with the repercussions of this method we found ourselves questioning it’s validity.

The advice we had been given was to be consistent with rules and expectations, set clear boundaries around what was ok and what was not and to ensure we explained the nature of consequences.
And so we did.
And so it was good.
In theory.
What we could never account for was the sheer volume of the “escalations” as we came to call them when reporting them to the department, yes each escalation required a report, every time. Some of the early ones were the little ones, the running away at shower time, that was the easy stuff, the tough stuff came when we really had to follow through with what we said.

With limited options at our disposal, we had to go with the basic consequences, taking away small privileges for wrong doings, things like dessert, TV, play time, early to bed and taking away toys, unfortunately it was the consequences that quickly proved to be the trigger to our escalations.
Our rules were pretty simple, primarily focusing on basic expectations around following instructions and basic manners as well as good behaviour at school and at home, we didn’t want to set the expectations high, but we had to set them firmly.

The first time we sent him to bed early I was pretty sure our neighbours thought we were murdering him.

The reaction was something from another world, it was like watching the 7 stages of grieving fast forward in front of you. He would plead, beg, apologise, cry and then started the yelling, kicking and screaming. He threw himself on the lounge room floor and howled
“No dad no! Please! NO! DON’T! PLEASE! NO! I’LL DO ANYTHING!”
He knew how to work the system, but we were prepared and stuck our ground.
By the time he got to his room he had turned angry and started screaming, he had headed for the hallway and ran full pelt at the wall at the end, threw himself at the wall and dramatically slid himself to the ground.
He howled, jumped up, ran to his bedroom door and started screaming
“I HATE YOU! I DON’T WANT TO LIVE HERE!”
We tried to remain as calm as possible, reminding him of why he was going to bed early and that if he continued, there would be more consequences. None of this appeared to help, once in his room he screamed louder, we could hear him start to kick walls, throw toys, scream and yell, by this stage I believe the neighbours may have thought we were killing a village of small children judging by the amount of noise he was creating, but we persevered.

Eventually he would settle, often not until he had upturned the contents of his room, his bed or succeeded in rousing a reaction from us that would require us to re-enter the room to check on him. Sadly as we were warned, things would only get worse before they got better and as he continued to test the boundaries that we set his reactions intensified. Within a few small months we had 3 different holes in the walls in his room, we had heard every swear word imaginable and seen some distressing reactions that had shaken us.

Some of the most distressing behaviour was his disregard for his own safety, he would use threats against himself as a means to test us, trying desperately to see if we would really care at the same time as trying to act out against us. This disregard sometimes had to be taken seriously and sometimes we had to show him we weren’t going to react and continue as though nothing was happening.

One afternoon he took to throwing himself against the wall, rolling on the floor and screaming and we had to restrain and calm him, another evening he ran back into the kitchen and grabbed himself the nearest knife, quickly I managed to retrieve it and sent him back to his room. But as he continued to escalate the behaviour our resolve continued to grow, he stormed into the kitchen another evening as I was washing the dishes while he’d been sent to his room, he grabbed the nearest knife (a butter knife, bless) and pointed it at his arm.
“You don’t love me! I’m gonna cut myself cause you hate me!”
By this stage, these outbursts had become almost daily and whilst being aware of how far he could go and the likely hood of his actually following through I simply took a deep breath and turned to him calmly,
“I love you, but you’re going to need to take that outside if you’re going to do that”.
It was as though I’d slapped him.
He stopped, stunned and just stared at me, knife poised in his hand, caught off guard.
I smiled at him calmly and turned back to the dishes, moments later he walked up to the drawer, put the knife away and walked back to his room. It was this sort of attitude and approach that we had to adopt, we had to call his bluff, we had to know that what he wanted was a reaction, he wanted us to freak out and come running and although our natural instinct was to help him, to hug him, he had to know that this was not going to work.

Perhaps the point at which the behaviour hit it’s peak was one of the scariest both for us and for him.
During his end of year break up party  at school he came home on a sugar high unlike anything else, heavens knows what he’d been fed, but he was bouncing off the walls, almost literally. As he arrived home he had reached his peak and was slowly coming down and as he did so the behaviour continued erratically until he was told he needed to go to his room to calm down and that, was when hell broke lose.
The screaming began.
He ran.
Outside he ran to the fence and back inside, he tore up the hallway and into his room, he screamed, he kicked and he threw.
With only one of us home he was testing the boundaries even more and the decision to sit and wait it out was the only option.
Minutes passed and suddenly silence.
Minutes passed again and suddenly a sound outside.
Walking outside and looking down the stairs, below his 2nd story bedroom was a little body lying perfectly still on the ground.
Thankfully “Daddy” was the parent home for the afternoon, quickly he rushed down the stairs to check him.
“Mate, are you ok?”
“Yes, I think so…” came the shaky reply.
He checked him over, somehow, he seemed fine, somewhat shaken, but fine.
“Good, you need to go back to your room now.”
Evidently, boys can’t fly, but they do know how to give you a good scare. He had expected a reaction, he wanted one, he wanted something, somehow he wanted to take back control on the situation, but we couldn’t give in to what he wanted.
After he’d gone back to his room he settled until we were both home together again to talk through the afternoons events.
Evidently he’d been very calculated, climbing down and hanging from his windowsill before dropping himself from the lowest point for dramatic effect, cleverly making it look as though he had leaped the full 2 stories.

This was life for so long, test, trials, screaming and yelling. But it wasn’t all bad, in between was the beautiful good natured boy who just wanted to be loved and make friends. Whilst his methods weren’t optimal they were expected and were the only thing he’s ever known, it made it tough for him and tough for us, but we all persevered.

These days when you meet him you would never believe that he had ever behaved like this, he has adapted and learnt, he knows boundaries and he respects them. His consequences have reduced themselves through consistent good behaviour and this school term marks the first term he has been without a suspension of any form from school.
Whilst we may have taught him about rules, boundaries, respect and consequences he has taught us about patience and unconditional love, he’s tested and tried us and ultimately we’ve all come out on top.


1 Comment

Thank you for your support!

We’ve been so lucky to have all of your support over the last year or so and we’ve decided to take the first step towards publishing this story. 
We are going to produce a small version of our story, comprised of extended versions of these blog posts, but some more that we write over the coming months and some extra content as well and we’ll be producing this into a small book! 
We hope to distribute it at pride fair day in September this year and through some other local suppliers, we hope the sales from this will help us fund further printing and production and ultimately, a completed book.
In the meantime, “The Story So Far” is what we’re working towards and we would really love your help, we are running a crowd funding campaign through pozible to get the funds for the first round of printing and publication, anything you can donate will be greatly appreciated, already in under 2 hours we raised 25% of our target, simply amazing!
To contribute follow the link below and we’ll be back in the next few days with another update for you 😉

http://pozible.com/twodadsandme

 


1 Comment

Do you love me?

People often ask “How old is he?”.
Simple question? No, not it’s not a simple question at all.

In any of the given hours in the day we live with a 5yr old, 10yr old & a 17yr old. Who we’re dealing with varies according to any number of factors, medication, sugar, weather, emotional state, recent events, anxiety or quite simply attitude. It is, by no stretch of the imagination, exhausting. It manifests itself in any number of ways, from cute to annoying, clingy to cuddly, to obstinate and defiant, it’s the russian roulette of child behaviours. 

The 17yr old likes to question everything, answer back and challenge every command, he’s the master in semantics and is quickly learning some of our more dryer humour and cynicism, he’ll be a gem with his peers when he’s older, now, in this house, not so much.

The 10 yr old is probably by far the best and most complacent to live with, he’s the one content with his reading and writing, rattling off facts from school and asking a million questions about the world. We like the 10 yr old, he’s probably our favourite. 

The 5 yr old, well, he’s something else. He will babble, squeal & yell. He’s impulsive and loud, craving attention and wanting everything, your typical 5 yr old really.
The simple task of sitting and watching a movie is sometimes nothing short of a marathon. During a 5yr old day he will start on the couch, end up squatting on the floor, 5 minutes later he’s standing inches away from the television screen. I enter the room again 5 minutes later and his head is on the floor beside the couch, his bum sticking up in the air, knees tucked under himself and his head poking out through his armpit peering at the screen, all the while the noises echo through the house;
“Weehhee!”
“Boom, tck tck tick tick haha!!”
“Hehehehe”
“Wssshh! Zap! Bang! haha!”
*Insert hysterical indecipherable laughter here*

This becomes a challenging task, what do you do?
So many people have had their opinion,
“He’s just a kid, let him be”
But the reality is we’re tasked with helping him adjust to the normality of a social environment he’s never been able to function in before and with high school fast approaching it’s a necessity. Previous efforts from youth workers, departmental hacks and various others have always been to take the path of least resistance, allowing the behaviours and really focussing on not triggering behaviour meltdowns, without ever really introducing reasoning and consequences. Where the ball has been dropped, we have to pick it up and continue and the only strategy seems to be repetition, and so commences our daily reminders;

“Mate, are you acting like a 5yr old or a 10yr old?”
“What do you need to stop doing?”
“Why is that important?”
We have to have the discussions about age appropriate behaviour, because it’s vitally important for his social development. Reactive Attachment Disorder, a complicated condition he has developed as a young child, impedes social development skills and it’s our battle to help him overcome it and be capable of co-existing with his peers to avoid being ostracised and excluded, which can only serve to worsen his self esteem.

At school, quite simply, he has no friends.

This is a harsh reality that we’ve had to sit and discuss with him, through years of bad behaviour and his limited capacity to socialize with kids his own age appropriately the other children in his school have kept their distance. In almost 2 years we haven’t had invitations to birthday parties or social occasions from classmates, the other parents know his story and look on with sympathy but keep their distance and it’s tough, really tough. He knows it, we see it it in every bit of behaviour, because when he does something, there’s a reason to it and it all generally ties in with those common themes, rejection, failure and wanting people to like him.

For us when we get the call from school or meet with the principal in the afternoon it’s always a discussion and investigation in to why exactly he did something.
For example, on a day where he runs out of the classroom, yells and kicks a bin over.
What happened?
The teacher was firm with him for not completing a task.
This may seem rather straight forward, but with Flash, it never is. You see the teacher was firm, but there were other kids around and when he knew they could hear her and they turned to look at him he feared they would think he was dumb and would hate him.
So he gives up and runs away because he doesn’t feel like they can like him anyway, he kicks the bin in anger at himself, because he feels that he is worthless and can’t do anything right.
On the scale of bad days, thats a relatively simple one. 

But the one question that hounds us throughout the day and night, from 5yr old to 17yr old, is quite simple 
“Do you love me?”
Back in the early days before he moved in, as we commenced our transition process and began more and more time together, we were having visits which eventually led to overnight stays. We progressed from one night to two as the weeks wore on until it was time for the big jump. But as the days wore on between visits he was as anxious to see us again as we were to see him, soon we were “allowed” phone calls. I’ll never forget the first time that little voice was on the other end of the phone when I answered, taking no time to breathlessly relay every moment of time that had passed since we last saw each other. 
But more so I’ll never forget as we were nearing the end of one of those first phone calls that he plucked up the courage to tell me something;
“Ummm I just wanted to say that I ah, really miss you guys”
“And we miss you too mate”
“Ummm and there’s one more thing….
“Yes mate?”
“Umm I think I love you, both of you… umm is that ok?”
I giggled inside as I smiled from ear to ear
“Yes mate that is definitely ok, we love you too”
Whether or not he’s emotionally developed the capacity to actually love yet we can’t quite know, it is still something that plays in his mind day in and day out. He tells us every day, morning and night, we are hounded for hugs and affection so that he can convey the message again, seeking our response and affirmation to help him feel safe.

This idea that he can be loved, the idea that he deserves to be loved and the idea that no matter what, we do and always will love him. Its still not locked down in his head tight, there’s a battle that goes on in there that lets itself out quite often.
In any given day, mainly on the 5 yr old days, we will be asked 20? 30 times? 
“Dad, Daddy!”
“Yes mate?”
“Do you love me?”
Mostly it’s just this inquisitive little chirp, in the same manner you’d ask someone to pass you the salt, as though it was some after thought that just drifted through his mind as he played with his toys. Other times it’s a desperate affirmation, after a consequence of being sent to his room or if he’s been in trouble, the question changes to “Do you still love me?”.
The least entertaining is the opposite “You hate me!”, generally reserved for those 17yr old days where the world hates him and there is no justice and we of course are the devil incarnate.
But it’s the constant war that rages in his head. How can I be loved? Why should I be loved? Why do I deserve to be loved? If my own parents couldn’t love me enough to keep me why would anyone else?  
Our response is always the same, whether he’s been suspended from school or playing with his trucks in the yard. 

“Yes, no matter what you do, we will always love you.”

 

 


3 Comments

Please Like Me

Sometimes I feel like a prison warden.

It’s not that we keep him locked up, as much as it’s a tempting thought on the more trying days, but quite often the simple act of “child management” can be very draining, we have to be consistent, regimented, firm and disciplined. It’s a matter of showing love through consistency, rules and expectations whilst at the same time managing subversive, unknown and downright challenging and inexplicable behaviours, while still sprinkling this with love and affection.

We discovered quite early on that this adorable boy had a desperate need and want to be liked, I mean really, do you blame him? Unfortunately as is often the case with children in care one of the most common tools they use is lying. It is a behaviour that is so deeply ingrained you wouldn’t even call it compulsive lying, it’s impulsive, no matter the situation the natural impulse he has is to lie. 

We first noticed this in the more simple of situations;
“Would you like to watch Casper? Have you seen that before?”
“Oh yeah! I saw it when it first came out at the movies with my mum.”
After pulling some quick stats in your head, compiling that with what you’re aware of the little one’s biological timeline it’s pretty easy to know he certainly didn’t, owing primarily to the film being released the better part of a decade before his birth. 

Each time you hear these little lies, and the bigger ones, you have to process quietly in your head, “Why? What has triggered this one?”
Quite often it boils down to, at it’s core, the desire to be liked or the fear that he won’t be liked or loved. The complexities only get deeper and the behaviour only manifests itself further. The lies roll themselves into truths in his head, they become so real he often cannot separate his lies from his truths, which was why we had to make an early decision to call him out on them.

It’s like a vicious circle that continues to drive itself round and around, when we started calling him out on the lies, as gently as we could, it started to trigger the fear of rejection and failure, which could set off the behaviour, the tears, the tantrums. While it’s certainly no walk in the park it’s been a great learning and developing step for him, because it was something no-one had ever done before. His youth workers and everyone around him had always been on egg shells with the behaviour, careful to manage his environment so that his melt downs wouldn’t be triggered, but ultimately the behaviour had to be challenged in order for it to change. 

When we first called him out on it he got the shock of his life, literally he seemed like he’d been electrocuted.
“Mate, I’m not 100% sure that would have really happened, are you sure?”
“WHAT? Yeah, no it did! It did! I promise!”
“Mate, look it’s ok, but I know that couldn’t have happened”
“No! I’m not lying!! I’m NOT!”
*Cue the tears*

After a few months it became all too familiar, the lies, the fear, they were all rolled in so deeply together, the performance that came with them was so genuine you almost had to stop and question yourself, “Is he telling the truth this time?”.  But the persistence is slowly and surely paying off now, coupled with amazing teachers and principals at the school who also call him out he’s found himself with less and less avenues to lie and more of an understanding about telling the truth.

Unfortunately the lying doesn’t stop and the behaviours can continue to manifest in other ways. Two years on now he still lies, but we can call him out on them more honestly, he can accept it, digest it and fess up more quickly. The lies have died down to general wrong doings and misdemeanours and these days it can take a simple “Mate, you’re lying, tell the truth” and within minutes we have the truth or a slightly more truthful version of it nonetheless. 

Alas the behaviour manifests and brings us to the prison state, we have moved onwards from impulsive lying and upwards to impulsive theft. It’s inexplicable and one of the most challenging tasks at present, a behaviour we expected to see years before that is rearing it’s head now. 
From other children’s lunches to toys, erasers, money, phones and trinkets. Lately anything that’s not nailed down within the school has been open slather for captain Klepto. We can’t figure out what’s triggering it or why and it’s something he can’t seem to articulate either, but at present, it’s constant.

I must give him credit, the moves are bold and the lies are top notch. From the toys that other children apparently just gave him “because they didn’t want them”, to the phone which he stole and successfully hid inside his classroom for 3 days and the money he stole from the principals desk and craftily hid in his shoes, the boy is smart. But we keep catching him and we keep having to call him out, we have to dish out the consequences over and over again doing everything we can to stop the stealing and the lying, hopefully soon it will stop. 

Picking him up from school isn’t a simple task lately, he has to wait in the classroom or be escorted to the office to wait for us, he’s not allowed to walk from class to the office unattended as he only needs about 30 seconds to locate something and take it. Once we arrive we have to check pockets, shoes & socks, we have to check every pocket in his bag and his lunch box, then go back in to the classroom and check his desk, his pencil case and the surrounding areas. Once the checks are done we have to gather the days takings and hand them over to the principal for collection and distribution back from whence they came. 
It’s exhausting. 
But at the end of the day it’s progress, for him we’re passing his test.
We’re proving that no matter what he does, we will still love him, no matter how much he lies, we will still love him and that he will never be made to leave us. We can only continue with the dedication, love and consistency that he needs to feel safe and loved. 

There’s another post to come on school work and his academic progress, but yesterday we hit the highest of highs in our progress with him at school. Since he started school he has never passed a report card. Every single report card has come back with flat D’s across the board, the focus had been on attendance and participation and not yet on achievement.

Nearly two years on and his report card was back, this time with 3 B’s!! Many C’s!! and only 2 D’s!! He’s achieved something that he’s never been able to do in his life and we couldn’t be prouder. 
These past 2 years have been the hardest thing we’ve ever done and to see a result like this is incredible, it just makes it all worthwhile and makes us realize that this little man has so much ahead of him. We just cant wait to see what his future holds.