When we first met Flash on one of your many visits we were astounded to find out some of the processes that took over his life in that little house that he occupied.
With no real friends and no family life to speak of his house essentially existed on his little schedule of waking, eating, playing, sleeping, television, playstation and toy time that consumed all the bits in between. It was evident that there was a struggle within his existence to movtivate him to change, to challenge his behaviours and encourage him to be better. Granted many methods had likely been used before, when you have a child who’s behaviour at the best of times could be likened to a feral cat your options are limited. So the option that seemed most open to them at the time was money. A system had been developed, it was hard to understand, but appeared as though he was given a $14 fund for each week, rather than earning any money, the total amount was simply there, the catch being “poor behaviour” meant that the total amount would be reduced.
The fascinating thing we observed week to week as he still lived there and we began to learn more and more of his day to day activities was that it seemed to take a lot to actually reduce this money and that essentially, short of murder, there appeared little possibility that by the weeks end Flash would actually end up with nothing left in his kitty. Instead come each Saturday morning the weekly trip to the shops would occur, where; taking his treasured reward for a week of substandard behaviour and questionable outcomes, he was placed within the towering aisles of the Big W toy aisles to be given free reign to purchase to his hearts desire.
First and foremost we couldn’t figure out why on a bad week he simply wouldn’t earn any money for spending. Later upon asking we were told that the consequences for himself, the house and his carers was not entirely pleasant, lack of money meant “escalation time”. Looking in from the outside these escalations were somewhat comical. When they started it was like watching a building crumble in slow motion before your eyes, his eyes would tremble, the tears, perfectly orchestrated would slowly fall from his face and as they hit the ground his whole body would collapse with a glass breaking shriek.
“Noooooooooooooooooo!!!! PLEASE NO!!!!!”
This would be the start and the very clear reasoning as to why his house was littered with so many holes in the walls, he would lash out, throw himself at walls, kick and punch them and in turn make moves against any carer in his way.
The comical part of it all was the instructions that the carers were given, these strong, 20 something year old men were told that when the small, thin, angry child began to get violent, they were not to try subdue him or restrain him, no, their instructions were relatively simple.
“Reason with him, if that fails go to your room and lock the door and call the police”.
Yes, if the child barely taller than your waist chucks a tantrum, call the police.
You can’t begin to imagine the life lessons that teaches a child, when it comes to relationships with adults, with conflict resolution and getting your own way, the solution was always to give the child the power and secure safety, what’s right and wrong in this situation will always be debatable, but consequently we soon learnt why every week it was simply easier to give him some money;
“At least $5”
The boys would always say;
“That way he’s still getting something even if he’s had a bad week”.
A kid in a candy store was almost a literal description for his Saturday mornings. Armed with his money he would ponder and plead his way through the aisles of the shops, trying to find that maximum value for his money;
“How can I spend every cent and ensure I get as many toys as possible?” you could see him thinking.
We accompanied him on many of these trips in the early days and even took him on some trips with just the 3 of us to help him select his weekly bounty.
His determination, tenacity and flexibility were truly remarkable, he would drop hints for more money, pull sad faces, ponder, ask, debate and cry to attempt to procure the necessary extra funds for what was the days latest fascination, but luckily we realized quite early on that holding firm to a “No” was going to be the most difficult but beneficial path to take.
His play room was huge, a single room in the house dedicated to his weekly collection of toys. Stacked with tubs and containers of various cars and lego pieces, haphazardly upended or in various states of creation, you couldn’t tell what was old or new, what was loved or forgotten, everything was just in a constant state of collection.
You could practically see the word emblazoned across his eyeballs whenever he laid eyes on a toy, whether in the supermarket or walking past another child playing with a toy;
And with that “more” was what we decided we needed less of.
The rest of this entry can be found in our book “Two Dads & Me: The Story So Far”
Available for purchase soon.