Let's Get Physical

Today we had a couple of social workers at the house for a care planning meeting for Baby Girl. My SW from the fostering team remarked to BG's SW that it was amazing how much OB loves Peppa Pig. "Every time I come here, he's watching Peppa Pig!"

I tried not to hear a criticism implicit in her comment, but I failed. It's very true that every single time she comes, he's watching Peppa Pig. In fact I plan it that way. What she doesn't know is that it would be completely impossible for us to have our meeting if I didn't resort to Peppa Pig.

OB is a very physical child, and he likes to have all my attention, all of the time. Mostly he's happy if I just sit near him, responding to his chatter and passing the occasional comment about what he's doing. Sometimes he needs more than that and insists on physical contact of some sort. Whatever, as soon as he sees that I'm giving my attention to something or someone else, his behaviour escalates and goes into overdrive.

It could be that he tries to literally climb inside my clothes while I'm in the kitchen trying to make tea. If we're skyping my family, he will be inserting himself between me and the computer screen, or climbing all over me so that my face is covered and I can't see, or making so much mindless noise that nobody can hear each other speak. Bundle of energy that he is, he will run around the house literally bouncing off the walls, bashing me with his hands every time he whirls within reach.

He is not particularly interested in television or quiet games unless I am right there with him. The only thing that I've found that can hold his attention and keep him quiet without my input for any period of time is Peppa Pig. So, yes, much as I said I'd never do it, I regularly put Peppa Pig on when I have something to do that absolutely requires OB to behave less like a tornado ripping through the house. This includes meetings with the many social workers that pass through the doors. I'm sure there's a note on my file somewhere about my son being addicted to the TV - how far from the truth!

So I expect that you can imagine how the arrival of Baby Girl has upset the equilibrium for OB. He is fascinated by her and quite tender with her. When she cries he runs over with blankets and looks around for her bottle. Today he sat for quite a while with her across his lap and stroked her tummy so gently that my eyes filled up. She was so safe with him that I only took her away when he declared, "That's enough now. My knees are tired!"

But the rest of the time he is completely exhausting. Tonight he took to whizzing round and round in the lounge until he fell down dizzy. Once recovered, he'd start again. He is flailing his arms and kicking his legs, often catching me with a hand or foot. When he comes to sit on my knee, he is drumming me all over with his hands, wriggling, bouncing and jerking.

Always a messer, he is now compulsively touching everything, moving everything, picking up absolutely everything. Yesterday's trip to the supermarket for emergency supplies was a nightmare of running, touching, spilling and knocking. He is rather too big for the trolley seat but next time I will be squeezing him in there! At home, nothing is safe. Anything left lying within reach is picked up, messed with, moved or dismantled. I seem to spend my entire day nagging, cajoling, reasoning and counting to three. It's rather hard to respond calmly and therapeutically after the kind of night's sleep that a newborn gives you!

I am very aware that I process by talking (or writing!). I often don't know how I feel or what I think about something until I am saying it out loud. I guess OB processes by moving! And what a lot he has to process right now. I always knew that continuing to foster was going to present challenges for us, but at the same time I think that it can bring enormous benefits for OB as he is growing up - seeing the many different situations that looked-after and adopted children have come from, gaining empathy for the birth families we meet, and consciously being a family to those who desperately need one - these things will serve to place OB's own story firmly into a context that is hidden for many.

At the same time I am aware that the passage of children through our home could create a level of uncertainty for OB that needs to be managed very carefully. When we picked Baby Girl up at the hospital, the SW explained to OB that we needed to look after her because her mummy is poorly. While I see where she is coming from with that explanation, it's not one I favour. OB needs to know that if his mummy is ever poorly, he won't suddenly be sent away to live somewhere else. I tend to tell him that our foster children's mummies couldn't keep their children safe for lots of different reasons. He knows how important it is to be safe, and I often explain that I am taking particular decisions to keep him safe. We work together to keep our foster children safe until they are ready to move on.

Is that the right way to explain it? I don't know - time will tell.  In the meantime, I put on my patient, calm, therapeutic hat over the top of my tired, irritable head once again, and hang onto it with both hands until bedtime comes each day to give us all some relief. And if the weather is fine tomorrow, we'll take on the great outdoors and see how far we can run!


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