That’s mine, huh?
I tricked you, huh?
You didn’t know that, huh?
Every single sentence ends in “huh?” Because at every single moment this one is looking for approval. Looking to be accepted. Looking for his place in the world.
When Boo first arrived he wouldn’t look at us, wouldn’t say a word. Before the social worker left we had him laughing, but it was short lived. That first night every time he found something he liked, he ran to put it in his bag “so it won’t get lost, huh?” And the next morning he was amazed when things were still there. Everything had to belong to someone and sharing was not okay. Even the ice in the ice cube trays was only for whoever had filled them up the night before.
He hid all the clothes we gave him under his bed and it took a few days before he was willing to put them in his dresser. I could go on and on about his insecurities and fears. Suffice it to say, this kid has been through trauma. He has seen and experienced more than anyone should.
The day he came happened to be the day we were celebrating my brother’s 11th birthday. So after settling in we headed out to dinner (where I blindly guessed what to order him as he still wasn’t too keen on speaking to me) and then went swimming. He let me change him into the bathing suit I bought him but wouldn’t go in the pool, instead he stood on the side hesitantly watching.
This week? He jumps into the pool, leaves his clothes and toys everywhere, walks confidently around the house and helps himself to food out of the fridge. We are learning each other’s routines and figuring out how we fit together as a family of four. He brings so much laughter and joy to our family.
Some people say it takes 3 weeks to form a new habit. 21 short days. While that sounds attainable and hopeful, research has shown that there is in fact no clear cut timeline, and the amount of time varies from person to person. I imagine some habits would be attainable in 3 weeks, like going for walks everyday or drinking more water.
Being a parent to two children is not one of those habits.
The jump from one to two can be tough for anyone – suddenly dividing your time and energy, learning to care for a second child and establishing a new routine are all serious energy-suckers. Add the fact that this new child already has established preferences and routines, comes from a traumatic background, and is being forced to live with and trust strangers.
The first two weeks were exhausting and felt like we were barely staying afloat. When we opened our life to foster care we got off our comfortable cruise ship and jumped into a lifeboat. When Boo arrived it felt like we were shoved off the lifeboat and thrown one small life preserver for all of us to share. Even though he is an amazing child and honestly fits in our family quite perfectly, I am beat. I tend to take on the emotional burden our children carry. I think I had gotten used to the emotions with Princess. They had become a part of me and it wasn’t until Boo arrived that I realized how much weight I was carrying.
It’s been three weeks and we have not mastered this new habit in the slightest.
Boo came to us on a Saturday afternoon, scared, quiet and completely confused. Because it was a weekend placement, we wouldn’t end up getting the full story of his detainment until about 5 days later. Those first few days we guessed about everything. Would this set him off? Would he be scared of that? Even after we got the story, we still spend most of our days wondering and guessing and praying. We go somewhere and someone asks what my son likes and I can’t answer. When I was asked to fill out a developmental milestone questionnaire at the doctor’s office, I had to ask Boo about ½ the questions because I didn’t know if he could draw a person and include at least three features, or balance on one foot for more than 3 seconds.
But I am learning his favorite foods, and how to comfort him when he’s sad. I’m figuring out what scares him and what makes him feel brave. I’m beginning to understand his trauma and how my actions can help him heal.
It’s only been three weeks and already I can’t remember our life without my tiny backseat driver.