What I wish I could tell the world…
As I sit in my back yard reflecting on our first camping trip, my youngest son plays peacefully on the playscape and in the sand. Gone are the screams and tantrums of earlier in the weekend.
Here he knows his boundaries, here he understands the rules, here it is calm and consistent. He is free. After a lap or two around the yard he will crawl into my arms for a cuddle, or bring a ball over to play.
If he gets too rough and I ask him to stop, he fusses but easily redirects. He is not the same boy who threw himself down over and over all day.
This peacefulness is hard fought for. It came from consistency, reviewing the same things over and over. Praising appropriate behavior, redirecting the negative. When he melted down we actively ignore, it as long as he is safe. My hubby and I continually set up the spaces in our house and yard to minimize “no” so that when we need say it the word still means something.
At home we know his cues, when it all is too much. Frequent breaks in play to nap, eat, or just be held. That most of the time his acting up is explorative, trying to see what will happen if he does one thing or another. Redirection sends him to a better activity. Speech is encouraged but not forced. “Time away” is reserved for hurtful behavior, and handled in a different way than “time out”.
When we are out in the world, or when we have company, it is still a work in progress. The world is unprectitable. There is lots of noise, sights and he is so easily overstimulated. Our little man often loses it, screaming or throwing himself down. The people around us comment, or shake their heads. They see a boy the size of a four year old, hitting me or banging his head on the ground. He appears spoiled or bratty. That kid just needs better disipline.
In public there are more people telling him what to do and lots of new rules. He gets overwhelmed because there are too many choices. Hubby and I find ourselves handling things differently with an audience, even though we know it won’t be effective rather than being judged. Then everyone is stressed and frustrated.
The part the outside world doesn’t know is that 2 meltdowns in an hour is a major achievement, it used to be 10. That he may look big but he is really only 2, and functioning much younger than that, more like a 10 month old sometimes. That he is making so much progress every day.
This giant boy was a premie, born to a birth mother with both mental health issues, and substance abuse problems. Prenatally exposed to medications that should not be used while pregnant.
He lived with this person for the first 10 months of his life with her not knowing when he would be held or put down. Changed or left to sit in a mess. Covered it an itchy rash that was just ignored. Back and forth between not fed, over fed, and even force fed till he vomited. No predictability for a baby to depend on. Then shuffled between foster homes (at least 3 before us).
He has been with us for over a year but with regular weekly visits with the family who created the chaos. As foster parents our hands were tied by DCF, little to no choices about visits, doctors, daycares, interventions. Finally we are getting him the outside help he needs. Evaluations for his behavior, speech, sensory issues.
He gets therapy twice a week to help him learn boundaries. To teach him to use words to communicate his wants and needs. To listen to what is said to him before reacting to a situation. Showing us the best ways to deal with his individual needs.
We are trying to raise all our kids to be the best people they can be. Our 3 oldest all had a rough start. But with understanding and time they learned how to make good choices. They are not perfect but nice kids who are lots of fun to be around.
Please remember a child might not be as old as they look. They not crying because they are a brat or acting out to be disagreeable. Parents are not spoiling a child by not making them talk before he is ready. Their way might be different but so is each child. “Equal does not mean the same, it means everyone getting what they need.”