Am I restricting my sons socialising?


It is Tom’s birthday party next week, only 3 of his friends are coming, he’s devistated. He’s only been invited to two parties all year and I suspect the invitations were more to do with my friendship with the mums than the boys friendship. He is starting to realise he doesn’t get invited to parties. He places a lot on his need to have friends at school but his behaviour at times, especially around the school run, probably puts some parents off inviting him over. 

He is a very sociable little boy and appears to have lots of friends when I’ve watched him in the playground however that doesn’t relate to invites to parties or after school. We’ve tried some after school meet ups but Tom really struggles and it’s not fair on him to do them regularly so I don’t go round inviting people over, but I now feel I may be letting him down. 

It’s such a struggle to balance building friendships and social skills with a need for Tom to self regulate after school. I’m not sure if I’m getting the balance right and feel I may be to blame for not making more of an effort with the other parents, most of the time I dread the school run as it is such hard work and I don’t have time (sanity) to socialise. It doesn’t help that I’ve not been well for several months and currently feeling sorry for myself as I await a date for further surgery and the stress of end of term disregulation hits me. 

We all need a break and time to reflect on how we support Tom as he goes into year 2, it’s a new teacher & a different mix of children. I just want him to be happy and I worry this party is going to be a disappointment as he had such big ideas about what he wanted to do with his friends. 

After all the things we’ve struggled with I didn’t think we’d have such a hard time getting people to a party!

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I need to say bye and tell them I love my new family.

I haven’t done a blog post for about 6 months as things have been hard and I’ve just not been able to write about it. Also my Twitter account hasn’t been working properly so I’ve lost touch with that amazing community (I think I have it back now).

My boys are growing up, we’re settled in our new home but school is hard and our eldest Tom (5) is starting to understand that his start in life wasn’t “normal”.

Tom has been getting very angry and asking lots of questions about his early life, unfortunately we can’t answer these as well as we’d like as his social worker and life story book (which was 2 years late) are crap.  He’s starting to explore what it means to be adopted and what it means to be part of our family.

Yesterday at lunch I think we reached a turning point, the conversation went like this:

Tom: I need a phone.

Me: Why?

Tom: Do you have tummy mummy & daddy’s phone number?

Me: I don’t, but we can write to them soon, what do you need to ask?

Tom: I need to say bye bye and tell them I love my new family.

We just sat there unsure what to say. He had clearly given this a lot of thought and wanted some closure. His birth mum hadn’t turned up for contact for at least 6 months before he came to us (over 2 years ago) something I didn’t think he would remember but clearly he had a notion of a need to tell them he was ok. We talked again, like we have many times, about his birth family and I could feel his positivivity about his future. It gives me hope.

I feel sad that he won’t get the chance to make that phone call (at least not for many years), we try to embrace his background and birth family but it’ll never replace the conversations he wants to have with them and the questions he wants to ask them. 

On a final note… he loves us!

Foster siblings- an update.


This weekend we met up with our boy’s foster mum, her children and one of her foster children. We had an amazing time and it is always a joy to see them as our boys love them and very much see them as part of our wider family. 

However this time was a little different, last June I wrote about how one of the foster children was going to family under a special guardianship order, unfortunately this fell apart for many reasons just before he moved and he is now in limbo waiting for another plan. His 2 younger siblings were adopted last week, I felt unexpectedly emotional about this as we thought this wouldn’t happen due to their high level of needs, but the saddest thing is this group of 3 have been split up, the eldest (who we saw today) is feeling lost and lonely, the youngest 2 are really struggling being away from their brother. It was so sad to see but also there was a sense of great joy at the future the youngest 2 now had. Part of me just wanted to take the remaining brother home with us to give him some stability, he’d been waiting for 2 years and had many different plans and social workers, but I know he is in the best foster home with a woman who will fight to get the best for him.

We are very privileged to have a foster family who share so many of our values  and leisure activities and fit naturally into our sense of the wider family unit.

Existing.

  
The blog has been a little neglected of late for a variety of reasons (mostly illness) so I thought I would put some ramblings down.

One of the side effects of therapy (DDP) is that a lot of time is spent discussing the past and making sense of where we’ve come from and where the boys come from, however I feel that sometimes we miss the current. I haven’t blogged an update on our most recent sessions as I currently disagree with the therapist and I’m not sure what to put down without making it too identifiable!

We have lots of hopes for the future, hopes that we won’t be screamed at, spat at, hit etc but also the hope of being a family who can go on holiday or even just change our routine without consequences. My fear is that by spending so much time looking back and dreaming about the future I may miss some of the good stuff right now.

So, some good bits:

  • I have an amazing childminder staring after Easter who is perfect for James.
  • We are trying to move house and so far Tom has been really positive about it, compared to last time we tried and the violence escalated and he urinated on the floor a few times.
  • Tom is progressing at school and starting to make one good friend, he even managed a party today after school without too much fall out, this is amazing considering we haven’t even managed a play date yet!
  • I haven’t been hit for a few days.
  • About once a week I manage a shower with the boys alone downstairs in front of Octonauts without anyone getting hurt or screaming (this is so amazing I sometimes get very emotional having a shower).

The last 3 months have been difficult as I have had lots of chest infections and lots of sick days, it’s meant I haven’t had much energy to interact with the boys (or Twitter), despite this they have been very loving towards me when I have been at my worst. It has been a hard time and I’ve had to rely on family, especially my husband, to get us though. We had expected Tom to struggle with me being ill so much but he seems to love having time to sit snuggled on the sofa, though he is frustrated by my inability to run around in circles constantly. 

As a family we seem to be going forward despite the illnesses and I am enjoying being a mum, I just need a few days without feeling ill to fully enjoy every aspect of it.

I really feel that we have passed through our “existing” phase and are starting to actually live as a family.

The school day- our current survival strategy!

  

At the moment we are surviving, I wouldn’t say things are easy, but we manage to get to school and work on time everyday which is a big achievement for us.

The enable us to function on a daily basis, Monday to Friday we have a military style regime (weekends are under a different routine and daddy is in charge). I thought there might be some benefit / entertainment in sharing how we are surviving the school run as having spoken to other mums apparently we’re not normal (this did not come as a shock to us in the slightest).

I should point out that obviously we have flexibility where it is required but the predictability has helped Tom deal with the unpredictable world of school.

Before school:

6.45: Ths sun on Tom’s Gro clock comes up, ☀️ this signifies that it is time for breakfast, if they are up before the sun they can play quietly in Tom’s room but mummy will not open the stair gate before 6.45. Usually they play nicely and I can hide until 6.55, this is important especially if I have been up most of the night with James.

7.00: Breakfast is served. ☕️ There is a choice of 3 cereals, I only take the first confirmed answer. At times they want to change what they’re having but have come to understand the first answer rule. I sit in a trance hopefully with my Thermos of tea hubby made before he left for work.

7.20: Toast time. 🍞 Yes this is still breakfast but it’s an important part of the day. The boys share a plate of toast and jam, it is simple but they mostly share well and chat to each other (cereal is normally inhaled in silence).

7.30: Teeth brushing. 😬 Now this is one of the most complicated manoeuvres. I hand the boys their tooth brushes and sit in the door way to stop the escapees (at least one a day). If teeth brushing is too hard we get the 10 minute sand timer out (I really need a shorter one for teeth I think).

7.40: Getting dressed. 👖 We start with our ‘rate limiting step’ aka Tom. Previously it would take him on average 1 hour to get dressed, we currently stand at 10 minutes. This is where uniform is my best friend, I lay it out, he turns the sand timer and says “go”. Typically there is a song and dance before he starts getting dressed as we have a small keyboard in his room but this works ok, James then carries on hammering the keys while Tom gets dressed. Some days I help, others he wants to try himself. The rule is if you are not done by the time the sand runs out you lose a TV programme (trying to learn natural consequences). We then get James dressed which is a relatively simple affair unless we have nappy leakage.

8.00: This is where our natural consequences come in. 📺 If the boys brush their teeth without fuss and get dressed before the sand runs out then they have 1 episode of Octonauts (11 minutes) and 1 episode of Fireman Sam (9 minutes). However if there are delays then they lose one programme for each additional turn of the sand timer. We rarely lose both but it does happen.

8.20: Out the door. 🚪 This is an almost impossible task at times, but I leave 10 minutes to put shoes on and walk to the car on the drive right outside the house, I can not understand how it takes 10 minutes but I have accepted it is a black hole and go with it. Recently I got Tom a matching hat, scarf and gloves set to make this easier and it is just for school (he prefers to keep everything seperate).

8.40: Park at school. 🚗 We park further away than we need to as the grass and mud by the parking really upsets Tom so we park next to a pavement where he doesn’t worry about sliding. (The rest of the time he love jumping in mud just not getting out of the car onto mud). I put James in the buggy and Tom holds the side of the buggy. 

8.45: Tom goes in and James and I go off to negotiate our far more flexible day of work, sleep and play.

After school:

3.10: Pick up Tom, walk holding the buggy to our special non muddy parking space. If Tom has walked to and from school without running away or into the road they both get a Minion Haribo sweet (1 sweet seems to be enough currently, any more than 1 is a special treat). This has significantly reduced our risk of being hit by a car, however it has had the added benefit of helping Tom regulate after school (the chewing helps). 🍬

In the car I ask Tom 3 questions:

1. Has anything made you happy at school today?

2. Has anything made you sad at school today?

3. Has anything made you angry at school today?

Each day I do get answers and it helps us communicate how he’s feeling, I found if I asked “how was school?” I just got nothing. I also ask this in the car as he gives fuller answers if he’s not having to make eye contact (not sure why).

3.30: Back from school. 👖 First thing we do is the boys share a small bowl of raisins. The boys share this well and again the chewing helps Tom regulate. Tom then gets changed. After school Tom usually wants to change all his clothes and has clean socks and pants most days, I’ve just learnt to embrace the extra washing at it seems to really help him settle after school.

3.45: Chill out time. ❄️ 📦 We have 20-30 minutes of structured activity, typically this is one of our sensory trays, Duplo or’snow’ (polystyrene balls). This really helps bring Tom down after school and usually there isn’t a lot of talking.

4.15: Free play. 👬⚽️ A slightly dangerous time but we are learning, sometimes we will dance other times the boys will just play in the front room. This can be great or a drain, but they are learning to play without as much prompting so it’s easier than it was.

4.45: TV time. 📺 The boys have time where if they want some TV it can be on until dinner, this gives us a chance to make dinner / tidy up and typically they will keep playing with the TV there in the background if they want it (there is a choice of Shaun the Sheep or Timmy Time- they have very limited TV options during the week but more choice at a weekend).

5.30: Dinner. 🍽 Well this is just too much to put into one paragraph but they do eat.

7.00: They are in bed. 🛌 I am aware I have missed a huge chunk around dinner, bath, teeth, dressing and bed but these things can vary depending on when daddy gets home and what issues arrive during dinner and probably fill a blog post by themselves.

So, that is our Monday to Friday routine, it works for us and the boys like the predictability of it. It doesn’t work everyday but with Tom knowing what’s coming next really helps. At the moment it is about functioning and helping Tom feel safe, repetition helps hugely with that.

A special thank you to the external things that make the day work:

1. Gro clock.

2. Minion Haribo.

3. Raisins.

4. Sensory tray (a cement mixing tray originally).

5. Red wine.

6. Fireman Sam, Octonauts, Shaun the Sheep and Timmy Time.

Obviously having written this the routine will stop working!