In 8-ish short hours, our new placement will have been here a week! He is a snuggly, cuddly, quiet, compliant little thing. Even after he kind of “woke up” out of the shock and exhaustion of the first few days. He is silly and loves to explore. He eats like a teenager (both of mine do!) He is a child who (miracle upon miracle) prefers to drop his little head on your shoulder and snuggle close when he gets ridiculously tired (like say when his Big Foster Brother [BFB] sabotages his nap on purpose multiple times OH I DON’T KNOW JUST HYPOTHETICAL), this instead of increasing in pinball-iness and chimp-on-caffeine-itude until he is leaving human-shaped dents in walls and appliances and his eyes are actually turning into those spinning spirals like hypnotists use, like SOMEONE ELSE I KNOW.
In truth, however, our dude [BFB] was an ANGEL of compassion and thoughtfulness and Big-Boy Pride in all the things he could do! and help with! for the first oh… 72 hours. Then he was kinda normal. Then he has become slightly-or-maybe-entirely unhinged in the past 2 days. I imagine we’ll level out at kind of an average of all of those things.
I have this belief, though, that I have long held, and particularly with our permanent little man, that siblings are just HEALTHY. I mean, maybe there are a lot of kids/humans capable of more others-centered-ness or who can actually comprehend any piece of their world not revolving solely around themselves, without a sibling. I am certain that there must be. But I feel like siblings helped me in that way, and I have long thought that another body around the house with needs and desires and feelings that he can see more up close and personally, would be good for my particular ball-of-fire-who-often-firmly-believes-he-is-the-sun-at-the-center-of-the-universe.
I sincerely plan on feeding his wild imagination and astronomical dreams, and all of that, and the endless possibility and potential that lies in that brilliant and creative and lightning-intense head of his. YET. I also relish the opportunities that I have that I can simply say “We cannot buy that toy, because we do not have the money for it.” “You need to wait just a minute, because I have to get the baby’s food ready.” “You may pick any other toy, but you cannot have the one the baby has JUST because the baby has it.” “You may not scream in the car right now, not because I am simply mean and evil, but because baby is sleeping as you can clearly see, so that’s just that.” A child needs parameters. Limits. Some things that just Are, and that’s What It Is. You simply don’t control it. Those are often the only rules my child follows with any consistency. Like “You can’t take your seatbelt off while we are driving, it’s not my rule, it’s the policemen’s rule. There’s nothing I can do.”
He is having to become aware of another human being’s needs, and while there are definitely some growing pains in that process, I am confident that it is going to benefit him in the long run. The closest he ever gets is with his cousins because he is simply around them enough to have them crystallize in his mind into human beings, whose feelings he does not want to hurt, whose tears he (usually) does not want to cause, whereas most other humans are kiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinda… obstacles. Props. In a totally age-appropriate way, I believe.
Anyway he asks where the baby is when he’s not in the room. He told our specialist today that the baby is his “best friend.” He told Daddy on the way home from school that he can’t wait to go home because that’s where Mommy and the baby are. He is enjoying this process, don’t get me wrong. It’s not like some cruel immersion therapy in relative neglect. But I have been looking forward to the part where I get to have this new major experience to teach him, and to have just another element in our house all day that is neither him nor his mommy who exists to entertain and meet every felt need. There is someone else who needs from me sometimes, in ways that he can fully relate to, and he can begin to understand being patient or needing to, like, just get in the car instead of having an entire battle every single time, because I now have another human and a ton of gear and I just simply can’t. With the battles.
He asks all the time, “Why did the baby come to our house?” and I get to say “He needs a safe, loving place to be until it is safe for him to go back to his family. He needs love and a bed and a mommy and daddy and yummy food and fun things to play with and people to teach him, and we have all of those things so we are sharing them with someone who needs them.” We rehearse versions of this conversation all the time, recently. I so, so, so desperately want to teach him, even at not quite 3 1/2, about sharing what we have with people who need it. What better way?
I am, however, constantly on the lookout for ways to inadvertently reassure him about how the baby might (and probably will, at this point) go back to his mommy and daddy, but he will always stay…without exactly saying that. You don’t want to go making some statement like “He might go home, but you will NEVER leave!” because in his tiny little mind, I’m not sure if he ever even thought of the possibility, and even in stating it in the negative, I would’ve now planted that picture in his head. So I keep talking about how even though he’s big, he’s still MY baby, and he’ll be my baby even when he’s bigger than me, and even when he is a daddy and has his own baby. Or when we’re talking about how this baby might leave, I’ll talk about what we as our family might do after that.
I know people are terrifically concerned about this idea with permanent kids, and how it might affect them. Well, we said goodbye to one baby about 5 weeks after our son came to us, and he asked a few questions, but I’m not sure how much it RATTLED him. He was even less capable of comprehending Other Persons than he is now. Who knows what this or future placements might do, what effect they might have, but we’re trying to communicate as well as we know how.
* 18 mo! What! It will be though, on 3/2!