January can often feel a bit flat, especially after the anticipation, festivities, New Year’s resolutions, and the mandatory new diet.
However, 2018 seems positive and I’m actually looking forward to January. Christmas contact with the families of the children in my care went sadly as I expected, and I’m relieved I prepped J and M to the possibilities of disappointment.
This year both children were let down again, and contact either didn’t go ahead or it was fraught with arguments. What has been different this year is the way both of them handled the conflict, disappointment, and ultimately, their emotions.
There wasn’t much glitter and sparkle on Christmas Day. We spent most of it driving to drop off and pick up M from a fairly disastrous family meal. This is not the first year we have done this (we anticipated the fallout that normally accompanies any contact with Dad and extended family), but M was calm and even philosophical about events.
She showed a maturity that seems to be developing and took a very adult, if somewhat resigned, outlook to the situation.
J’s Christmas plans just didn’t happen.
We went to the contact centre but in my gut, I just knew the family wouldn’t turn up, so covertly planned a busy and fun afternoon for him.
We waited at the contact centre for the mandatory 15 minutes and a further (just in case) 15 while we played word games, then J stood up and said: ‘let’s go’.
As we signed out, he looked utterly miserable and the worst part was loading the car back up with presents he had chosen for his siblings.
Nevertheless, he started to talk in the car on the way home and he surprised me with his insight. Regrettably this is a common situation for J, and he’s been less emotional each time he’s left waiting.
Yet what has been different, and a positive move forward for both children, is the lack of fallout. Even under the very best of circumstances, J and sometimes M have experienced high and low emotions leading to what can display as challenging behaviour or meltdowns.
Not this year.
They have also both shown how much they’ve grown in other ways over the holiday period and into the new year: Baby S has been very poorly with seasonal flu (in spite of the flu jab) and has needed 24-hour care, monitoring, a hospital visit, and generally lots of worrying on our behalf.
Both M and J have shown empathy and concern, and showing emotions is not something that comes easily to M. I’ve had sweet texts from her, a hand-made get well card from J, along with an understanding that right now, her medical needs must come first.
I’m proud of them for being able to put Baby S first at what is a difficult time for them both in different ways.
I am positive about January and that’s not something I thought I’d say, but J seems to have settled into Secondary school which was a difficult transition for him.
He adjusted to being one of the small kids and has made new friends. Going back to school for the new term was so much better than I anticipated; J was bored of Christmas TV and even got fed up of his new Star Wars Lego kit, so was ready for a return to routine, but it was his eagerness to see class mates and dig into an Egyptian project that made me feel optimistic about the coming school year.
The big positive event for M is not just being keen to get back to college, but that she has a part time job.
M surprised me last year with a wish to save money, so when she asked permission to get a job I gave it willingly. She found a temporary Saturday job unexpectedly quickly, working in a fashion store over the Christmas period.
It meant an early start, giving up her usual weekend trips to the mall with Claire, having a dress code (which she hates) but for M, it was also reining in her unruly hair.
M’s obsessed with her hair length and style but amazed me by being willing to tie it neatly back for work. She has gone to work feeling tired or unwell, worked an extra shift when other staff let them down and missed out on social events. When I praised her for her determination and efforts, she gave me a big cheesy grin and told me they want to keep her on as Saturday staff, and she was the only one they offered it to.
In spite of the disappointing Christmas, we are all looking forward to 2018. I know there will be ups and downs, and this will be a big year for Baby S as her future is decided, but it’s one I’m looking forward to.