Any change of routine can be difficult for a well-adjusted child but to a Looked After Child, change can be devastating and throw off course even the most settled foster child. Which is why our house move, although planned for months, was worrying Hubby and me. We’ve talked to both children about the move right from the beginning, involving them in the new house choice, coming along on viewings and picking out room colours, but even with all that advance notice, it has still felt unreal to them, particularly J. It’s a little like asking a child to plan for Christmas, at Easter.
Most of our concerns were centred on M, who has endured so many moves before she came to us nearly 4 years ago. The only time she has ever moved in the past were for unpleasant or frightening reasons and they have always been last minute and panicky, with most of her belongings stuffed quickly into black plastic bags. She came to us in the middle of the night with one supermarket carrier bag containing the saddest collection of belongings; a t shirt at least 3 sizes too small, a pair of very young children’s shoes and a designer baseball cap. Nothing fitted her.
J’s move to us was a little more controlled, but still last minute and very emotional. We were also concerned how he would take the change. Unlike M, who has been through many different foster homes, J came to us directly from his family and he found this incredibly hard to deal with and sadly, still does. Although he had never moved before he came to us, he is still traumatised by the events of that night.
Making the decision to move was an easy one; we needed more space. We came to this conclusion even before Baby S arrived, so the addition of the baby and all the related paraphernalia made it a tight squeeze. However, the biggest decision maker was that our old house only had one toilet and bathroom. M and her obsession with her hair (which must be exactly in the right place!) was the final straw. I could no longer take the pantomime of J jumping around the landing threatening to wee on M’s bed if she didn’t come out of the bathroom! The two biggest arguments in our house were over TV/PlayStation time and the use of the bathroom.
The big move happened last week with a huge X marked on the calendar so the kids could clearly see the date. We’ve talked about it nearly every day leading to the move; about their rooms, colour schemes and the relief of having two bathrooms. The day of the move arrived and our first struggle was to get M out of bed! She doesn’t normally see ‘AM’ at the weekend unless there’s a planned trip to the local mall, and it wasn’t until I told the removal men really loudly outside her room that they had permission to dismantle her bed with her in it, did she finally emerge. She then absolutely had to do her hair because who knew who would see her? I sighed and concentrated on trying to keep a very excited J out of the cab of the removal van. Eventually it all came together, mostly by Hubby, who reverted to his management consultant persona and organised everyone to within the minute. All of this was not helped by the lashing icy rain and artic winds.
We went out to eat at a local fish and chip shop the night of the move, barely able to drag one foot in front of the other, but at least the kid’s beds were assembled and their rooms were mostly in order. Our room was in chaos but the kitchen was functional and I had a place to feed and change the baby. As J was hyper with excitement all day, I expected him to crash and get emotional but he was happy organising his Lego and Marvel action figures. We even got his Spiderman poster on the wall and surprised him with Marvel bedding which he was delighted with. We waited for the fallout, but it never came. Days later, he’s still happy with his room and finds something else to ‘Wow’ about.
M has been quieter than normal and I know she is reflecting on her past. Her room was painted in her favourite colours and we’ve framed her signed ‘A-lister’ fashion icon poster which she thanked us for and took hundreds of photos of, but she still seems unsettled. Unfortunately, our move coincided with half term. This means, less routine and structure and along with the move, it’s been compounded. We try to remember she is being ruled by her hormones and in the middle of her GCSE year which is stressful enough for a 15 year old, so if she seems extra resentful, it’s hardly surprising. I’ve planned a shopping trip for co-ordinating furniture which she is getting excited about, but the best news was over hearing her tell Claire how great the new house is.
Baby S is oblivious to the changes. She’s a happy, smiley baby as long as her tummy is full and I’m forced to rest and stop unpacking boxes to sit and feed her. I know the new house will continue to impact M and J for a while and I’m expecting questions to come out about photos or in J’s case ‘is this still where I live?’ but we are gradually settling in. I love our new house but the best thing about it is the second bathroom. I had a shower this morning without anyone banging on the door and although it only lasted 10 minutes, it was bliss.