After a long spell with one or all of us in the house being ill with the dreaded virus, it has felt like a long Christmas and New Year break. Just when J and M should have been back at school, they were both off ill, and getting back into some kind of routine seemed to take forever. Luckily, they both bounced back quickly and are finally back at school. I’m back at the baby classes with Baby S, back to driving back and forward to contact with her, and the older kids have knuckled down to homework again.
It’s given me a chance to finally stop chasing my tail and I’ve been thinking about what a difference a year makes. This time last year, both J and M were still struggling with the implosion of Christmas contact, whilst this year, they seem to take the uncertainties in their stride. M was being pulled into detention day after day, month after month and I was on the ‘phone or at the school almost daily, listening to how bad she was, how she needed to improve and the danger of her being expelled. I would fight her cause and be her champion at school, and then talk to her as she listened with deaf ears about trying to stay out of trouble and not getting involved in dramas. This year, I am proudly displaying a ‘most improved student’ certificate alongside an academic achievement award and I am so proud of her turnaround; I praise her daily on something good that happened at school that day.
Last year, J was struggling to fit in within a peer group in his class, and the teacher was concerned he was becoming an outsider and being picked on. This year, he seems to be the centre of a little social group; all obsessed with Marvel comic book characters. I arrange ‘play’ dates twice a week for J, whereas last year, I was delighted if he was invited over to a friend’s house once a term. I’ve noticed his tastes are changing and since Christmas he is talking less about Spiderman and Batman and more about cars and engine sizes. I found my retention for torque and engine performance stats is about as good as it is for Superhero names. However, he has discovered that Hubby is a bit of a Petrol Head and there is a new appreciation for him with his ability to reel off engine facts and car or bike trivia.
Besides the changes of both children being another year older, there is a sense of us being more of a family unit rather than a bunch of individuals living together in the same house. M and J spend a lot of time bickering at the moment, but this is because they are no longer skirting around each other. J referred to M as his ‘sort of sister’ last week when he and his friend, Abdul, built a race track in the living room and M stepped over it absentmindedly. A year ago there would have been polite silence and both boys would have looked a little intimidated by a teenage girl in their vicinity. However, they both carried on building their dream track and I realised they both have just accepted they live together, as a family.
M talks about 6th Form or college and it’s obvious she sees herself living with us for the foreseeable future, and J’s foster status has officially been changed to Long Term this year, which is a big step for everyone. He says he doesn’t want to talk about it, but brings it up regularly. He checks what it actually means and although nothing has really changed on a day to day basis, he knows he will now live with us until he is an adult, or beyond. It was difficult for him to accept he wasn’t going back to his family and when his social worker asked him if he wanted to stay with us for a long time, he just shrugged as if indifferent, but ever since that day he stays closer and talks more positively about the future. The very best thing is that he has finally realised that when we move next month, he will automatically be coming with us, and has picked out his room in our new house.
The biggest change to our life over the past year is the addition of Baby S. She is a delight as well as a sleep thief and she is thriving with us. Without going into too much detail as the court case is ongoing while the social workers, judge and solicitors sort out what her future is, she is staying with us for the time being. She’ll move with us to the new house and while she’s still in our room at the moment, we’ve earmarked a room for her. The kids have been very sweet and helped pick out some colours for her room and it seems to have helped them bond to her and accept she is one of us.
Other changes this year have included a new job for Hubby, which means he is around less but we’ve made adjustments, and he has turned into a real softie. He coos and cuddles Baby S and she adores him. Hubby sings little songs and his main aim in life seems to be to make her smile. Sometimes M and I watch him from the kitchen and laugh at his silly songs, but it does make me feel the wrench will be hard when she goes.
The year ahead is promising; M is taking her GCSE’s seriously, J is losing some of his inhibitions and coming out of his shell, and Baby S is learning to use her delightful smile to get everyone in the house to do her bidding. The only thing that hasn’t changed is Luke, the Dog. He is still everyone’s favourite loyal dog, and he still adores J and follows him about like he is the centre of his world.