I had my actual first kiss when I was 13. His name was Perry, he was about 6ft 2 at 15 years-old and it was terrible. Not something I would like to repeat.
Funnily enough this blog isn’t about Perry. This blog is about the smallest human in our house.
When he arrived with us, it’s safe to say he had serious communication issues. Understandably so. For the first couple of weeks he would only grunt, he would walk stooped over, he would point at things he wanted and he lashed out at anything and everything. Nothing was safe. Whether it be his sisters, my youngest birth child, the animals or even inanimate objects like books and toys. If he wanted to, he would destroy it, or at least try to. On January 2nd I got given a kiss. By him. On the cheek. Unprovoked or asked for. It took my breath away.
The lead up to the kiss had been long. What I found difficult as a Foster Carer, is that sometimes the physical, affectionate side of it comes naturally (to you and the children) and sometimes it just doesn’t seem to ‘flow’. With our little one, it just didn’t come naturally. He wasn’t dependent on physical affection and definitely wasn’t used to it.
One day, a few days after Christmas he was in a foul mood. Something was up. He wouldn’t tell me what it was and his mood was affecting the house. I sat him down and told him that I could see he wasn’t happy about something. I said that even though he didn’t want to to tell me I could show him something that would make him feel better. It was very clinical. I said that if I am angry or scared or unhappy, usually what can help me feel better (even if it doesn’t solve the problem) is a hug. I asked him if he wanted to try. I opened my arms and expected a very rigid, unresponsive hug and instead I got a 7 year old that melted into me, wrapping his arms around me and resting his head in the crook of my neck.
I didn’t realise that as much as he needed that hug, I needed it more. I am a very physically affectionate person. I thrive of physical contact and I believe you make real connections by hugging/rubbing someone’s back/touching their arm etc. When we ended the hug I asked if he felt better – he nodded. I told him that whenever he felt a strong emotion that he couldn’t describe or shake off and he didn’t know how to talk about it he could come and ask for a hug. At least then I would know he was struggling. And he did. Our bedroom routine carried on with a tight, meaningful hug where we wished each other good night and it melted away anything negativity that may have happened over the day. Then one night, as he pulled away, he turned and kissed my cheek. It felt like magic dancing over my face. I wanted to squeeze him tighter, cover him in kisses and tell him I loved him, but, if I learnt anything from first kisses is, you’ve got to play it cool. So, instead, I kissed him back, told him good night, shut his door and cried. A little boy, who refused to speak to me 8 months ago just gave me something so precious I couldn’t control myself.
And so that is our bedtime routine. I don’t overly fuss him, I let him come to me – and, he does. The connection between us is stronger and bizarrely I feel more tolerant, more patient, more able to face anything he throws at me (literally and figuratively) when I know there is that time, at the end of the day, for just a few seconds where we are connected.
I think that, despite him being the most unpredictable to manage, I am learning the most from little 7. I see progress and change that makes my heart ache. That one kiss, even if it had never been repeated, would have been enough. Enough to see me through the next however many days, weeks, months or even years. It’s one of those moments I will never forget. I’ve found that that is exactly what fostering is – moments, amidst chaos which make it worth while. And whenever you feel like you can’t carry on one of those moments seems to pop up to remind you most definitely can.