Well, we are three weeks into this adventure today. I feel like we've been doing this for three years. Every day is a brand new challenge though. I'm constantly on my toes to try and stay ahead of the game so to speak.
Yesterday I discovered that things work best in the afternoon when I have snack ready and waiting for them when they all get off the bus. Food seems to be a trigger for the girls though I haven't been able to put all the pieces together. Due to privacy issues, I'm not going to explain all my theories here in such a public forum. But food in general, mealtime with family and choices over what to eat are difficult things for my girls.
My boys are used to snack smorgasbord so having things ready for them doesn't change up their routine much. For the girls, having the food ready eliminates them having to figure out what it is that they want. Yesterday I made up PB& J sandwiches that I cut into small pieces. I put them out on a tray along with some oranges and pears. The kids were able to come in and immediately start eating. They had a few choices so they could maintain power over the situation. But ultimately, I was feeding them only things that were OK with me so it wasn't a problem.
I am going to try and do this kind of a snack routine EVERY DAY from now on! All four of the cherubs immediately started eating and I didn't see any of the arguing and acting out that was so common right after school. (This problem wasn't reserved for just the girls either. My boys were having issues after school as well.) It was so nice to have the kids sitting around the table talking with each other instead of fighting. In fact, the rest of the afternoon went so much better it was actually enjoyable.
Wednesday night we had horrible bedtime issues. I kept thinking it was all due to the psychological evaluation they had gone through that afternoon. That seemed like such a logical connection. The behaviors were bad. The girls were feeding off of each others anxiety and they just wouldn't settle down. During the midst of the arguing, fits, yelling, etc. (and...I have to admit...it wasn't just the girls participating in that kind of behavior) Mr. Amazing got the girls to talk some more. The girls shared how in "the house they used to live in" their bedroom didn't have a window air conditioner. The bedrooms on either side of them did, but they had to sleep in a hot, stuffy bedroom. Mind you, we're in October now and still have highs in the 90s. So, you can imagine what their bedroom felt like this past summer.
Our nighttime temps have been getting a little bit lower. I was thrilled on Wednesday to finally open the windows up on the house. I left them open all day because I'm so tired of running the air conditioning all the time. But, by Wednesday night the house was pretty warm and the bedrooms upstairs were stuffy. I clung to the fact that it was still supposed to cool off that night. I ran the ceiling fans in all the bedrooms. I even went and got another floor fan for the girls' room.
In hindsight, I'm sure the warmth of their room was contributing to the behaviors. Bedtime is difficult for them every single night. But the added discomfort of a warm room had to have reminded them of what they were living in and dealing with before. Mr. Amazing, after hearing this element of their past, immediately shut up the house and turned the air conditioning back on. It was definitely the right thing to do! I can't say it solved the bedtime problems that were happening right then and there. But it's not a trigger we're going to force them to live through again.
There are so many challenges in foster parenting. One of the biggest ones has to be figuring out all the triggers to the difficult behavior. We got such limited information on our girls because NO ONE knew their history. Slowly but surely we're putting the pieces of the puzzle together. These girls aren't doing these things just because they want to drive me nuts. All of their behavior is in response to what they've been living through all of their young lives. Even if they are trying to drive me nuts, it's only because they're trying to figure all the new things they are being exposed to in our home. Am I going to hurt them? Am I going to yell at them? Do I really mean it when I tell them they are safe now? In a way, they are doing just as much detective work as I am.
I remember looking at my tiny babies and saying, "Oh, it will be so much better when you can talk. Then I'll know what you're thinking and what you really need from me right now." I guess, in a way, I'm thinking the same things about the girls. "Oh, it will be so much better after we've been together for awhile and you've been able to start and make some progress in therapy. You'll be able to better tell me what you're feeling and what you need from me right now." At least I hope that's the way this will work out in the long run. It's what I'm praying for.