Ms. M: "Hi there. This is Ms. M, Dude's teacher. How are you today?"
Cherub Mamma: "I'm fine. Thank you."
Ms. M: "I'm calling today about Dude. Has anything changed at home? Is there anything different? Because we're seeing a lot of new behaviors here at school."
Cherub Mamma: "Noooooo...nothing new per se. What's happening?"
Ms. M: "He's become a lot more defiant. He's refusing to do work. He's sassing. And lately he's started hitting. He hit two little girls and one little boy. It used to be just that he had a difficult time doing his seat work. But lately he's telling us he's not going to do any of it. He's been refusing to do lots of the things he's supposed to throughout the day. And yesterday he was making fun of the littler class when he could hear a younger child crying in another room."
Cherub Mamma: "Weeeelllll....I don't know what to say. I mean, I guess this could be linked to the increased contact with his bio family. Being in foster care is very, very difficult. Dude is becoming much more aware of the realities of his life. When he first came he didn't know what foster care was. In fact, he really liked it here. He didn't understand at all why his sister was sad. But now...now I have to answer so many of their questions with, 'I don't know.' This is really difficult stuff for them. Just this morning the cherubs were asking me about how we will do Halloween next year and I had to tell them the truth. I had to tell them that they will most likely be in Dallas next year at Halloween."
Ms. M: "Well, it's been going on all this week. I've had a different schedule since Monday, I've been coming in late. And when I get here my assistant tells me how difficult Dude has been." (She then went on to describe in detail several different incidents.)
Cherub Mamma: "Ya know, the change in routine there at school is probably contributing to it too. Even something as simple as you coming in later could be difficult for Dude. And, well, Halloween. I'm sure that's part of it too."
Ms. M: "The entire class has been difficult all day. It's just that Dude is hitting and sassing so much."
Cherub Mamma: "Thank you for keeping me informed. I do need to know this. Though, as I'm sure you know, there is very little I can do about it. But I do need to keep his social worker in the loop with behaviors like this. He's too little for therapy. But I will talk to him for sure. I'm sure part of it is your new schedule. Maybe things will go back to a more normal state next week when you're coming in at the time he's used to. I'm sure part of it is Halloween too. He was excited about the party and all but it was very overwhelming to him at the same time. And last, I'm quite sure this is because of foster care in general. He knows that he has no control over any part of his life right now and it's very frustrating for him. He's going to try and get control whenever and wherever he can. Yes, I'll talk to him. And no, it's not OK. But really....it's understandable."
Thus is foster care. Dude is pissed. He's getting tired of all his questions being answered with, "I don't know." He hates hearing about visits to his mom and to Dallas. He hates hearing about court and that damned judge that gets to decide everything for him.
And honestly -- the other triggers are so obvious to me. I'm surprised the teacher even called. She's a very good, and rather "seasoned" teacher. I'm surprised she didn't make the connection that her change in schedule, coupled with a holiday in the middle of the week, smothered with foster care trauma could be difficult for Dude.
I went over everything again with Ms. M when I went to pick up Dude from school. He had even upped the ante some. During the time she was on the phone with me this morning, Dude got angry and bit another child! I'm slightly scared. That kind of behavior can get him in a LOT of trouble!
I hope I explained it all OK enough to the teacher. I hope she can be compassionate and help him with his big feelings. Yes, the behavior needs to be addressed. But come on now...he's three. SHE is going to have to deal with it immediately after it happens. I'm sorry if all she can do is a time out for three minutes. But that's all I've really got in my arsenal too. (Not that spanking would be remotely appropriate for this - it wouldn't!!) It'd be beyond stupid for me to put him in time out for behavior that took place at school though!!! He'd never make that connection!! She's going to have to handle things at school herself.
I did have a talk with my three biggest cherubs about some things we have to change up right now. All rough-housing and physical play has to cease for awhile. No guns made out of Trio's. No running in the playroom. Things do have to stay a bit calm. I don't want to give Dude a reason to get agitated at home. This has to be coupled with conversation about appropriate behavior with Dude.
And this afternoon after school, when Dude told TT he was going to hit him and make him cry like a baby, Dude was immediately brought inside. He was made to play alone close to me.
And tonight, when Dude was playing with his Weeble Wobbles and I heard him put one of them in the corner for biting – I knew that Dude does know right from wrong. He knows what he's doing isn't OK.
Lord give me what I need to help this precious three year old deal with the CRAP that is foster care!