Baby steps

Have you ever seen the movie What About Bob? In the movie, Bob suffers from several phobias. His psychiatrist has written a book called “Baby Steps.” After learning about the book, Bob repeats the words “baby steps, baby steps, baby steps” with everything he does. At this chapter in my life I feel like Bob.

On Thursday we went to Evan’s psychiatrist appointment. I was able to share most of what has been going on with her. She changed his medication from once a day to twice a day. She said if this doesn’t help, there is nothing else she can do until he turns five. I asked her about Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). Medication to treat RAD cannot be given until age five, and the medication is an antipsychotic. I feel very uneasy about a five year old taking antipsychotic medicine. Her suggestion was that I find a hospital that will provide inpatient care for him. She said she doesn’t know of any place that takes children under five though. Why is five the magic number?

When we got home from his appointment, I needed a moment to collect my thoughts. Hospitalization is something I would really like to avoid. Of course, I want the best care possible, but I think that should be a last resort. Ultimately it’s not my decision. As a foster parent, I have guardianship, not custody. Decisions regarding medical care are up to his physicians and the state.

Doubt reared it’s ugly head and invaded my mind. “Am I really the right person to be caring for this child? Should he be in a home without other children, so he has more one on one time? What if this medication doesn’t work? Has anything I have done so far made any difference?”

While I sat there at the kitchen table with my face in my hands, Evan came in and handed me a toy knife from the kids kitchen center. It was from a Melissa and Doug set. The knife is made of wood and doesn’t have sharp edges. He had broken it in half.

“Can this knife do this?” He asked me. I told him that it wasn’t supposed to be broken in half and for the thousandth time, I explained to him that we should treat toys kindly and not break them. If all of the toys are broken, he will have nothing to play with. I asked him why he had broken it and like always, his response was because he wanted to. Preparing myself for the storm that was going to follow, I told him to stand in the corner.

Much to my surprise, he walked over and stood in the corner. There is a first time for everything! He cried a little but he stood there. There were no shoes thrown, no screaming or banging his head against the wall. He did not make his body go limp. He did not scream at me about how he doesn’t like me. When the timer went off, I told him his time was up and he ran back in the other room to play.

Baby steps.

For most people, this incident sounds insignificant. Big deal, my child had a time out and didn’t act like the world was ending. For me, this was a huge deal! It shows progress. Consistency is so important when parenting. It may have taken seven weeks but he now knows that when he is put in the corner, no amount of screaming, yelling, throwing things, or any other negative behavior is getting him out of it.

Is it possible that he is exactly where he is meant to be? Maybe I am the mom he needs. What if seeing my other kids being disciplined when they misbehave is helping him? For seven weeks, each day we have stayed in the same place or taken a step backwards. This morning, I woke up one step forward. It may have been just a baby step, but it was a step just the same.

Everyone knows best

When you have a child like Evan with bad behavior, you become exposed to a whole new level of parental advice and even parent shaming. So far, I’ve encountered two types of people through this journey.

Person one hasn’t spent much, if any time with Evan. This person talks about how cute he is and how his behavior isn’t his fault. They often tell me how they would take him home if they could. Even if they don’t say it, sometimes I get the feeling that they think I am exaggerating about his behavior. Or, perhaps they think they could do a better job than I am at caring for him. While I agree that his behavior is a direct result of his environment the first three years of his life, reading a story and living it are two different things.

Person two often times started out as person one. This person has spent a little more time with Evan. Person two still hasn’t seen the whole picture but has a better idea of how everyday life is. This person tells me I’m crazy for dealing with this. They question why I do foster care. They say I should “get rid of him” like he’s an old shirt I no longer wear. Once again, I get the sense that they judge me as a parent for having him in our family. They make comments about what he is doing to our biological children.

I have one person that doesn’t fit either category. She is a foster parent herself and has had some children with some of the same behaviors. We listen to each other without judgement, and sometimes that’s all we need. She encourages me. We are able to talk about the changes we witnessed with different children.

As for person one and person two, I’m sure there is someone out there that could do a better job. When it comes to my biological children, I also worry about how they will be affected in the long run. I hope they learn compassion and love but only time will tell.

For now, this is our family and this is our life. We are stressed and sometimes frustrated. All things aside, I look at this little boy sleeping at night and I know his belly is full and he is safe. That’s enough for me to get up tomorrow and try again.