People

Watching Little Chick start to play independently is amazing. It’s fantastic because it gives us a break – we knew introductions were tiring but the bone tiredness has only just hit us after three weeks of feeling fine. More importantly, he is showing confidence: confidence in his ability to play alone and confidence that we are here even if we’re not directly interacting with him or in his immediate eye line. The latter shows that he is beginning to trust us and feel comfortable with us. We are taking teensy tiny baby steps towards good attachment.

Playing independently is developing a whole range of skills – communication, cognitive, critical thinking, and motor skills. Particularly he is developing his imaginative play. We have been careful not to overwhelm him with new toys and have primarily played with his toys that he brought from his foster home. But the biggest hit, which has delighted me as much as it has him, is Happyland.

Happyland is ELC’s range of preschool figures and settings that mimic the real world and enable children to explore their surroundings. This is especially valuable to Little Chick in this period of change. The miniature world mirrors his own and the characters discover new things as he does.

Little Chick has begun acting out scenarios, most of which echo the past few weeks: walking outside; eating at the table; playing together. Nothing remarkable but, clearly, they have influenced Little Chick.

He has designated some of the characters to be us, though only his bears any resemblance, and even that is only because it is bespectacled. Though the likeness is questionable I am chuffed that he is naming us and including us. More than that, he is naming us Mummy and Mama (I am Mummy; the Other Mrs Reed Warbler is Mama).

Initially, we were both Mummy, and this was conveyed in his introductions book and video. Speaking theoretically about ‘your two mummies’ (as Little Chick’s foster carer did) is straightforward. Real life application is trickier. Even by the end of our first hour with Little Chick we realised that the duplication was confusing. We had considered this before making the introductions book and had considered ways to differentiate; sharing initials we struggled to find anything simple that would distinguish us. Little Chick has made the distinction himself, organically, which pleases me. We always said we would be led by him and we have honoured that. And he has solved a problem quickly and without fuss.

Little Chick calls his Happyland collection ‘people’, even though the buildings, vehicles, animals, and accessories outnumber the human characters. He is focusing on the people, on the relationships they are building. He is playing out the events of today with his small plastic people. He is reflecting on the huge changes in his life through tiny figures. The people are helping him.

More

Like Oliver Twist, this week Little Chick has been asking for more. More food, more attention, more everything. This seems positive. It feels like he is trusting us more or certainly testing us. Either way he is engaging with us and adapting to the whirlwind of changes that have swept through his life in the past few weeks.

Asking for more food is complicated. We want him to know that we will meet his needs, but we are aware of potential issues surrounding food. Having lost weight to make us more viable adopters we are even more conscious of the need to demonstrate healthy eating to Little Chick and provide choices and opportunities to eat well. We don’t want to project our food issues onto him but equally we need to do right by him.

Little Chick is not only enjoying our attention but demanding it. While we are still happy to give him time and unlimited attention, we quickly realised that we cannot maintain the high intensity of introductions. It is just too draining – physically and emotionally. Having lived with a single foster carer he seems to be enjoying the doubling up of adult attention but is quickly agitated when he doesn’t have the full devotion of both of us. Friends and family have commented that he is lucky to have so much attention and, to an extent, we agree (though lucky is probably not the most appropriate term). However, we do worry that this intense focus may be overwhelming for him and prove stressful. To counter this, we are ensuring that we do not spend too much 2:1 time with him. This isn’t sustainable (particularly when the Other Mrs Reed Warbler returns to work), but importantly presents an opportunity for self-care.

By far the cutest thing Little Chick has done this week is sing. When he started asking for more, more, more we joined in with the Andrea True Connection song. Now he is singing it, on his own, unprompted. His rendition is less clear to understand – ‘how do you like it?’ is not easily decipherable unless you know the song – but is far more tuneful than our version. And the look of pure joy as he sings is adorable; it has me begging for more, more, more.

Wow!

I honestly think that I would have been overjoyed by anything Little Chick said this week. We’re conscious that his speech is delayed, and that the new, unfamiliar circumstances will limit his speech further, so any utterances are gratefully scooped up. But the fact his most common word this week has been ‘wow!’ has utterly melted my heart. He seems genuinely excited by and in awe of everything we say, do, and show him.

Partly, we know this is compliance. Unknown adults may not be safe and while we are quick to call ourselves mummy, and already – albeit tentatively – see ourselves as a family we are very much unknown adults to him. The drawn-out preparation time between matching panel and introductions was frustrating (to put it mildly), but it gave his foster carer more time to sow the seed of his new family and his new home. Ultimately this prolonged approach has benefited Little Chick and, I believe, laid a solid foundation for us to build a better attachment more quickly.

Every time he exclaims ‘wow!’ I feel a little burst of joy, a reminder that we can offer him opportunities, love, and so much more. Equally though, it hits me that he has experienced so much loss in his little lifetime. Each time he wonders at something new I worry that we have overloaded him with too much. We are acknowledging his recent and more distant past, but also want to show him a glimpse of his future, of his life with us. I am not sure we will or can get this balance right, but I suppose as long as we continue to be mindful of it we have a better chance.

For now, I will try not to dwell too much on loss, on negativity. Instead, I will remember that everything he does and says wows me. I am so in awe of this little boy and already my heart bursts for him.

Word of the week

Now that Little Chick is placed with us, I am conscious that my nice, little routine will very quickly be a distant memory. Taking the time to stop, think, and write will be a luxury. But it is a luxury I will afford myself as essential self-care. Therefore, I am committing to spending some time each week reflecting on how Little Chick is developing and settling. Since his speech is delayed (speech therapist appointment pending) but his bank of single words is ever increasing, I have decided to record this in the form of the Word of the Week. Not only will this help us reflect on what went well or what we could improve it will serve as a reminder of how hard Little Chick tries. This website is partly about us and designed to help others but, importantly, it is a testament to Little Chick’s character. He truly is a special little boy.


Edit (June 2018): Little Chick has been visited and assessed by the Speech and Language Therapist. She recognised that he is a little delayed but not worryingly so or to the extent of a speech disorder. Additionally, she saw lots of encouraging signs during her visit that his speech will catch up, such as excellent imaginative play and some very clear, difficult words. For example, Little Chick reeled off ‘sausages’, ‘glasses’, and ‘trousers’, which are supposedly trickier words. Our next task is to encourage him to make more two-word sentences, especially using adjectives, such as ‘blue car’, ‘hot drink’, ‘big chair’, etc. We then need to help him build on those by repeating this back to him and adding words e.g. ‘blue car outside’, ‘hot drink careful’, ‘big chair sit’.