The first week with the kids was pretty much a breeze as far as their behavior. Sport was well mannered, listened to us when we asked him to do something, and was generally a high energy sweetheart – there were few signs of the often storied behaviors of the “terrible twos.” Sunshine was equally delightful and rarely fussed or cried. And they both were sleeping like champs! But now, the honeymoon is over.
Sport began to rebel by ignoring our requests or refusing to do what we asked. Chasing and hugging (squeezing!) the dogs, feeding them from the table, snatching our phones, pressing all the buttons on the TV, drinking from our glasses, the list goes on! As much as possible we have tried to redirect him to a more appropriate behavior (give the dog a training treat, pat the dogs gently, find your… computer, phone, etc.). We have also emphasized “good listening,” and even rewarded his behavior with stickers and small prizes (those little plastic people that go with the toddler LEGOs). To be honest, we aren’t sure when he “gets it” and when things just fly over his toddler head, but happily – his listening has started to improve. He replaces our phones on the table, pats the dogs gently, and well, he still tries to drink from our glasses, but two out of three isn’t bad.
Sport has also started to work his tantrums. He can turn on the crying at a drop of a hat and turn it off just as quickly. However, we are lucky because once he does turn it “on” it only lasts a few minutes. Most of the time we just have to pick him up show him a little attention and the tantrum is over. There have been a handful of cases that weren’t that simple but not many. One of which we theorize was particularly lengthy only because he had an audience. This tantrum, or meltdown as we like to call them, came as a result of him biting the dog – yes, our problems are more him terrorizing the dogs than the dogs doing anything to him.
After he bit the dog we put him in what we call a “time in;” it’s essentially a few minutes he must spend with one of us away from toys and other activities while we sit and talk about what happened. This particular “time in” took place while Marcy’s sister and Meg’s mother were at the house visiting, so he had an audience to play to and boy did he pull out all of the stops. There was crying and wailing and pushing and kicking to get out of Marcy’s arms and let’s not forget the sad “save me” eyes he was giving to everyone else in the room. The meltdown lasted long enough for Marcy to bring him upstairs and wouldn’t you know, as soon as he got in his room and was put in his chair he flipped the switch to “off” and wanted to read a book.
In addition to his sometimes fighting back against being told “no” and being given “time ins,” Sport has chosen one thing to be particularly difficult about every couple of days. During the beginning of week two that thing was his bib, which he fought against wearing at every meal. The next few days it was his car seat and his refusal to get buckled in. We can’t wait to find out what comes next!
Along with this relatively normal behavior for a two year old, Sport started to have sleeping problems. He would cry and follow us out of his bedroom if we tried to leave the room before he fell asleep. He would also wake up in the middle of the night and then again in the morning and cry until he found us.
Thankfully Sunshine’s demeanor has changed very little from the honeymoon period. She still eats well and sleeps well. She did begin to cry a bit more and can be a little fussier, but she’s still a great and happy baby.
We’re told the end of the honeymoon period and Sport’s and Sunshine’s willingness to, well, act like normal children their age is a good sign. It can show that they are feeling comfortable and that it’s okay to act normal. So, while we can find it frustrating, we’re happy to manage a meltdown or two.
As far as Sport’s sleeping difficulties, our working theory is that he’s having a bit of anxiety about having to leave us or being placed with another foster family. This may have arisen from the confusion of being picked up for a visit with his biological parents by a social worker, since social workers were involved with most of his previous moves. We had driven the children to and from their first visit and it went fine; they showed no negative effects.
Marcy’s friend, who herself is a DCF social worker, suggested giving Sport something of ours to help him feel more comfortable during the night, to give him the feeling that we were always with him even if we weren’t in the room at that very moment. The idea behind this sounded great and since Marcy and Sport share a love of teddy bears we decided a teddy bear would be a perfect personal item that he could even snuggle at night if he wanted.
Marcy has two very loved and very tattered bears that are as old as she is so she grabbed a needle and thread and performed a little “surgery” on one of the bears, Ted, stitching up his many holes and securing the broken music box in his tummy. The bear was far from pretty and squishy (most of its stuffing has fallen out over the years) but it was a perfect little piece of Marcy to share with Sport.
The first night Marcy gave Ted to Sport, she left it on his night stand and told Sport that Ted would watch over him and by morning Ted was snuggled with Sport in the bed. The first couple of nights Ted slept with Sport, he still got up in the middle of the night crying for us, but Ted had a welcome spot in Sport’s bed. The fourth night after having Ted join him he finally slept through the night again and hopefully he’ll sleep through the night again tonight!
About the Family
Marcy and Meg knew from the get go that they wanted a family, and they knew adoption was how they were going to create that family. In the fall of 2014, one year after starting the foster parent application process, they were placed with two beautiful children, “Sport,*” then 2 years old, and “Sunshine,*” then 3 months old, who were adopted a year and a half later. The happy (and busy!) family resides north of Boston with their 2 dogs.
*In an effort to protect our children’s privacy their names have been changed.