We’re making an unscheduled visit to those early weeks of placement. The four of us chucked together (plus traumatised cat), seeing nobody else. Relying only on each other for our entertainment, love, emotional life, education, health… Getting to know one another.
Placement was a weird, paranoid honeymoon period, and this feels like another. The children are sure that we are there, with them, with no other priority than to keep them safe. We are nesting and shifting things around to make things fit us better, just as we did in those first bizarre weeks.
Just like the first weeks of placement, we have been surprised to realise that our home doesn’t accommodate the family anymore. It needs to change. Lots of things are being boxed up for the charity shop, lots of things are being consigned to memory, lots of new décor is planned (hmm) and we definitely have a huge new routine. There’s been a re-assigment of the part of my life that I’d reclaimed for myself, back to them.
It is (dare I say) working. We are enjoying much of this time, unexpectedly. Timetabling our days is a revelation – everyone is so much happier because we all have to adhere to the same schedule. It’s not Dad or Mum’s plan – it’s THE plan. It means that we are spending proper time together doing lots of different, interesting things. Less screen time battles, less bored tantrums, less unbearable control battles dressed as ‘play’. And, hallelujah, we can timetable in ‘special time’ so that it doesn’t have to happen when we’re knackered and the kids are hyper after dinner. That alone has added quality to life.
I know that many families are struggling with being stuck in. They are scared. They are being abused by children, partners and parents. They can no longer clutch for their lifelines in times of need. The routines that they relied upon have been upturned.
I know we’re blessed. But we, too, feel scared. My precious private chats with friends and child-free time have evaporated. The children never, ever stop seeking me out and talking and it’s really hard for an introvert like me to deal with and probably even harder for extroverts like them. They need more people to bounce off. They are pining for the life and relationships they’ve built for themselves. They are feeling very concerned and cut off from their birth family and of course, Easter and Mother’s Day didn’t help any of us. I checked in with the kids today about what zone they were in – we’re all blue. Usually our household is permanently on yellow or red. So it’s kind of a relief but still, a difficult adjustment.
We’re doing our best, but we’re only a few weeks in. Just like placement, it feels like the precarious brink of something.
I wonder how we’ll all be on the other side of this.