We fostered a little boy who loved watching the ‘baby videos’ of our birth children.
He learnt to use the old VHS recorder and spent hours absorbed in the traditional upbringing of his foster siblings.
He’d watch the grainy images of bath time, walks in the park, first birthdays and Christmases, Christenings, and visits from Grandparents again and again and again.
It was all pretty mundane and would be familiar to most families.
But to him, it was a magical world.
‘I would like a baby.’
We were quite used to random requests, but were initially unsure how to respond to this.
Did he mean he wanted a sibling?
That’s was going to be beyond our remit and abilities.
A short discussion ensued and we began to understood that he wanted some sort of doll.
This we could achieve.
We put a few requests out onto our Facebook Support groups and were fairly soon inundated with offers of Barbies, Cindys, the entire cast from Frozen, and a couple of Asda own brands.
Apparently, none of them were good enough.
The interest continued but neither Toys ‘R’ Us, Smyths or even B&M had what he wanted.
Meanwhile, this ‘want’ was becoming a ‘need’, and fast developing into an obsession.
Amazon came to the rescue.
Hours of scrolling led us to what he wanted; ‘A baby newborn silicone doll £65.99. Next day delivery’.
This was not an inconsiderable sum, but the desperation convinced us that we should buy it.
He then announced his new baby needed a buggy, clothes, nappies, bottles, sterilisers and all the other relevant newborn paraphernalia.
Toy versions would not suffice.
Further appeals to the Facebook Massive secured us everything ‘new baby’ needed.
Primark’s 6-12 month range supplied anything that was missing.
‘New Baby’ was named John.
He absolutely had to be treated like a real baby.
He had to be sat up, cuddled, fed, changed and put to bed.
If he cried, he had to be settled with cooing and appreciative noises.
John’s favourite nursery rhyme was ‘Row row the boat, gently down the stream…’.
On sunny days, John was taken to the park in the Maclaren’s buggy we had been lent.
Occasionally, on the journey, John was sniffed, to see if his nappy needed changing.
If all was well, he was given a reassuring cuddle, and had his blanket tucked back in.
It’s a friendly community where we live, and passers by would smile and nod at the sight of a big brother taking his newborn sibling for a walk, with a proud dad walking behind.
How little did they know.
John became one of the family.
It soon became quite natural for me to balance John on my knee or ‘mind him’, whilst our foster son had to ‘nip to the loo’ or carry out any other unavoidable task.
We chatted to more experienced Foster Carers and did some googling.
Without any help from us, our Foster Son had discovered something called ‘regression’.
One day, whilst taking John to the swings, the Little Man asked;
“Did my Mum and Dad take me to the park? Did my Mum and Dad sing to me? Are there videos of me as a baby?”
These were questions to which we had no definite answers, but in all likelihood the responses were an emphatic ‘no’ on all counts.
When he arrived at our house it was fairly clear he’d never experienced a trip to the park, could barely talk, and was unfamiliar with birthdays, Christmas or any other rites of passage.
Through Baby John, our little man was living the life that had been denied him.
It was both incredible and beautiful to watch.
I don’t know how he knew that this would restore the years that were characterised by neglect rather than care, but somehow he knew.
He just knew.
All we had to do was help.
Then, one day, We discovered John shoved under the bed.
Later he was relegated to the loft.
The final ignominy came when he was given away to Charity.
‘I don’t need that anymore. It’s for babies.’
The healing had been done.