For the least few months, my wife has done the morning routines entirely on her own.
She begins the process with a gentle ‘good morning’, and then ascends to the urgent encouragement required to get the Little Man in the shower, get dressed, stop making Tik Toks and eat his toast.
She receives the brunt of any mood.
If anyone is sworn at, it is my wife.
She looks out for his transport to school, and ushers him out the door.
She reminds him to take his water bottle and his Covid mask.
My job is to stay out the way.
On easy days, this is easy.
It’s harder to pretend to be invisible when he’s ‘effing and jeffing’.
This division of labour has been discussed and planned by my wife and me.
We know the mornings can be delicate to the point of fragile, and we need to follow a pretty strict routine.
If I should try to help by making the toast, I would be creating a point of conflict.
Almost inevitably, any toast I would make, would be too warm, too soft or incorrectly cut.
We would then have to deescalate and reregulate.
There’s no time for that when we are keeping to a schedule.
On other occasions, I am the lead parent.
This is not a gender issue, this is purely for practical issues.
If all is well, we can tag team or parent together.
Leaving the house and going to school, or anywhere else, is often known in the trade as a ‘transition’.
These are often the most stressful points of the day.
A kid who is used to chaos, aggression, disruption and possibly violence, may well try and recreate this in your home.
It’s, quite literally, their way of making themselves feel at home.
This may well mean winding you up individually, collectively, and possibly, purposefully driving a wedge between you.
If there is already a crack in your relationship, it may well be widened.
One of you may become ‘the preferred parent’ which will be exhausting.
The other parent may feel guilty for not ‘pulling their weight’.
This may lead to tension, and your relationship will suffer.
During ‘The winter war of attrition’ as we know it, our Foster Kid did everything in his power to bring chaos and disorder.
Hours of moodiness became days of anger, and then weeks of meltdowns.
The weeks then became months.
It nearly wrecked us.
However, we are still together and we did learn a lot.
I think the child in question had been triggered by the time of year.
Something deep inside him thought the packing away of The Christmas Tree, the short days, and miserable weather meant he would be leaving a home he’d actually begun to enjoy.
Rather than have safety taken from him, he decided to take the proactive step of destroying it himself.
Each night, after a fretful evening of what may loosely be called ‘the bedtime routine’, my wife and I would regroup in our bedroom.
We learnt that one of us managing him on their own worked marginally better than both of us.
We learnt that some routines brought marginally more calm than others.
We scanned the family schedule for potential flash points.
We asked wiser, older heads for their opinions.
We resolved to get through the next hour, the next day, and then the next week.
Gradually, at a glacial pace, things improved.
During such a time, our relationship was put under tremendous pressure, but it probably emerged stronger.
There was absolutely no time for petty debates and disputes.
There was no space for the nonsense of adult sulks or passive aggression.
Any debate between us has to be fast, furious and to the point.
Any grievance has to be quickly and clearly explained. The other partner has no time to brood, but needs to quickly apologise and alter their behaviour.
We don’t fall out over small stuff, because, to massively mix my metaphors, we have much much bigger fish to fry.
Fostering or adopting children that have been through significant trauma will test your relationship.
Please invest time in self-care and don’t be shy about leaning on your support network.
Foster Carers and Adopters can be married, in a partnership, single, widowed and of any sexual orientation.