Since the boys have arrived with us, we regularly talk with them about their life with foster carers. Whether that’s their anecdotal stories or more serious questions, we have tried to make it normal.
One thing that has never come up in conversation is their life before foster care. They were taken into care too young to remember much, if any, of life with their birth family. But they were having contact until 9 months ago, and so I’m pretty sure they will have some memories of that. However, they don’t seem to have any understanding of who those people were.
We have been waiting until we have their Life Story Books to bring up the subject. It feels very massive to just throw into conversation. And without photos, it’s hard to know if they even know who we’re talking about! It feels like we need to set aside a lot of time, and there’s always something else to do. Mostly I’m just terrified of how they will respond, and how it will make them feel.
Our social worker visited today. We talked about how the book William Wobbly has helped us explain to the boys why they struggle to regulate their feelings. The book explains that young children need grown ups to teach them how to manage their ‘wobbly feelings’, and William Wobbly (and our boys) didn’t have that. Our social worker asked if we’ve been specific about whose job that was, and I said no.
She gently encouraged us that we can start talking about it now. Start piecing the fragments together. We don’t have to wait for the official book. We do have a handful of photos we could use now. In fact, waiting until one day we pull out a massive ring binder of information could be overwhelming! And the longer we leave it to talk about, the harder it could become.
Our social worker gave us some ideas about how we could do this, and I will write about them as we test them out.
Our boys need to know where they have come from.
I think that I think by not telling them their past I can protect them from it. But that’s not true, they’ve already lived – and survived – it. Not talking about it doesn’t mean they aren’t affected by it. Perhaps this desire to protect them now comes from my sadness or guilt that I wasn’t there to protect them when they needed me.
I worry that they will be ashamed, or they will worry that they are genetically ‘bad’. But to not tell them where they have come from is to do them a great disservice. They are incredibly strong little boys who have survived more than a lot of adults. And yet they still have so much love and joy to share. They were born into a family that did not nurture them and treat them as they deserved. And yet they are so nurturing and kind and gentle (most of the time!)
Their past is a part of them, but it doesn’t define them.
Photo: Flickr user Kickize (2015)