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Week in the life of a male foster carer – Blog 12th December to 18th December

‘On the way home he can’t stop talking about them and I sense he has become a little obsessed.’


Background

T has been with us for about 6 months. He is 10 years old and is diagnosed with ASD though it seems quite mild. Some of his symptoms that are attributed to ASD could also be just down to the fact that T is a 10 year old boy. In general he is a very happy lad but one who has moments of anxiety and has some problems dealing with his emotions. Because of his condition he does get fixated on things so he has a strong passion for cars and certain movies and TV programmes and at the moment he has a sometimes unhealthy obsession with Loom Bands (tiny little elastic bands that the kids make into bracelets).

I am married with three children, one at home, one at University and one living just down the road, and I am the main carer as my wife has a full time job as an Assistant Principal at a Sixth Form College.

 

Friday 12th December
The week started off OK with T up early and ready for school on time. He has done this every day this week so, because we keep a chart and rewards for this, he will get his full quota of TV, and a little extra, tomorrow morning. Good for him but it means I will be up at 7 while he watches Top Gear. Lucky me! After school all was good so generally a great day all round; calm and relaxed just how we like it.

Saturday 13th December
Today was not so good. T was just in a bad mood all day. He was fine with his early morning TV but as soon as that was up he refused to do anything; like getting dressed, helping with lunch and tidying up after himself. He was also very rude to all of us but especially me. He does not swear yet but he is close and so I got the brunt of being called an ‘idiot’ whenever I tried to chivvy him along. At one point, after putting up with him being rude and ignoring me, I decided to do the same back to him. Now this could have been a good idea if I’d told him but I didn’t. He, of course, noticed that I was not being helpful and so the day got worse rather then it teaching him a lesson, that is until my wife came home and intervened. For me it was a coping mechanism as he was really pushing me but the reality was I just managed to escalate it. Lessons learned!

The reason he was so horrible, I think, is because he is stressed about Christmas. Over the last few weeks I have been trying to encourage him to buy presents for his and my family. I have been pushing the value of giving because he has only ever received. He is 10 and a half now and he has only ever bought 1 present, for his Mum last year, and so we think it is important that he takes part in the giving part of Christmas. I also know that when he does hand over presents it will make him feel good, but it’s not going so well. He keeps telling me that he does not want to spend ‘his’ money which I have pushed for with my family (just small presents) and even though I have said he can have £50 to buy presents for his family. Well tomorrow he is with Mum and hopefully, as I have asked her to, she will talk to him about it.

Sunday 14th December
T is at Mum’s today and as usual he is not in the best of moods before he goes. At one point he says “why do I have to go?” which is puzzling but partly understandable. What is most concerning about it is that it’s because he can’t be bothered to get dressed. It is not that he is going to his Mum’s but because he is quite lazy. Given a choice he would spend all day in his PJs watching TV, which I suppose is like most kids; except that he has something good to do. My own kids might have moaned about that but not if they were going out for a treat. Maybe he does not see Mum as a treat. Maybe it’s makes him too anxious to think straight.

While T is out with Mum I get a phone call from her asking if we can pick him up from town as they have been out Christmas shopping. No problem I think and let’s hope it was presents for others and not him. When I pick him up he is buzzing, literally jumping up and down. He can’t keep himself under control because he has bought my entire family lovely, and according to Mum quite expensive, presents. This is great though I’d rather he had not spent so much but in the end it is his shout. On the way home he can’t stop talking about them and I sense he has become a little obsessed. Ah well let’s see.

As soon as we get in he rushes in to tell everyone and looks in his bag and he has only got one present in there. He has left them somewhere. And from complete joy he dissolves into tears and starts yelling at us and when we try to help he just tells us to shut up. He gets so bad we have to send him to his room to calm down, to take a breather. While he is up there we phone Mum who tells us she will phone round the places they have been and see if they have been handed in and low and behold when T comes downstairs Mum has found them and arranged for me to go and pick them up. And so begins another load of tears and shouting because he wants to come and get them with me but it is late and he needs his bath and story. I leave with him screaming the place down and my wife trying to placate him and I am back with gifts before his bed-time story is finished. He is calmer now and thanks me but what a fraught last hour. Our peaceful Sunday together as a family ended so abruptly it does not feel like we had a day off.

Monday 15th December
Did I mention obsession? At 6.20am I am downstairs making mine and my wife’s early morning cuppa and when I turn round he is stood there. He had snuck down after me and was just stood behind me;
“I know what I’m going to buy my uncle Matt”
I nearly jumped out of my skin. It was like something out of a horror film. And so a new obsession begins, one that will dominate the next few days until he has finished getting all his presents. All through breakfast he kept hassling me to take him after school but I said NO because the food shopping was being delivered and so we needed to be in. He flipped on this idea and when he eventually left for the taxi he was not speaking to me. Everything has to stop when T becomes fixated on something. I’m happy he wants to give things but now we’ve gone to the other extreme. For two weeks he has pretty much ignored every conversation about Christmas presents for others and now that’s all he talks about. After school was the same, with him demanding we go Christmas shopping, which ended up with him in his room calming down again. Bed-time could not come soon enough.

Tuesday 16th December
After school today we did go shopping and because we did not have endless time, I kept telling him we had to be back in time so I could make tea for everyone, it had potential to be stressful. So I went with plans to leave if it got to difficult but luckily he had it all planned out intricately in his mind so it all went well, that is until the end. He had ordered a lovely locket for his Mum from ARGOS and so we were to pick that up on the way home. When we got there and they handed it over he was livid
“It’s not very big”
“But it’s a locket; they aren’t that big because they go round the neck”
“But I want a bigger one”
This carried on for a while with me trying to explain and with him getting more and more agitated, to the point where he has raised his voice and is talking down to me in that particularly patronising voice he can use. People around us are staring and it is at this point where I wish I had something like a ‘Foster Carer Card’ that I can flash and say “Don’t worry, I’m a foster carer and everything is under control’ rather than worrying what these parents think of me. Finally we get sorted and we exchange his lovely locket for a rather hideous locket bracelet. Oh well, size obviously does matter.
Later on while T is wrapping up his presents it all gets stressful again. It seems that there is too much work to do and he wants me to do it instead which I decline. I offer to help but that’s no good. Oh happy days.

Wednesday 17th December
T is still obsessing today because he has forgotten a present. “When can we go and get it?” he keeps asking, to which I reply “Not tonight as I am busy”. This is not good enough so there are more tantrums and shouting. Later on, after dropping off my daughter at work T and I pop to a shop to get some food and low and behold there’s a present there. Done and sorted. Thank goodness.

But it never is that easy, is it? Last night T flipped out because after dinner he wanted to carry on wrapping presents which I had already told him he couldn’t do as it was bath, story and bed. Because of this he refused to go up for his bath which escalated into more shouting and screaming at us. Eventually he was in bed 30 minutes late so we had to tell him that the next night would be bed 15 minutes early to make up for it. So today he comes home from school and says “Because wrapping presents makes me stressed I’m going to have a night off”. Priceless, that’s all I can say.

Thursday 18th December
I think today was the calmest all week that T has been. There was still a lot of huffing and puffing and moaning about wrapping up the presents after school. He was watching TV at the same time so in the end I just said he should stop and do it at the weekend when he has some spare time which he agreed so at least we had no shouting. When the presents are wrapped and all is done we may have a few calm days, that is until he gets some Christmas present that sets of a NEW OBSESSION!