After a few days at school, we started to establish a bit of a routine in the mornings and in the evenings. The best thing about Dangermouse’s routine was that by about 7:30pm he knew it was bath-time and after that he would show Paulette and I how he’d styled he’d hair, all flat, all sticking up, a mohawk, etc. and then he’d happily climb into bed by 8.
This didn’t last.
By the second week, he realised that if he said he was hungry, he could effectively buy himself some extra time before bed. This mini-snack break soon extended into a bedtime story and then some time getting his back scratched before he was sleepy enough for sleep.
That wasn’t the only unwelcome development.
As a 7 year old, he soon decided that as a fellow male, I was the person he wanted to spend every single second with, and much to Paulette’s disappointment, this extended to ignoring her requests to clean up his room, take his plate to the sink, pick up his toys, etc. In frustration, when Paulette asked him these quite reasonable demands, her voice took on a sharper edge, a more authoritarian tone, which Dangermouse wasn’t having a bar of. Clearly, playing favourites became his new modus operandi. And coupled with a lack of sleep – have I mentioned the pre-6 o’clock starts? Every day. And neither Paulette or I are at our best with less sleep – this small thing became a big thing.
. . . and despite my best diplomatic efforts, neither side was budging.
This is a picture of my mum and my beautiful wife.
For the rest of the school holidays, Dangermouse and I kept busy. I didn’t really have a choice in this. Dangermouse doesn’t able (or interested) in playing by himself or hanging out by himself. And even when I’m in the backyard watering potplants , sweeping the back courtyard or doing some cursory weeding, he’ll play with his toy cars or toy bow and arrows or whatever, but only while he sees me around. The minute I walk back inside he drops everything and follows me.
The kindest thing that happened to me throughout this week was a very thoughtful thing my wife would do as she came home from work: she’d walk in the door, after a demanding day at work, and say, “Hey Dangermouse, (she doesn’t actually call him that. I sometimes do) let’s go to the supermarket together,” which would allow me almost an hour to myself.
Once school started, I hit upon the idea of going for a really long walk/run with Dangermouse, he on a scooter, me walking with brief running stretches. The idea being:
- I’d get some exercise.
- He’d burn up some energy.
- Paulette would get some down time after work.
I end up carrying the scooter every time.
On the 9th of October, after months of training, workshops, meetings and presentations, two representatives of our local fostering organisation called around to our house with Dangermouse, (obviously not his actual name) our new foster-son.
I heard a knock on the front door whilst reading War and Peace on the back verandah. My wife, Paulette, had taken the day off work. As a teacher I was on school holidays. Before I’d had time to put my bookmark in place, seven-year old Dangermouse was standing before me, a fishing rod in one hand and a big smile on his face. “Hello, Anthony!” he said, full of beans. “Hello,” I replied, shaking his free hand and wondering where his incredible confidence was coming from.
Paulette had set the table for afternoon tea and we all sat down. Dangermouse kept staring at me. It was off-putting but understandable. We couldn’t imagine what he was thinking but we fell in love with him straight away. As the foster people talked us through his medication and their contact details, he kept talking, wanting to tell us what he knew, what he could make and asking us when we could go fishing. My wife and I don’t fish.