We got home about a week ago and have been settling into a routine as we prepare for a new homeschooling year. I have been vigilant as I watch the kids for signs of trouble since these transitions are usually the worst for them. Milagro is happy to be home. She walks around talking about all the things she missed and recounting tales from our time away. She misses a few things from Boston and still goes on and on about Monticello, the Liberty Bell and the Statue of Liberty. In fact, a book about each of these is on her birthday list which is coming up this weekend. Pollito seems happiest to be home. He goes back and forth between giddy-ness and goofy-ness but mostly he is just happy to be here. Corazon is more subdued but so far has settled into her usual routines and is actually anxious and happy to be doing her morning writing prompts. (Her blog should see some post soon I think.) Tortuga is also subdued. We haven't seen any of his "old" behaviors but I think there are a couple of storms brewing.
Last year it was after this trip that things got really bad with Tortuga and we made some pretty drastic changes which I first wrote about here. We have been anxious about what might happen but have optimistically been giving him more "privileges" as "tests." To many of you these won't seem like privileges but based on what we have been doing to try and help him (and the rest of us) they are things Tortuga has had to show he is ready to do. One of these is that he now has almost all of his meals with the family. In the week we have been home he has only had one meal away from us. This is huge! Mealtime is a high-stress time for him because he has to negotiate a wide range of feelings and competing interests including what we call "hating-on" Pollito and Corazon combined with competing with them for Milagro's, C.'s, and my attention. He also has to manage appropriate table manners, eating behaviors, inappropriate talking, (not)making faces, impatience, jealousy (comparing portions of food with other kids) frustration, and that is before any topic of discussion comes up. So far he is managing pretty well except for trying to dominate and/or be involved in everyone's conversation. We have also given him more "unsupervised" but structured time playing with Milagro and Corazon (He cannot handle doing this with Pollito yet because they are reduced to warring pre-schoolers in pretty negative ways.) So far that works for about 30-45 minutes before he starts to escalate and needs to go back to "quiet" activities. He has also picked up most of his old chores again (we had removed them when he decided to not be in the family last year) and for the most part that is going well. He asks to do chores and seems disappointed when I turn down his requests.
Yet, I do think we have a couple of big storms brewing. The first is over the fact that we did not see his mother while we were in Massachusetts. To say we tried would be an understatement. I made over 25 phone call and did speak with her and set up meetings numerous times. She didn't show up but since this has often been a pattern we didn't tell him we were supposed to meet her and just played off being at the designated meeting spots for some other reasons. Eventually we did have to tell him she wasn't showing and that she was no longer answering her phone/returning phone calls. He has seemed okay with it but I don't think he really can be.
One very sweet thing that happened that might be mediating this happened right before we headed home to Texas. We had scheduled another visit with Corazon's mother because her brother, sister, niece, nephew and grandmother hadn't made it to the previous visit. This time I left the other kids with a sitter. At the end of the visit with Corazon's mother in which we made plans for her to visit us in the Spring, she asked about the other kids interests so she could get them "a little something." She is always concerned about Tortuga and feels very bad about what she knows of his circumstances so she once again expressed her sadness about his not seeing his mother. She asked me to relay a message to him if I thought it was appropriate. She told me to tell him she would be happy to be his "birth mom substitute" if he wanted. She offered to talk with him about why she thought his mother might be conflicted about seeing him and offered to be his "punching bag" (her words) if he just needed to get mad at her. I thought about it and decided to share this with him. He was genuinely touched and actually thrilled. He wanted to call her right away and so we did. She was wonderful! She told him he could plan on visiting her next summer (whether or not he saw his mother) and told him a few things about why she thought his mother couldn't make visits. She also encouraged him to let her (Corazon's
The second storm that is brewing is that he is testing and trying new behaviors on "for size." He has made a few choices that were inappropriate and a couple that were unsafe. I think he is trying to see if all the "old" expectations still apply and probably his awareness of his new "privileges" around here are fueling this. A couple of his new behaviors have been "nipped" quickly but a couple of others might be linked to budding adolescence. Speaking of which I think we are reaching the onset of puberty with him. In the past week I have had more conversations about penises and body changes in boys that I had the entire time I was counselling middle schoolers over a decade ago! I think I am actually getting pretty good at this. :-)