Happy New Year! It's been challenging to find time to write since I was hit by the reorganization bug. I'm not one to make resolutions at the beginning of the year but I often feel compelled to do a thorough house cleaning once the holidays are safely behind us. This year the focus of said reorganization was our sunroom-playroom-my office. We have spent days painting old furniture, sorting books, magazines, toys, crafts, and switching kids' furniture from one room to another. We aren't done yet but I feel much better and the room functions better too.
Thus far, Tortuga has done remarkably well. We had a few big bumps and lots of small ones but nothing as major as the full fledged destruction of previous holidays. We aren't out of the woods yet since usually the greatest fallout is in January and February but it has been so much better. This weekend was his worst yet and we are seeing lots of regression to old behaviors. He suddenly has "forgotten" how to brush his teeth (he is using the bathroom soap instead of his toothpaste), use the toilet (seat stays down, pee everywhere, no cleanup) and shower (no soap or shampoo, water turned on but doesn't get on his body, bathroom missing, shower curtain drawn back so water spills all over the floor, etc. etc.) There seems to be no reason for any of this beyond "I forgot" which we know isn't the case. The only bad part is that all the kids share a bathroom so I am getting all kinds of reports about the state of their bathroom from Pollito who is my absolutely meticulous about grooming and hygiene and absolutely fastidious about cleanliness. He is appalled at the state of the bathroom so part of Tortuga's morning routine these days involves not using the bathroom until AFTER everyone else and cleaning the bathroom after he uses it. This will lead to a meltdown, destruction or change in behavior. We shall see.
Corazon is really struggling emotionally. I think a big part of this is hormones and she is having some pretty big feelings these days that usually manifest in rudeness and anger directed at me. One other thing that is happening for her is that she is having dreams about losing me and C. or the family being in danger. I think these speak to her growing attachment to us and the fact that she can remember and articulate these is progress. She is also allowing herself to REMEMBER. For the longest time she never had any memories of her life before us. In fact, when she first came to us and for the first couple of years pretty much every single thing she did with us would be prefaced by "I have never _______ before." and she would tell us how awesome we were for letting her have/do that thing. She would flash us that charming smile of hers and thank us for introducing her to whatever it was--swimming pool, ice cream, lollipops, park swings, hair barettes, etc.--as though it was the first time she had ever encountered it. It took us a while to realize that was part of her coping and even at 4 she understood that adults liked hearing this.
That was just the opposite of Tortuga. We never measured up to his standards. If I cooked something, his birth mother made it better. If we ate out at a new place, he'd been there with her. If he got a treat, she gave him more, bigger, better ones. When we went to a movie, play, park, event, he'd been there/done that/seen it with her and it was so much better. We understood it was part of his remaining connected to her and his desire to remember the good times with her because as bad as the neglect had been at times and despite having lived with her so rarely in those years before he came to us that attachment was there for him. We understood it and tried to honor it as best we could. It slso drove us crazy because it was constant and often led to rages after we did anything that could be deemed as fun or even just pleasant.
Last week during lunch the two older kids and I were talking about some of their early behaviors as we discussed the progress they had made over the years. Tortuga was asking why he had a tendency to remember things as "all bad" or "all good" and he wondered why other people would remember "only the good" since in his mind that was "a lie." We talked about resiliency and nostalgia and why both of those are important to many of us. I recounted for him the tendency he had to "sugar coat" some of early experiences as part of a coping strategy he employed often when he wanted to think about his mother (as opposed to all his foster homes being "all bad.") I reminded him how often he had told us how much better/bigger/faster/etc. things were with his mother's as opposed to us. He seemed to remember this and was even able to laugh at the absurdity of some of his comments. In the last year or so we have worked with him on his tendency to do the opposite of this which is to remember everything about her as "all bad." As we were wrapping up lunch, Pollito announced that they had no toilet tissue in their bathroom so Corazon went to get a replacement roll and handed it to Tortuga to take upstairs with him. Without missing a beat that boy turned to me, held up that roll, and said "I had better toilet paper at my birth mom's." Then he smiled. We laughed so hard, both at his delivery and ability to joke appropriately, but also at the progress he had made over the past 5 years.