I mentioned that the kids are getting restless with that magic 1-year date looming in the near future and the recent addition of visits held out in public. (The visits are still supervised, just no longer held within the easily controlled environment of the fully staffed county visitation center.)
It's manifesting itself in ramping up of defiant behaviors. I'd noticed it at first with O--who has begun to tell me that he'll just wait and do whatever-I-just-said-he-couldn't when he's at Mommy's house. He's back to flat out ignoring us when we try to gently redirect him, forcing a show-down that I don't want to have, but can't let him win. It's exhausting. And this 4 year old--who has not had an toileting accident in months -- has had 5 in the last week.
Now, I'm noticing it in L as well. She breaks a long standing house rule--don't run in the house. I remind her--We don't run in the house, please! She stops running, says sorry. 5 minutes later, she's running again. Correction again, "Sorry!" again. So this time I follow up with a warning -- if you can't remember these rules for more than 5 minutes after a reminder, you might need some time to yourself today. No!No! She straightens her back, shakes her head. I'll remember! But 5 minutes later is running again. So, when I enforce the consequence, she tears up and begs for another chance.
It's been clear to me from day one that these kids have never had consistently enforced discipline in their lives. We have established structure, routine, and consequences for poor choices. We were running along pretty smoothly until just recently.
So what changed?
2 things. School's out--which loosens the structure of their days because there is no time spent at school anymore. And community visits started.
I'm trying to believe that the two things are equally at fault for this downward slide, but it's hard not to blame the community visits. Especially for O, whose behavior has changed so dramatically and who only ever had school 3 days a week to begin with. When I begged the caseworkers for advice, I got nothing helpful. Just reassurance that they aren't surprised to hear it. CW said that at O's age, it's especially common. The kids can sense from the change in visits (and the way BioMom is talking about her house to them) that they might go home soon. O can't really verbalize what he's feeling about that--the conflict between feeling happy about being with Mommy again (because he does love and miss her) and feeling sad and anxious about leaving the place and people that have been "home" for the last quarter of his life.
We go to court again in about 2 weeks, so I'm just trying to hang in there with the patience and the not-actually-killing-anyone until then. That hearing might send them home, might set up transitional visits, might do any number of things. But, at the moment, both CW and my agency worker think that we'll know more about a permanent plan then. So, I am left crossing my fingers until then and hoping that having a plan will mean I can actually tell the kids something. And praying that knowing a plan will help them cope with the stress and uncertainty that is still a part of the lives of foster children who are stuck in this limbo land of "waiting" for other people to decide what will happen to them.