On being adaptable

When we were matched with Little Legs, a significant criteria was that she needed to be placed in a home with other children. Her Foster Family had a gaggle of teenagers and wider family who were in and out of the family home on a daily basis.

One of the things we fought hard for was for Little Legs to share a bedroom with two of her sisters, Happy Dreamer and Little Bud. We felt it would be key in helping her to settle in to her new family and her new home. We had previously had conversations with our SW about what we would be willing to compromise if our future child needed to have their own room.

Yes, we could put up a partition wall. Permission for that was already gained by the previous owners when they built the extension that the girls’ room is in. But it wasn’t what we wanted to do. It wasn’t what we felt was the right thing for our girls.

It almost cost us the match at the final hurdle, as the Local Authority’s ADM was not happy with a handful of aspects of the match, the plan to share being a big issue. Three horribly long weeks after she was due to return her decision, the ADM finally agreed that it would be in Little Legs’ best interests to share a room with her sisters and that if it at some time she needed her own room we could make that parental decision.

Little Legs come to join our Family Six.

Bedtimes have been varied over the months since we became a family of six. For the first ten days or so I slept on the floor next to Little Legs’ bed and held her and soothed her multiple times every night as she grieved the loss of her Foster Family and cried out for her wonderful Foster Mum.

We took it in turns to sit in their room, trying to encourage her to sleep at a reasonable hour. Usually successfully, with her often sleeping before her two sisters came up to bed at 8pm. Earlier this year, after months of numb bum syndrome, we progressed to being in our bedroom across the landing until she was asleep.

However bedtimes have become increasingly difficult over the last couple of months and we’ve been racking our brains and trying so many different strategies to help diffuse the tension around bedtime, alongside trying to keep everything calm and settled in order to help Little Legs to relax and sleep.

We tried a relaxation story CD for kids: she insisted on staying awake to hear the end of the story. We tried a quiet bath and massage each night: it didn’t seem to make any difference. We tried keeping her up later: she simply whinged til she went to bed and then stayed awake as usual.

Just under a year after she came home, we are in the position of having spent today splitting the three girls’ large bedroom in half. Using their wardrobes and a large piece of dark thick fabric, we created a ‘wall’ which allows Little Legs to have her own ‘room’. We have moved the furniture round, put up new blackout curtains in Little Legs’ room and personalised both spaces for the girls.

Little Legs was sooooo excited this morning when I told her what we had planned. She bounced around the room while we moved furniture and hoovered, singing about having her own room. Her two bigger sisters are also thrilled to have a little bit of their own space again.

It would be easy to feel like we made a mistake in pushing so hard for them to share. We went against the advice of some Panel members. They were adamant at one point that we must have a separate room available for Little Legs. We worked hard to persuade the ADM that it was a parenting decision that we needed to make when and if the time was right, and that we needed to be allowed time to make that discussion and not have it forced upon us.

We know without a doubt that sharing has helped her to bed in to our family. It helped her to be able to watch as the girls modelled Family Six to her.

Tonight, in her new room, she was asleep within an hour of going to bed. After last night’s shenanigans which saw her still awake at almost 10pm! We will see what happens tomorrow. And the night after.

But for this evening I am giddy with relief that our exhausted 4 year old is sleeping soundly in her new room, with her new curtains to make her room nice and dark. Mr Six and I are enjoying a beer and some chocolate with the Belgium:Italy game on the telly in a very quiet house. For the first time in weeks. And boy does it feel good.

Did we get it right? Who knows. But we are learning. And adapting.

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