One year since my son was returned to my care

I don’t normally write at the end of the day when I’m tired, so this will be short…

It’s ironic, given the subject of todays post, that I’m writing it while Josh is away. We just spent lunch and the afternoon with my brother, his two children and his fiancé, and Josh will be there until Wednesday evening. I’m not on leave anyway, so he would be bored sitting at home with his grandmother.

On December 15th last year, we spent the morning in family court, and the end result was that the magistrate ruled that “there is no reason for the foster care to continue”, and so he came to live with me.

It’s been a good year. Josh is happy to be living with me, and I am happy. Everything else fades in significance compared with that.

Things are not perfect. I was thrust back into parenting an eight year old, who is intelligent and happy, but also moody, manipulative, and always willing to take advantage and test the boundaries. In other words he’s a normal boy.

I had to get used to that. He had to adjust to me no longer just being the dad that plays with him, but also someone he must respect and obey. And I had to learn to put rules and boundaries in place – easy enough… and enforce them – not so easy. And it’s especially difficult when my track record has been such that I never did learn to discipline myself. But it’s been a year now, and we’ve got into a routine. I think I’m getting a handle on this parenting thing.

His behaviour also deteriorated at school in the first half of the year, and this led to some horrendous marks in spelling tests… 2 out of 20 for instance. After that, I made him do a spelling test with me ever day, such that by Wednesday each week he was getting all his words right. Then he’d still get a couple wrong in tests, and honestly I don’t understand how those tests work… He’d have a fixed set of words to be tested each week, and then have to write them in sentences, so invariably he’d get other words wrong. That’s not how it worked when I was in school. Anyway, he was promoted to grade 3.

I’ve also had to learn not to compare him to me… That just wouldn’t be fair. My schooldays were a breeze… I was always lazy; never did much work, and always did well. But he’s not me. Maybe he needs to work a little harder, and I hope it will get easier as he gets older.

What I haven’t gotten right is to teach him to listen to my mother. He backchats all the time, and when I’m not around, he refuses to obey her. The other day he refused to pick some clothes up off the floor because “Daddy Bear didn’t say I must”. (Daddy Bear… one of the first books we read this year contained the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and he started calling me Daddy Bear then.) I’m sarcastic to my mother, because frankly she annoys me. She’s not supposed to be here but has nowhere to go. So my attitude rubs off. I think his attitude to her is totally my fault.

Also we miss Josh’s sister and mother, but they will be coming up from Cape Town to spend a few days with us, from December 24th. We are both looking forward to that.

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