A teacher in our family says that two of her best friends and allies at school are her selective deaf ear and blind eye.
Same in fostering.
She says that if she picked up on every single thing that the students shouldn't be doing or saying she wouldn't get any teaching done.
And I find that too, especially with our latest placement.
He is pretty much an adult, but because he's dealing with depression there are all sorts of small not-quite-right behaviours which I'd discuss with most children, but which I've found myself ignoring with him. Because if I picked up on them all he'd be crestfallen and that could lead to black dog moods which set him back weeks.
The teacup issue is the absolute case in point.
THE TEA CUP ISSUE
It doesn't seem like a big deal, but then again it is. See, we use rounds of tea in our house to bring everyone together. Saturdays, Sundays, school holidays; the kettle is always warm.
When he first arrived, no-one minded him leaving his cup wherever he put it down after finishing. For the first week or so we didn't want to start nagging; he was in a strange house, he'd had a bad time. He has low self-esteem and over-reacts if he thinks he's being criticised, not in an aggressive way, just withdraws into a cocoon of silent sadness.
He's been steadily improving in most respects, but the tea cup issue must soon be considered.
I've got past being annoyed. Even when, one day, there were only three of our tea mugs available and clean in the kitchen. Several brown-stained ones in the dishwasher. I did a hunt and found two hidden out of sight on the floor next to the armchair he uses, three dotted around the computer room and FIVE up in his room.
One in the back garden and one under the tree in the front garden where we suspect he might hide to have a crafty roll-up even though he swears he doesn't smoke.
Therefore The Tea Cup issue is bigger than I thought. After all, he usually takes his plate up to the sink after a meal. He puts used clothing in the laundry basket.
WHAT IS THE TEA CUP ISSUE?
Is it an unconscious longing to be an infant again, wherein all things are done for him by the adult? Or at least they should have been done for him, so maybe he's having a miniature re-childhood and experiencing the right feelings of being looked-after. Or perhaps tea-drinking is a mark of adulthood and he doesn't want to be there yet? Doesn't want to be an adult until he's had a proper childhood?
Or is it an unconscious rejection of his new foster home? Does he recognise the symbolism of our relentless; "Who' wants a cuppa?" as a way of saying "We are family" and, grateful as he may be for our support would rather be with his own chaotic clan.
Then again; possibly it's to do with the fact that his mind is always teeming, so that at most given moments he's a million miles away, turning everything over and over in his head so that he's oblivious to the fact he's just finished a cuppa and ought to do something with the empty like everyone else does.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT THE TEA CUP ISSUE
Well for starters here's what I'm not going to do; I'm NOT going to say;
"Would you mind taking your tea cup out please, and put it in the sink."
a) that's only a half solution, I really want him washing it up, drying it and hanging it on its hook.
b) he'll twig that it's been an ongoing thing and his mood will likely plummet when he works out we've had a long-term grievance and put up with it because he's not well (he is resistant to the idea he has a mental health issue, ask Prince Harry about that).
c) Bottom line; it wouldn't work. I just know it in my gut, we'd be back to square one on day two.
What I MIGHT do is;
Buy a set of individualised mugs (many of ours are matching) so that everyone has their own mug. It would mean he'd get something he's probably never had, namely ownership of a household item. It would lead to jokes about why is dad drinking out of mum's cup, is there something he wants to tell us?
I might put the communal cups in a cupboard, it's not as though we ever have two dozen people around all wanting tea.
What I PROBABLY WILL do is...carry on as before, picking up his mugs as I go along and washing them up for him. And feeling a bit like a butler. But also, feeling a bit like someone who's doing all they can for him, showing as much care and love as can be done.
Because I suspect that, bottom line, a piece of him loves testing how much we care and feeling safe when he gets the re-assurance, and if the Tea Cup Issue is giving him that, then bring it on buster!
I'll try to pay enough attention to myself so that when the day dawns that he takes his cup to the sink, washes it out, dries it and hangs it up, I'll notice, say nothing, but do three mental cartwheels for joy. And happen it will.