Sometimes you can tell right from the off if a day isn't going to go well.
Children in foster care occasionally get out of bed on the wrong side and there's not much can be done.
I learned the hard way to have my antenna twitching from my first cheery 'Good Morning!'. If there's no reply you know what you've got. Or maybe you get a grunt back, and have to assess what the grunt means, and what's the level of grump.
When it happens you have to concentrate to get things right and avoid a build up.
When I started fostering, having brought up my own children who by comparison (or so I remembered) were models of consistency, I was a bit affronted when a foster child ignored me or made dismissive noises that translated as "I don't know/care" if you asked what they'd like for breakfast.
I'd make the big mistake; I'd try to fix things for her. I'd make her favourite breakfast, compliment her hair and choice of T shirt, dangle a treat;
"Would you like to go to the cinema on Saturday, or bowling?"
And somehow my efforts seemed to make things worse.
I learned the best thing to do every morning is to be neutral. No overblown good cheer, no singing along to the radio, in fact no radio. Just a calm, measured household. No fuss when they show their face, sometimes they seem to wish they were invisible. Or maybe not exist at all.
I stopped digging to try to find out what the matter was. The reason I gave up was because they themselves didn't know.
It happened this Easter;
Good Friday morning. A bit of a lie-in for all, but he clearly didn't want to get going. At half past ten he appeared, scurrying to the bathroom then back to his bedroom.
I made a bowl of cereal and took it up.
"Don't want it."
What I've found is that it's all down the next things you say or do.
I DON'T say anything like; "There's no need to be like that" Nor do I say "Well what would you like instead."
I MIGHT say "I'll leave it here in case you change your mind".
I DON"T say "What's wrong?"
I WON"T do anything that might be construed judgemental such as pick up socks and pants off the floor or even open the curtains.
I MIGHT say something like; "It's going to be a quiet house today, but if you want a lift to town or a friend's just ask." And I definitely wouldn't mention friends unless I was sure there hadn't been an argument.
I find that if you avoid trying to take control, and definitely avoid getting into a discussion/disagreement/argument, just become a piece of furniture, that's your best bet.
It's frustrating because you want to get to the bottom of the low spirit, maybe even solve a problem.
But you can't; it runs too deep. They have to be permitted to feel glum from time to time, surely to goodness.
The Good Friday grump turned out to be a Short Good Friday grump (apologies to Bob Hoskins).
I tried to suss what had brought it on; maybe bad family memories of Easter, no Easter eggs or egg-hunting games, maybe a child shocked at the story of a man being nailed to a cross, maybe he got busted on a computer game, or someone hacked him off online.
I'll never know. All I know is that by biding my time and picking the right moment to use my secret weapon, distraction, we started to climb upwards. I said;
"Do you remember your April Fools Day joke on dad? When he was in the bath and you knocked on the door and told him there was someone on the phone for him?"
His mind filled with a happy moment, and we were up and running.