Our boy has done a complete 180 degree turn during the past week. He has gone an entire week without a single tantrum (by which I mean no hitting, punching, throwing things, threatening to hurt himself). That is probably the longest he's ever gone since being with us. He's been happy, smiling a lot, telling us he loves us a lot (unsolicited statements like "I love you, Ima..." or "I love spending time with you, Mama..."), and totally fun to be around. He's earned new privileges, he's talked about his feelings instead of acting out, and he's been pretty much like a "normal" kid with fairly severe ADHD. He's had no aggression or violence or angry outbursts. It's pretty incredible.
Family life has been a total joy lately, which is such a relief from the constant struggling of the last 4 months. There have been difficult moments, things are far from perfect... but they are so, so much better. I think the Prozac is working, and allowing the therapy to be more effective... which is giving credence to our belief that Big Guy's violent tantrums were not just behavioral but instead were due to a combination of anxiety, depression and PTSD. He's only been on Prozac a few weeks, and just this week we upped the dose, so it's possible things will get even better from here. I can't help feeling like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop - How can this be real? How long can it last? But I'm also starting to let go and just enjoy these times... and giving him loads of positive feedback about how awesome his behavior is and how much fun he is to be around.
Big Guy told us last night that he's being good so the judge will let him go home. It broke my heart to hear him say that, because it means he really still thinks he was removed because he was bad and he can go home when he's good. But it was a good opportunity to let him know that being happy and being well-behaved will help him in every aspect of life, no matter where he lives. Whether he goes home or is adopted, he will have a better life and more privileges if he can behave respectfully and he feels good inside. We reminded him he isn't in foster care because he is bad, that he's in foster care because mommy has problems parenting (problems she is working on right now), and that we can't promise that good behavior will mean he gets to go home.
At first I was worried that raining on his parade like this might make him start acting out again, but my dad reminded me that there's no way that Big Guy was able to keep up such amazing behavior for an entire week purely out of willpower so he could go home. If that was the case, he'd have been on perfect behavior from the beginning of his time here. I think he just had an easier time behaving the way he'd like to behave because he's less depressed and anxious, plus he's been working in therapy on internalizing that hurting us isn't going to make him be able to go home. When he saw his behavior being so positive, it may have renewed his hope that now he can have enough self-control that he can behave well at home so that mommy will want him back and the judge will send him back. So I don't think he's going to regress simply because we are giving him reality checks about his power to make the judge send him home to mommy. He looked so deflated after I corrected him, I wanted to cry.
We knew from the beginning that "Oppositional-Defiance Disorder" and "ADHD" didn't fully encapsulate what was going on with this child. I'm so glad we finally found professionals who agreed that we needed to dig deeper into the psychiatric issues. Big Guy is happier, calmer and so much more focused. I feel like a weight has been lifted off of me. Even if it's temporary, it's a huge gift. Times like this remind me that all this hard work is worth it. And you know what? In the (unlikely) change that he does go back home to mommy, who is so limited in so many ways, I think it would be great to send him back as a happier, less aggressive, more well-adjusted kid who is easier for a cognitively limited mom to parent. I finally understand what foster parents mean when they say that they get satisfaction out of reuniting with their families a healthier kid who's done a lot of healing and learned new coping skills.