How soon is too soon for a child to choose to call you Mum and Dad?
4 days is all it took “Scarlett” and seeing as she is 11 years old with no developmental delays (none that we’ve noticed at least) we thought that was a bit odd. Actually…..a LOT odd.
Don’t get me wrong, it bought tears to my eyes. As emergency, respite and short term carers, the likely hood of any children ever choosing to call us Mum and Dad is slim to none. That’s ok. That’s the types of care we have chosen to provide.
It started at bedtime one night, when we both got a hug with a “goodnight Dad” and “goodnight Mum”. We smiled and said “Goodnight sweetie”. We didn’t think much of it. Just had a bit of a smile together once she was in bed and commented on how cute was that. The next morning at school drop off, I got a hug and “goodbye Mum”. Hmmmmm. That’s lovely, but very strange, in front of her friends? What’s up with that! Then “Scarlett” called me twice from school that day. The first to let me know it was meet and greet night with her teachers after school, the second to tell me she’d given me the wrong time. That’s fine, it was her finishing the calls with “Love you”.
OK. Now I’m concerned, so it was time to call our Support Worker.
After a chat with SW’s supervisor (SW wasn’t available) she suggested chatting with “Scarlett” about boundaries and that it’s not ok to call us Mum and Dad and that it was a concern because she isn’t going to be with us for that long.
So our chat at the end of dinner was something like this:
We love that you call us Mum and Dad. It’s an honour. But, we need you to understand that you aren’t here to stay forever. The department are looking at your family members right now that you might be able to live with, and that’s the best thing for you. Whether it’s your father, or grandparents or maybe an Aunty and Uncle, family is the best place for you to be. It might not feel like that at the moment, but if you lived with us, it would be very hard for us to organise times for you to spend time with your family, if you are with family, you get to keep in contact with the rest of your family so much more easily. We are right at the bottom of the list of people the department will ask to look after you. We’re here for you until they find a suitable place for you, and we will be so sad when you do leave, but, you will be better off with family. It might not feel like it right now, but, later, when it happens, you’ll know it’s the best thing. We’re worried that by calling us Mum and Dad, you are going to find it really hard when you do need to move on. We’re touched that you would give us this honorary title, and it’s ok if you do want to call us Mum and Dad, but, you need to remember that it doesn’t mean that you will get to stay though.
Such a hard conversation to have.
Any other suggestions on how we could have handled this?