Apathy was the unspoken elephant in our home last week. If I were being honest with myself, I would probably say the past month. Apathy. It’s like melancholy…. it comes and goes without warning and obvious reason.
I first noticed it with Nick’s home school studies. He was not putting in the effort to learn. He thought he could just breeze through his math and writing assignments without any effort and still pass the weekly tests. At first, I decided to let him continue with this lackluster studying. I figured that he would learn a valuable lesson of what happens when you do not put the effort into his grades. He did not. Apathy. Blank stares when I read off his poor grades.
Nick never went out to dinner while in foster care. His big dinner “out” was (if he was lucky) McDonald’s drive-thru. Admittedly, Mike and I go out to eat more than we should. When Nick first came to us, we had a lot of family visiting and it was easier to go out to dinner. It got to be habit that we went out at least two or three times a week. Realizing how much eating out was killing our budget, we reeled it back in to eating out only once per week… if that. The past month we have been busy traveling and have eaten out more than usual. When we go out, Nick just sits there. He no longer engages in conversation. He is not interested in trying new foods. He just mopes. Apathy.
His room is a total mess. He does not do any of his chores without being told too. TV has lost it’s shine for him… although he still can sit and watch his favorite shows and be engaged with them. He is still eager to help out whenever we ask but we ask to ask. Occasionally, he will ask to help without our prompting. And, lastly, when his swim lessons started up again last week, he dreaded going. His swimming lessons were the highlight of his week. After he went, he was happy but before the lesson, he dragged his feet.
In a normal child situation, parents might be tempted to seek intervention or perhaps anti-depressant meds. But being a parent of a foster-to-adopt child, it is not that easy. There is not a quick fix. There is something bugging Nick. He may not even know what it is or how to verbalize why he feels apathy. From our training and therapy sessions, I have a pretty good guess to what it going on…. fear.
It is my job to try to figure out why he has a fear. It literally could be anything. It could be that he is not getting good grades and has a fear that he is stupid. This fear came with him to us. He made us promise him to get him into a “smart kid” college when he is older. It could be the fear of not kicking hard enough in swimming to push him to the next level. His coach is super supportive but Nick takes the smallest of criticism like a ton of bricks. We have a very old and sick dog. His time on this earth is extremely limited. This pup use to watch over Nick and they have become very close. Perhaps Nick is anticipating his dog’s passing and unsure how to handle the situation. Even I do not know how to handle that situation with Nick…. or myself. This will be our first time with Nick dealing with loss. Although, Nick has known loss all of his life…. he has never experienced it with us.
Or all of Nick’s attitude could be a flashback from his past. He does not always share all of his past with us. I believe he does not want to talk about it because it gives it a new life in his present life. This is something that we have worked a lot on in therapy. Nick has one more month of school. We have set down new rules to try to improve his study habits and grades. He is on restriction from all electronics. He can read or help out around the house but no ipod, tv, xbox, etc. It won’t matter because to a foster-to-adopt child that has never had these electronics or toys or even a pillow, it is expected to be taken away. I think it is time to start up our family adoption therapy again if for no other reason than just a “check-up.”
My hope is that he can shed his constant companion and realize how much of life he misses when he invites Apathy out to play.