"It's not my child, I'm his foster carer."
How many times do we wish we could tell the people in supermarkets or on the bus, that the child who's just told us to F off is not the by-product of our lifetime endeavour.
Bit like that car sticker you see on battered Fiestas "My Other Car Is A Porsche", you want to say "My real children are polite, kind and well behaved."
I was at a recent Blue Sky support meeting, where Carers get together with staff and chew the fat, kick a few issues around, drink lots of coffee. One Carer asked if we could have ID cards to show people. She'd had a child get out of hand on a long train trip, and felt all eyes on her. I suspect she was worried that someone was going to shop the child, or even her. Blue Sky reminded us all that they can and will supply people to help with potentially difficult situations rather than ID cards. Shame really, I quite fancied whipping out a little leather case with an important looking card in it and going "Stand back! Official Foster Carer coming through."
On the other hand, Blue Sky's strategy is probably the one.
We took our clutch to a restaurant for Easter Monday lunch. It was fun, no really, it was.
First up, one child had a problem with the fact it hadn't been planned out and discussed and agreed way in advance. This child gets regular flashbacks of being removed from home. She remembers one minute life as "normal" then a sudden and totally unexpected pandemonium of shouting, screaming, crying, fighting. Police and other people ordering each family member here and there, siblings being guided, escorted, and in the end more or less dragged into cars.
So for this child, if you let your concentration slip, an otherwise pleasant spontaneous surprise "I know! Let's go out for lunch!" is all it takes to trigger. So we straightened things by going through the plan in detail, especially how we would "All come home, here, to this house, together. And when we get home we'll all watch a DVD, together."
One other child, the teenager, spent an hour getting ready, like it was going to be a trip to Stringfellows.
We drove to a little country restaurant in a farmers barn.
Unfortunately, we were the only people there who weren't a pensionable couple.
Long story short; by the time we were onto puddings I had to pretend to go to the loo just for a stress busting breather. Eldest of our clutch had been outside and came back reeking of smoke to answer the mobile phone and sit at table having a shouting match at some acquaintance courtesy of O2 , while middle got stuck into a war game on the tablet which had to be played at max volume because other child was talking so loudly into mobile phone that the war-gamer couldn't hear the sound of bombs and machine guns properly. Youngest started to cry.
Right across the restaurant, one could tell, every table was discussing us.
I quite expected the waitress to add something to the bill.
Got home, and they were all bubbling with their day out. The one with flashback problems cornered me and politely asked for 24 hours notice in future, due to how surprises unsettle. Great self-awareness; tick. The secret smoker owned up just before bedtime and as a penance I got my new rule of "mobile phones off when out" agreed to; tick.
Foster Carers resolved to try not to give a stuff what other people think; tick.
The Secret Foster Carer