THIS morning I was awake early, and as usual I was thinking about jobs. Sometimes I can't really imagine what people think about if it's not the jobs they have to do. It's actually quite a comfort to have a tick list in your head all day, with the things you've got done crossed off, and the next things to be done lined up.Yesterday it was time to cook tea and the table has to be cleared of opened mail and homework stuff and ripped up packaging from the headphones that came in the post but aren't right so will have to be sent back and someone will have to monitor to make sure that the payment is refunded because the website said you could and we do want a refund because we want a different pair now anyway from a different website so instead of throwing the packaging away I'm examining it to see if the rips are small enough to re-use the packaging and already you're behind in your jobs.
AND you start a pan boiling for the potatoes and at the same time get a tea towel off the hook to clear the draining board of upturned cups and spoons and cereal bowls, only you pick up one of the cups and notice tea stains near the top and it needs a proper scrub so it goes back in the dry sink and you notice there are two other cups in the sink and you need to have a word again about people not washing up after themselves.
YOU get five potatoes out of the bag, then an extra one to be on the safe side, hunt the potato peeler out of the drawer, and start scraping them, something you find you do furiously fast for some reason. You fetch the packet of sausages from the fridge.
THEN your foster child comes down and plonks on a chair at the kitchen table, funny how children are drawn to a kitchen once cooking starts. She says she needs a new phone, and you have to show some interest while getting the sausages out of the wrapper without touching them or you have to wash your hands and she's explaining that her phone is crap and that the screen is cracked, and you wonder if she did it accidentally on purpose to get a new one but don't ask while getting out the scissors to separate the sausages and simultaneously rub the tea stains off the cups in the sink and put them on the draining board.
YOU hear your foster child murmur; “Guess what?” and you have to reply “What?” and she says “I got detention Monday”. And you go to the freezer to get a bag of sweetcorn and there's not enough in the bag so it's going to be peas. Or maybe beans. You say “Oh no! What for?” and she replies “Nothing.” You find your frying pan among the other pans and go to the larder for the sunflower oil because you need a drop in there to stop them sticking, and as you put the plastic bottle of oil in the larder you make a mental note you'll need to buy some more before the end of the week, you wonder how to follow up the detention thing without stressing her out.
SO you run the scissors under a tap while and stick them back in the drawer thinking they've probably still got sausage on them but people can take their chances. Then as you're getting four plates out and four lots of knives and forks you say “What are you supposed to have done then?” in your best casual voice.
YOU check the potatoes which are boiling hard but you don't want mash because someone doesn’t eat mash, you’re lucky they eat boiled, so you have to stay with the potatoes. You get a medium saucepan out of the cupboard and flick on the kettle to get some hot water for the peas. You mentally rehearse how to apologise it’s peas not sweetcorn.
“I was wondering what you're supposed to have done then?”, as I pour probably a few too many peas into the pan and notice the kettle has gone “Phhhhhht” because it hardly had any water in it when I switched it on. So you cross to the sink to fill it up halfway and hear “I don't know do I?”
SO the kettle is boiling, the potatoes and the sausages are away, you have a moment so you go over and sit down and say “Is there anything I can do?” and you hear, “You can get Stephanie Whatsername and her lot off my back. And Mrs Munroe.” So you sigh and say your “oh dears” and put a hand on a shoulder and now she's crying, or at least there are some tears. Anger? Fear? Or because you're being kind?
YOU have to get up to check the potatoes, turn them down, and flip the sausages, which suggests you aren't 100% focussed, so you say something to show you're in the moment; “ Were they being not very nice then?”
BUT it's like you've been rude by getting up and she says “Who cares?!” and you leave the food and sit down again to show she is more important than cooking and she knows she's kind of pushing you to ruin the meal and you want to say let's talk later but that isn't right so you say “I'll just turn everything down” so you do and come back. And it turns out there was a fight and she's on a warning for exclusion.
EXCLUSION. This happens to lots of kids not just foster children. What do you do when it's your own kids? You call the school and ask for the facts. You decide to do that in the morning, but don't say so. You have to think of a distraction.
YOU say “Have you chosen a phone you want?”
“What's it like?”
“It's a G4 Spukii Android phablet, do you know the one I mean? Like I saw on Hollyoaks dunno how they do that ‘cos they only came out two weeks ago and my mum says soaps are recorded six weeks ahead or something.”
“Is Jasmine still going out with that Brandon?”
“That's not Hollyoaks.”
“It's Waterloo Road”
PANIC over. I learned all this changing-the-subject technique at training. What's more, I caught the potatoes before they fell apart, and the sausages were okay too, though I've never had a sausage sent back yet.