I wonder what we talked about in bed before we fostered?
I'm thinking about the half hour sitting up with a cup of tea on a Saturday or Sunday morning, if you're lucky, before everything gets going.
We used to talk about our children, work, what our plans were for the day. The garden, we talked about the garden quite a bit. And jobs that wanted doing around the house. Then we'd talk about tea, and what we needed at the supermarket.
Since our first placement, apart from the times we've had nobody staying, we talk about almost nothing else but our fostering.
Why? Well if you foster, you'll know why. It's partly because you want everything to turn out well, in other words because you care. It's partly because there's so much to get right, you don't want to miss anything, you share every detail to make sure you're both up to date.
But to be honest, it's mostly because fostering is just so very very interesting.
I feel a bit guilty saying it. I don't know why the guilt, perhaps I feel as though you should be careful saying that you somehow enjoy something that's so serious. Something where there has been so much pain. All the little nitty gritty nuggety details of other people's lives. The warts and all disclosures of how a child's family came off the rails, and what you can do to help get them back on the rails. Should we allow ourselves to indulge our fascination? Are we rubber-necking at the scene of someone else's domestic car crash?
Look, I'm not enjoying it in a ghoulish way. One big reason we want to get into the child's life is to make it better, if we can. And we have to know what's going on and what went before, how the experiences have affected the child, and how to help with those things.
Something happened to us, well to me actually, a couple of weeks ago and I've been licking my wounds ever since. I said "us" because I shared it first chance I had. Fostering doesn't half mean sharing, hence the sitting up in bed with a cup of tea talking - whispering actually - about nothing else.
What happened was this. I asked our eldest child for a bit of advice about computer games, as a foster child is spending a lot of time on them, and as carers we need to keep up. My eldest asked what the game was, and I explained how the game worked. I already knew what you had to do to win, how the game frustrated your efforts, what the tools are, what the prizes are. I explained how players can team up. I even knew the identities of the other players that the foster child is playing with and against.
I'm up on all this because Blue Sky are big on IT training for internet safety. Plus my social worker talks it through during every supervision visit. Plus I write it up in the weekly record we have to keep. The internet offers huge opportunities for disadvantaged young people to learn technical skills, improve self-esteem and communication, and simply to lose themselves in another world. But it also comes with it's dangers, I don't need to repeat those we all know what they are.
So anyway, I appear to impress my eldest with my knowledge of this particular game. Not so. Eldest asks "And what's my favourite game at the moment?"
"And what did I play nothing else but for the three months up until Christmas? And what level did I get to in the end? And why did I pack it up? And who did I mostly play with?"
Although it hurt, eldest had a helluva good point.
The professional interest I was taking in fostering was seeming to eclipse the natural interest I had in my own children.
Of course, the reason in this case is that in truth computer games bore me silly, but I'm obliged to know everything about a foster placement's internet activity. With my own children I can afford a greater degree of trust; I don't want to police them. I do my checking discreetly.
But I missed some things, I missed that my children need to have it made clear to them they are the most important children to us, and I missed noticing myself getting more and more absorbed by fostering.
Self-awareness is a truly great thing. It's all about knowing who you are, why you think what you think and do what you do. It's about being honest. With yourself. About yourself.
I hear that Blue Sky are offering training in mindfulness.
That's what I'm talking about!