I was reading (yet another) newspaper article about obesity when something occurred to me about fostering.
The article started (as always) with statistics about how many of us are seriously overweight. We hear nothing else these days; we all need to drop a stone or two.
The article then listed (the usual) ways to slim; cut down on food and exercise more.
Here's the thing I got wondering: food is very important to most foster children, more important than it is to ordinary children. The reason it's extra-important is because their supply of food before they came into care was likely to have been erratic. Children need to know the When Where and What of their food supply or they get anxious.
We had a child placed with us way back, he'd been deliberately starved. Unbelievably he'd been consciously deprived of food as a way of trying to break him. He'd even been forced to sit with the rest of the "family" and watch them eat while he starved. His sister used to steal scraps from the kitchen pedal bin and sneak them up to him late at night. Not surprisingly he needed food to be available 24 hours a day. We told him he could use the fridge any time. We put fruit and biscuits in his room. We put more into his lunch box than a coal miner could eat. He never went anywhere without a snack at his elbow. He eased up after a while, developed confidence that food was there for when he was actually hungry, but he taught me a lot about food and needy people, because for him it was more than eating. It was a substitute for all the emotional things a person needs. Love.
So maybe all the overweight people are lacking enough love, because they aren't lacking food are they?
I say "they" when I ought to say "we" because I could lose a stone and a half. I put on seven pounds for each of my two children and the weight's never come off. If I had the flu I'd drop 4 lbs but they'd creep back on. I've put on about 2 lbs per year since having children. Was I unloved? No, but I didn't feel I was very important compared to my babies and that's a type on unlovedness, putting yourself behind everybody else in the house.
Here's the thing, fostering has taken away any shades of unlovedness, because I haven't put on an ounce since I started fostering.
It's not that our foster children love me. They don't. I'm not hoping they ever do. The job is to get them back to the parents they love.
What it is is this: fostering has taught me to love myself better than I used to.
In fostering your social worker keeps your self-esteem up. The going gets tough at times and in real life you cut yourself another slice of cake to show you that you love yourself. In fostering you have two things going that beat that.
One; your social worker's job is to make sure you are appreciated. That doesn't mean they give you a round of applause for everything you do. If you could do better at something they'll explain it, that's exactly how it should be. If you can't take constructive criticism you're just making things harder for yourself. I found it painful at first, but when I had a moment to think I realised the criticism was correct. And when they praise you, that's correct too. So if you keep your end up you'll get praise, and that makes you feel loved.
Two: Blue Sky leave you in no doubt that you have to put yourself first. This advice stunned me at first. How can you put yourself above some of the poor little mites who come shuffling into your home in need of so much of everything? The answer is easy: if you go under you'll take the child under, and everything else you hold dear. When you put yourself first you realise that you matter. And the act of looking after yourself is also a type of love.
The Fostering Diet is not foolproof though. I still find myself eating the crusts I cut off the lunchbox sandwiches. It's easier than putting them in the bin. Saves approximately 5 seconds, but I still nosh 'em. It's what Nigella would do isn't it?