So, as half term ended I found out why Independence was such a big thing for one of my looked-afters.
It was their topic.
Their topic at school.
Nice one eh? Sure they go to school to learn where Berlin is and how to divide fractions, but it's cracking to know they also explore the world that really matters.
And boy does independence matter to them.
This is what happened:
The child invited some friends over on the last day of half term and I decided to let them choose what to do. So after lunch they came to me and said they wanted to go to the beach.
The beach. Never mind the massive pfaff this caused; the swimwear problem, the informing other parents, the blooming drive there. I said Yes.
An hour later we got to the beach and I paid the £8 to park on the front.
And I let them go, saying; "I'll sit in the car."
God it felt like I was breaking the law almost.
But off they went with a body board each.
Of course, I waited until they thought they were out of sight then put on my sweater, a pair of sunglasses, a baseball cap and slung a shoulder bag over my arm (disguises) and followed them.
All afternoon. Ducking from beach hut to beach hut as they moved along the in the shallows.
I began to realise what they had in mind.
This particular beach, when the tide's out, has a sand flat; a little island. You can swim across, people do.
This was their plan.
Luckily the local lifeguards know all about this and their lookout post is bang opposite. So, despite the risk..or to be precise because of the risk, I let them go.
Over they went on their body boards.
One of the pals is particularly well composed in life; tall, pleasantly confident, top of the class in lessons, plays guitar, fastest runner, lovely family, you name it, everything.
The other is a happy-go-lucky scamp, sound as a pound.
I watched my looked-after and the two pals and you wouldn't know which was which.
They reached land, and, in the lowering sun, ran about gleefully on the shiny sand, arms waving madly at their utter escape.
They weren't just free, they were overseas, in a foreign country, all by themselves, in total control.
In the car on the way home, the composed one said something I can't get out of my head;
"Today has been the second best day of my life."
"What was the best day?" asked my foster child.
"The day I was born," came the reply.
My new pledge in fostering, for this particular child anyway, is to lift this particular foster child to a place where the child believes the best day of the child's life was the day the child was born, because knowing what the child's been through it isn't. Yet.
Funny thing is that in the silence which followed that exchange in the car I swear I felt the child resolve the self same thing.
Can you beat fostering? Seriously, is there anything out there that comes close?