I sometimes wonder how I'll look back on fostering once I decide to hang up my boots.
Of course, technically I could do that tomorrow; one phone call and you're out if that's what you want. Might take a few days to find new homes for your foster children, but any of us could go back to where we were before we started fostering in the blink of an eye. In fostering, you're not getting into something you can't get out of.
Not going to happen in our case, although I've met foster carers who've left and I have nothing but respect for the good they did while they were fostering.
However, love it as I do, the day will dawn when I have to wave goodbye, hopefully it's a decade or two away.
But how will I look back?
I'm going to be as fiercely honest as I can here, especially as people read this blog wondering if fostering is for them.
It's the best thing I've ever done in my life, by a country mile.
But it's not all plain sailing. I'll remember the enormous challenge of trying to work out each new kid as they arrive. I'll remember frequent difficulties in the first few weeks, not always but sometimes. They are so frightened they get pent up; nothing worse than you see on Eastenders, but raised voices sometimes, yes. But I'll also remember that in every case the child grew better and calmer as the days went by. I'll remember a £20 note that was put out for a pizza delivery, silly me, it went missing, but I'll also remember that I mentioned it the following Friday night and deliberately left another £20 on the telephone table and it was there when the delivery arrived.
I'll remember sharing a lot of pain that comes from finding out and trying to imagine the experiences that some children have been through, and that's what kept me going through the squabbles and that missing £20.
Then there are the highs.
I'll remember the teenager who couldn't face school. She was massively overweight, for reasons which were absolutely correct, I can't tell you what those reasons were except to say that if I'd been her I would have ballooned to sixteen stone too. She had no friends, only enemies and was hauled in one day to be bawled out for bullying. I went in with her and gave as good as we got.
She never went back to school. Of course there were arguments with the authorities about this, about how could she get a job if she never got any certificates and I came back with the point that if she gets to find some peace and be happy that's the job in hand. I took her side and at the end of the day we won.
A few days later she said I was the first person who'd ever listened to her.
I'll remember that every single kid that came through our front door left us the better for being here. Not just my guess; our social workers, the nurses, the review officers, you name it. They all said the same thing; "Well done and thank you".
I've worked in lots of jobs. No-one has ever come back to me from above with anything like that until I fostered.
I'll look back on it with only one regret; I didn't do it sooner.
But there's a long way to go. One of my best friends in fostering is nearer seventy than sixty and I hope to match her stamina.
I guess the fact is I'm looking forward to future rewards more than looking back on past rewards.
Like I said, I just wish I'd started sooner, made that phone call, in my case I Googled "Fostering" and Blue Sky came up first so I rang the number and...