The kitchen belongs to me.
Not very politically correct I know, and I would love to afford a housekeeper but that ain't going to happen anytime soon so in the meantime the kitchen is mine.
I got precious yesterday when I discovered someone had thrown away a J cloth and started a new one before I decided it had reached its sell-by date.
I mention this because I was reminded by the J cloth that in a family not everything belongs to any one person; a home is part personal space and part hippy-commune.
We've all got our own clothes, bathroom kit, personal effects.
Other stuff is everybody's: the sofa is first-come-first-served, the stairs are owned by whoever is on them at the time. No special plates in our house.
Territory is divided up; everyone has their own space, the rest belongs to one and all. Some territory is multi-purpose; for example the bathroom belongs to everybody, but when someone is in there it's personal space.
I mention this because it's a matter that also applies to something much more difficult to divvy up than stuff and space.
I'm talking about family decisions.
Big things like who gets to decide holiday choices (same resort as last year or an adventure?) Or Christmas things (real tree or artificial?).
Little things like what to have for tea tomorrow.
In all ordinary (for want of a better phrase) families, the decision-making process is a semi-democracy. When the children are young they have no real vote but as they grow up consultation starts which grows and their vote ends up counting as much as the parents, sometimes more.
Right, so you can see where I'm going with this one; because fostering is different.
Suppose you have an ten-year-old of your own and a twelve-year-old foster child who's been with you a year. Do they have equal say in deciding whether we're going bowling or to the cinema?
Right here and now I'll tell you straight I don't have a formula or an answer, there isn't one. You make it up of the hoof in fostering, just like ordinary families do.
The difference is that while organising family decisions for an ordinary family is a game of chess, organising family decisions in fostering is three-dimensional chess.
So good luck. You need wisdom, psychology, diplomacy, justice, knowledge, cunning, tact...the list is endless. You need strength, singleminded-ness, the courage to stick to decisions and the PR spin to see them out even when they turn out wrong.
Mostly you need good instincts because you don't often have much time.
And luck, never underestimate your need for luck.
If there is a formula, it's pretty obvious; to put your own views first (you DO know best), followed by your own children's views and needs, followed by your foster children's input depending on their age, ability, how long they've been with you and how long they are likely to be with you.
I sometimes think that the best person for bringing together a divided UK and a divided USA, reconcile a ravaged Middle East and a warring North and South Korea would be a typical foster parent, but you know what?
We've got something just as important to do.
FOSTERING AND EATING
Been thinking about an aspect of fostering which is huge but while we get excellent training on lots of skills is something that's best sorted between ourselves, namely getting our fostering children to eat well.
A small example is that I've discovered that red peppers (which have plenty of good vitamins) go down well in lots of guises for the simple reason of their colour, which matches pizzas and pasta.