Sunday, February 03, 2013

I hope you have your antennae set to "Spot a compliment", otherwise you can easily miss it when they dish out a bit of praise.

Your foster children I mean.

They struggle to say thank you, don't they? Even if you pass the ketchup across the table as demanded, the best you can hope for, in most cases is a grudging grunt. I don't labour the please and thank you thing any more, don't even bother with saying it back to them when they pass the ketchup with that slightly exaggerated voice you use in the hope the words will rub off.

They're in care, not finishing school.

So if they can't say thank you for passing the sauce, what are we doing hoping they'll say thank you for trying to get their lives on track? In any case, it's not what we're in it for.

Nice when you get a little compliment though isn't it?

So we had this girl staying with us, fifteen years old. Had two big problems; going to school, food. Plus,like so many looked after children, she didn't want to talk about any of it, as if it made her a lesser human being.

One Monday morning, about three weeks after she arrived, she refused to get out of bed. I'd already tried everything on previous occasions; gentle sympathy, negotiation, getting cross. Nothing worked once she'd dug in, so this time I just went: "OK, I'll bring you tea and toast. See you downstairs when you like, Jeremy Kyle's on in about an hour."

While she watched TV I phoned the school and started cooking a full lunch. The works, laid it out in warm bowls on the table so she could pick and choose.

After Jeremy (who we wish a full recovery) had said goodbye, she joined me to eat.

After a bit of chit chat, I seized the moment:

"We admire you a lot. It must have been hell."

And she talked. And talked and talked and wept and talked and wept. Wept gently, dabbing her eyes with kitchen roll.

Must have talked for about twenty minutes. Every time it was my turn to say something I just nodded.

Lunch over I let her go back to the TV, and did the washing up.

She never opened up again.

The session did not result in any improvement to her behaviour, and I only remember the lunch vividly for this reason: she left us about 3 months later, and as part of the deal I visited her at her new place. we chatted over a cup of tea, then as I got up to go she said "You was alright actually." I said "How so?" She replied "At least you listened."

I guess that session where I was all ears and no advice meant a lot to her.

I know her little compliment meant a heck of a lot to me.

Rarity increases the value of everything.

The Secret Foster Carer


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