Friday, January 17, 2014


Sometimes you have to try to put yourself in the other person's shoes.

What's that joke by Ellen Degeneres? "If you don't like someone walk a mile in their shoes. Then at least you're a mile away. And you've got their shoes."

Hasn't she done well while we're on the subject? Seems like she's America's second biggest chat show host after Oprah Winfrey. Hasn't she done well too.

Sorry, I drifted off the subject.

Foster children have all got a massive past behind them, and one of the most rewarding things about fostering is helping them to deal with it.

I had a teenager stay with us for about 3 months while they tried to assess whether his mum could have him go back to her. She had some mental health issues. The lad had a lot of stored up feelings, partly because his mum had a speech difficulty and couldn't really manage a conversation. He could cuss alright, although interestingly he never swore in front of my own children. But he didn't know how to open up. Then one day, when it was just him and me in the house (I think he'd pulled a sickie and swung the day off school), the floodgates opened. 

What happened was this; I mentioned to him in passing that my husband's dad had been unkind to his children, which he had. The boy asked me in what way unkind. I said he'd always made them feel unwanted, a nuisance, used to humiliate them, knocked them about a bit. The boy respected Bill because Bill is very straightforward and although he's quite blokeish and strong he's also very gentle.

The boy said that his dad wasn't much good either. Then he was off on one. Talking ten to the dozen about his dad, the drink, the fights, his fears for his mum, his misery at school, why he ended up in a police cell, how he hated his brother, how he feared for his brother, and that he didn't think his life would ever be anything but grief.

He shed some tears, quiet ones trickling down both cheeks, I went and fetched the kitchen roll. He talked for about 15 minutes, that's a long time to talk non-stop. I just kept quiet and listened, and tried to imagine myself in his skin enduring so many troubles.

I know it did him good just to tell it like it was, and he definitely moved up onto a better plane afterwards. I'm not saying he turned the corner or anything miraculous, life's not like that. But he was calmer around the home, and he made me cups of tea and what have you, because he and I had shared, plus he knew I wasn't in any way trying to be better than his mum, I'd always made that clear: his mum was his only mum and nothing would ever change that.

Long story short, the boy wanted desperately to go home because he wanted to protect his mum and he had a point. She couldn't even use a phone. She could text, but when her top-up ran out she was out of contact and he panicked for her.

I can't go into much more detail about him because there are still issues, but he's back with her, and in some ways a wonderful son.

Looking back I think I moved up a plane too, just walking in his shoes for a bit.

Now I'm back thinking about Ellen Degeneres. I wonder if the difficult things she's dealt with in her life have made her a better person? Stronger maybe. Same with Oprah Winfrey, she was born to an unmarried teenager and brought up rough wasn't she?

Some people definitely go on to have fine lives BECAUSE of the trouble they've dealt with, not IN SPITE of it.

That's our job as foster carers, to try and make that happen.

Best job ever, BTW.


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