Thursday, June 30, 2016


My iCloud account is near its limit, do I want to 'upgrade'? 'Upgrade' means pay money, so I decided to delete some stuff.  I got rid of an album of nursery rhymes. 

Nursery rhymes. They're weird right?

So Humpty Dumpty is all about some English King and Ring a Ring 'o Roses is about the
Black Death.

Or something like that.

What small children like about them beats me, except maybe they pick up that their parents are happy singing songs they know right through to the end. Seriously, there is an important bonding goes on, not just with the ancient ones, but also the modern ones such as "The Wheels On The Bus".

We had a foster girl stay with us once, she was with us about a year. She came with her  baby, her second. The first had been removed into care and adopted. The question was whether she had matured enough to keep her second baby.

I remember one day sitting at the kitchen table with her, teaching her how to spoon feed a baby, doing aeroplanes with the spoon. You know;  "Here comes the aeroplane...looking for the tunnel..." All that. It didn't work much, it never does, but it's a national tradition we all do the aeroplane thing with the spoonful of pureed ham and creamed corn.

The baby ate enough to get drowsy so I said;

"Let's sing her a nursery rhyme."

The girl looked at me blankly. So I kicked off:

"Mary, Mary quite contrary...."

I waited half a second for the girl to join in but she didn't so I ploughed on:

"How does your garden grow?"

I left it for a couple of days then found the right moment to ask the girl;

"What's your favourite nursery rhyme?"

Long story short, it wasn't that she didn't have a favourite, the problem was she didn't know any. She'd never been sung any. 

Neglect shows itself in lots of ways, a child who was never sung a nursery rhyme is going to have to work hard to be a good parent, and sure enough this girl looked like she didn't know enough to be a mum.

I downloaded an album of nursery rhymes  and put them on a speaker in the kitchen, but she never really took to them, she had moved on to Ice Tea or somebody,  she wasn't interested in Baa Baa Black Sheep.

I'll never forget the poor little  foster child  who was never sung a nursery rhyme.

On a positive note; and one I can't keep inside, pin them back: 

Before I deleted the album of nursery rhymes I dipped in.  And got stuck humming "If You're Happy And You Know It Clap Your Hands..."

Later, the same day our  youngest and newest foster child gets home from school. This is a child who hasn't had a great start in life to put it mildly, and now finds himself in a strangers house with people he's never met looking after him.

So. I'm downstairs in the kitchen, he's  run up to his room.  I suddenly hear him clap his hands.


Then  I realised.  I'd inadvertently sung (out loud): "If you're happy and you know it clap your hands.."

And he clapped.

He blooming clapped!!!

I was aching to ask him; "Are you happy?" but I didn't, that would be needy.

I got to the third line; "If you're happy and you know it and you really want to show it, if you're happy and you know it clap your hands."


 Don't care. I got enough from the first clap.

You want some of this kind of enough? Try fostering.

Thursday, June 23, 2016


Our newest foster child is coming on.

Hugs are a tricky business in fostering, a child needs to understand the value of an arm round their's what happened;

We were woken up at 5.00am by a whimpering from the bedroom, Romeo was having a nightmare. I went in and woke him gently to rescue him from whatever was going on in his dream. 

Romeo begged me not to leave him, the dream was still too real. I put my hand on his brow and gently stroked his head. He let me do this, which is a big first - up until now he's resisted any contact. 

You find yourself wondering what sort of contact, if any, some foster children have to put up with. How awful for a child to go through life's setbacks and scrapes without the comfort of a caring adult resting a supporting hand on their shoulder. Romeo can't even let anybody sit next to him on the sofa, that'll give you an idea of how phobic he is about contact. 

And of course we all respected that totally, while watching out for any shift in attitude.

Next day I had to go into his school to return a chit giving permission for him to take part in sports day, I'd forgotten to put it in his backpack.

The school secretary collared me for a chat, I find school staff are often very supportive of children in care, she's a lovely lady is Charlie. Mind, I would say that wouldn't I because she's a dead ringer for me. We're two peas in a pod; same haircut, colour and type. Same height, same body shape, same eye colour. Husband has remarked on the similarity. This is what Charlie said;

"I must tell you what happened yesterday" (same day Romeo had his nightmare and let me stroke his forehead).

"I was going through the school hall when Romeo called out 'Mrs Wilson!'...I turned around and he was running towards me and he said 'Hug! Hug!' And he put his arms around me and gave me a proper hug, which I thought was lovely."

I agreed, a bit jealous maybe, but progress. She went on;

"One of  his classmates, Becky, often chases me for a hug, I'm guessing he's seen that happen and wanted one too."

I got home thinking about this, and this is what I reckon:

Romeo has seen other children enjoy a hug. He'd felt comforted by a gentle hand on his head, and had started to wonder if he could manage a hug. But rather than ask me for one, he went to the trouble of finding someone who looked like me, and tested the water. 

I made up my mind to give it a few days - he might be shy, overly cautious, afraid of rejection, all sorts of negatives. If he hasn't taken the plunge I'll try resting my hand on his shoulder at the right moment and see what reaction I get. 

This might all sound like minutiae to some, but it's the sort of little baby steps that I think are worth looking out for in fostering if we're going to make a difference.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


Oh-oh, here comes sports day.

Rarely suits foster children, for lots of reasons.

First up; children who are taken into care are rarely sporty. Okay there are a few headliners who end up as footballers, but they're the exception.

The foster boys you get might sometimes say they support Man U, but they've never been to a game, although their 'dad' is a regular, even goes to the away games where "..people sometimes pick fights with him". The best they may have had is the occasional kick-about in the back garden, if there is one.

Looked after children, especially those who have recently been taken into care are often less than 100% fit.

The first time I attended a Blue Sky get-together for fostering families I couldn't help but notice nearly 50% of the children were wearing spectacles. That fact was in part due to the requirement for eye tests for looked after children, but was also a clear indication of lack of wellness.

Before coming into care children have suffered emotionally and physically; we've all had malnourished and over-nourished (wrong type of nourishment. We've had anxious and withdrawn. We've seen shortfalls in basic balance and co-ordination. Lack of self-esteem.

And along comes good old sports day, and our foster children are up against the strapping clear-eyed middle-class boys and girls whose parents have had them enrolled for tennis and football, kung fu and ballet from before they could walk.

I've talked to head teachers about sports day and they say they would have a problem with parents, the ones who send their children to tennis and ballet.  I've talked to parents at sports day, here's a couple of quotes that stick in my mind;

"They have to learn to lose." As though foster children don't know about losing, they could do losing as their specialist subject on Mastermind. 

"My husband is ultra-competitive"

I asked the woman what her husband did for a job, I won't tell you the answer, but believe me, if that's the best the ultra-competitive can do in life no wonder they look to their children for their triumphs.

Half the 'sports' are irrelevant. I've spent enough of my days playing with children in parks to know that never, ever, not once in the history of mankind, nor ever in humanity's future, even if we are here for a million million years will any child anywhere on planet earth ask mummy and daddy if they can borrow a flipping egg and spoon or a sack and play at races.

I've said to heads; "If it works, a public parade of children showing who's best and who's worst at something, let's do it for your staff, let's parade your teachers from most successful to the worst, line them up in order in front of all the school and the parents".

It's not as though school's teach the pursuit they publicly test the child on. They don't teach running. Running happens when they play games, but competitive sprinting involves techniques, running on the balls of the feet, co-ordinating arm movements, getting a stride pattern which suits the child's physique. 

The head's final riposte, when I've exhausted myself on behalf of my looked-afters is that it's just a bit of fun and it doesn't really matter. 

Everything matters, every child's every experience matters.

Every sports day I've attended there is one person having the most fun; the teacher who gets to be the announcer. Usually the head.

Friday, June 10, 2016


It was 2.45am.

I was awake but I didn't know why. I lay there.

Heard a beep. A tiny beep, literally could have been a mouse. 

We've got a neat bedside lamp, you touch the base once and it lights up very dimly. My other half is in a deep sleep.

There's the beep again. 

Slide out of bed and check the technology; not coming from my phone, or the Kindle or the iPad. Or the alarm clock. 

There it is again.

I move around the room trying to get a bead. It doesn't seem to be coming from anywhere, but there it goes again, I'm never going back to sleep now, not with the beep.

I quietly open the bedroom door. There it is again, louder. It's coming from somewhere in the house. I check the smoke alarms; one on the landing, the other in the hall. Not them.

We've one other device in the hall. The carbon monoxide alarm. I put my head next to it and...


Hell's bells and buckets of ****!!! The carbon bloody monoxide alarm is going off!!!

I fling open the front door, waft in some air and charge upstairs two at a time. The worst nightmare is a possibilty..

I have to check all the family. 

Check they are alive. 

Who to check first? Who matters most? That quandary didn't come into the equation because I did it geographically, I opened the first bedroom door I came to; child visibly stirred as the landing light fell across his face. Checked everyone including making sure my other half is breathing. Went back to each bedroom and noiselessly made sure windows were as wide open as safety latches allow.

Meanwhile downstairs;




I remembered the alarm's instructions were glued to the inside of the little wooden key cupboard we keep next to the alarm itself. The advice was to get everyone out of the house and phone the Gas Board.

The half of me that wasn't in a bit of panic had told me from the off that surely if the alarm detected the danger gas it would make a right racket and continuously. 

The other voice in my head had told me to put the certainty of safety above all other scenarios.

Sure enough; good old You Tube. I searched "My Kidde carbon monoxide alarm" and before I could add any more prompts it offered "Is making an intermittent beep."

The batteries were running low. We've had it nearly ten years and it promises a ten year run on three AAAs.

I watched a video on how to use the alarm to run a test to find out how much carbon monoxide was in our house generally, answer nil.

I'm wide awake.

You Tube offered me more videos about alarms, I watched a couple. Then it started offering me; "Ten photographs that defy explanation" and "Mysterious Area 51 activity filmed from the air." 

Then a clickthrough to a mum who lives not a mile from me who lost 40lbs using this crazy single tip. 


As to the question of who to rescue first if the worst had come to the worst, I'm simply not going there. The best I can do is to say that I believe I'd put myself last.

I expect you're the same, but don't even go there.

PS. The damn alarm had to decide to tell us it wanted new batteries at 2.45am didn't it? Not during daytime, oh no...

Wednesday, June 08, 2016


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?

Sunday, June 05, 2016


Two independent comments on the last post were from foster carers in the exact same boat; they've been approved and are awaiting their first placement.

I sat early this morning reading their comments at the kitchen table with a cup of tea at my elbow (I'm on unsweetened soya milk these days and I genuinely prefer it to cow's which got too lactose bloaty for me). The family, our weird-shaped family of blood and foster, are all asleep.

It's a Sunday, it's going to be hot, we've promised a barbecue, my big job will be to poach the sausages and chicken legs before they go on the grill to make sure they're cooked through, but almost as important, to do it secretly because otherwise it's soppy cheating and all men and would-be men abhor overt barbecue caution.

Ditto I'll make sure there's a bucket of water next to the grill as well as a discreetly enforced at-least-one-adult-overseeing-the-barbie-at-all-times rule. 

But despite all sorts of stuff running around my brain I keep going back to my days between approval and first placement.

I remember it as being a period of massive anticipation. Looking back I see myself like I was when a child on Christmas Eve. 

But that's the nature of memory isn't it? The old rose tinted glasses of nostalgia. 

Was I really a bundle of optimism and happy excitement? Oh it was in there alright, but I'm trying to remember the truth about what else was going on...

I remember I kept checking the spare room, which we'd done out neutrally - not too girl, not too boy - shouldn't matter these days but it might to them - not too young, not too old. The safety catches were on the windows, the bedside lamp was a simple sturdy one, with an energy bulb which comes on softly and gives a warmer light.

Downstairs the house was a home, and a safe one at that; the glass coffee table we'd given away, the fireguard was ready next to the fireplace. In the garden the tub we call a pond was wired over.

So there was nothing to worry about...

...except I was worrying, really worrying. World class worrying. But what about?

I remembered when our first born was due. We were given a date by the hospital, but it came and went and we got more and more excited/worried. We were excited about the journey that lay ahead, and worried; would the baby be well and healthy?Then there was the mystery of whether it would be a boy or a girl.

I think the feelings in the run-up to your first placement are about the same as the feelings in the run-up to the birth of your own baby. Massive.

In fostering you don't really know who your first child is going to be until they walk through your door. You're allowed to make certain stipulations which may narrow the placement possibilities, and you're given a file on the child before they arrive (9 times out of 10) which helps begin the picture. But just like when you're waiting for your own baby to be born, it's all abstract thinking until it's there in your arms.

And when the baby's in your arms you stop worrying. Because now you know what you've got and from that nano-second on you are too busy, far, far too busy being a parent to enjoy the luxury of fretting any more.

And what was it I worried about? While awaiting my own babies and while awaiting my first placement?

I am pretty sure that I worried about whether I could do the job. Be a parent. Be a foster parent. 

The minute my first foster child was standing on our doormat looking bewildered, frightened and so, so vulnerable, all those selfish worries about myself and my abilities vanished and were replaced with real and very valuable worries for the poor little mite whose future I was now being asked to help fix.

It's a trepidatious time, between approval and first placement, and a magnificently busy time once the child arrives.

If you're awaiting your first placement or in between placements you should concentrate on re-charging the batteries; take walks and deep baths, download a yoga programme, have a lie in of you can. The kids used to call it chillin', I understand it's now called grossing.

I bet you a cup of tea with soya milk that both the contributors who are in that boat find time to post comments right up to their first placement. And we'll know when they've got their first placement because...we'll not hear a peep from them for months.

They'll be busy fostering.

Friday, June 03, 2016


Sorry I've been a bit quiet for a few days - half term.

Normally during school holidays I can find time for the laptop or the ipad, I'm now known for sitting with it on my knee while watching the box.

This half term there was a distraction that took up most of my poor wee brain.

One of our looked-after children got the independence bug.

It was always going to arrive, of course; it did with my own children and I think I remember well the days of wandering around the house wondering where they are and are they alright.

Then when they return home steeling myself not to show my massive relief. I'd get an Oscar every time for my over-casual "Is that you home?" while pretending to be washing up.

But it seems there's a different anxiety with one's foster children, at least for me.

Take yesterday:

The day before yesterday the child had enjoyed a day out with a friend. The friend's dad had taken them to the cinema then they had something to eat. Child was gone from 10.00am until 4.00pm. They were accompanied all day. No problem, absolutely no problem.

Next day I planned a quiet day in, so I let other half use the car.

Just after lunch looked-after (who is just turned 11) came up and said there'd been a text with an invite to meet a pal in the park on the edge of town, about 1.25 miles away. I can't desert a houseful to escort child. Risk check; if child goes alone...

The walk to the park is 90% safe, you only cross side roads except one quiet main road with a Pelican. 

Until you get about 400 yards short of the park where you have to cross a crossroads. One of the 4 roads is split into two with a big triangular island at the point where it meets the main road, so it's a 5 way crossroads. No traffic lights, no zebra, no bridge, no halfway obelisk. It's a main road with two busy side roads joining it in either direction at the same point. The traffic is meant to be doing 30mph, but they've been allowed 40mph until just before the junction and most of them find it hard to suddenly drop 10mph.

So, no way, that's too big a risk.

Child not happy, feels claustrophobic, wants the rush of being captain of own ship. Feels anti-my authority, worried that a friendship is at stake, and the danger of being thought of as a baby.

I try to call other half to see if I can get the car back. No luck.

Child comes back to me and offers to scoot to the park provided I waive the requirement of helmet. How child thinks scooting across the junction would be safer is not disclosed. No, again.

I send text to parent of child's friend explaining dilemma.

Child returns with another idea; how about bicycling over? On own of course, no helmet.

What next? Borrow our neighbours Harley Davidson? Throw a leg over an unbroken stallion? 

Rescued by the other parent who suggested they meet at the park in the centre of town which both children can reach using pelicans.

Child goes off with a cheery 'Bye!' and a little wave. A wave that spoke of going off alone. Heading out into the big beautiful world a great big step nearer being grown up, which is exactly what fostering is about.

Did I worry until I heard the front door about three hours later?

Do bears you-know-what in the woods...