Thursday, July 13, 2017




       At 6.35am Joe leaves his den and goes upstairs to finish his latest 'monster' painting. He draws and paints a lot, which is great for a couple of reasons; one it's a good activity in itself, two it gives us insight into his world. He always paints monsters. Nothing else. Big ones, towering over him with long claws or muscular tentacles. They are always furious, with angry expressions, blazing eyes, contorted mouths and sharp fangs.

A frequent theme is a giant vicious monster chasing a tiny little fluffy animal. The little animal is about to be pounced on and presumably torn to bits. I've posted a typical sketch above.

When you get this sort of insight into the life a foster child endured before they come to you for help you have no choice except do absolutely everything you possibly can to help.

Hence 'Infinite Tolerance Day (ITD)'.

6.55am Joe comes down without his finished painting, angry because it was 'rubbish' and he is 'useless at everything'.

He's brought two more soft toys, his two newest, the ones we bought him ourselves. They too have to be welcomed into the family, he watches them receive the warmth we give him, must help him process newfound kindness. He's named them after our town and the shop we bought them in, perhaps a sign that he secretly wants to bond with his new home. You never stop looking for positives.

7.05am Joe spots a plastic recorder which hadn't been put out of sight from last night, stupid me. He makes a dreadful racket with it, and he can do so for as long as he wants (ITD). Then he throws it at the sofa in anger that it doesn't play a beautiful tune. Perhaps he caught sight of a flicker of grimace in my face? Concentrate girl! It's game on and the prize is a day of relief for Joe's mind and soul.

7.15am He wants to hear again the story of the day that the puppy dog "Paul" met a big black dog who called Paul 'Daddy'. It's a story I invented yesterday and have had to re-tell it several times. Joe controls every twist and turn of every story he asks to be told, changing any detail that doesn't match his needs. Why does Joe (Puppy 'Paul')  need to be called 'Daddy' by a big black dog? One will never know.

7.18am The 'Jumping Game' begins. Joe climbs onto the arm of the sofa and jumps over my lap onto the vacant half of the cushions. It's my job to be terrified he'll land on me. Normally I'd let the game go on for about a dozen jumps and then try for a new game or go make a cup of tea. But this morning the jumping game goes on until he says change.

7.25am Joe asks for a bike ride. To the meadow. The meadow is knee deep in mud and it's spitting outside, so we explain it's going to be no fun and a dirty business, but the more we explain the more he wants to go. We have to try to find a way to change his mind, if possible.

7.27am Help arrives...Joe knows he must wear a helmet to cycle on the pavement to the meadow, he tries to argue against wearing one but we can invoke the "Rules of Fostering" argument, as in "It's Nothing To Do With Us". The good news is that the helmet we have that he can borrow has a cartoon motif painted on it and Joe says it's too childish.

7.29am We're not out of the woods. Joe wants the cartoon removed. I suggest we paint over it. Out come the paints.

7.35am With Joe watching I mix some black poster paint, same colour as the rest of the helmet and paint over the motif. No good, paint too watery, you can see the motif beneath.

7.40am. I clean off the poster paint and get busy with some duct tape. No good. "Looks stupid".

7.45am. Acrylic black. (Ours is not a house where before we fostered you'd find a collection of paint that Van Gogh would have died for, but once you start fostering your cupboards are filled with all the Arts and Crafts guff under the sun).

8.10am. Acrylic not nearly dry. Hair dryer goes to work. Joe inspecting carefully.

He is, I believe, as aware as I am that the purpose of these activities is not so much to get the helmet looking right as to test the foster mum's capacity to the full before she runs out of patience and Joe can have his familiar wobbly.

Not today Joe. Not on this watch.

8.20am The acrylic has not done the trick. I take the helmet to the sink and go at the motif with a brillo, even though it's taking the gloss off the helmet. Meanwhile Joe has found the recorder again, stupid me, will I kindly hide/mutilate the damn thing next time he's not looking (it belonged to one of my own sons).

8.21am. I'm at the sink scrubbing and humming to Joe's tuneless recorder playing. The minute he picks up that I appear to be enjoying the racket he throws the recorder on the floor, furious that he can't make it play like James Galway, a bit confused that I haven't said "Keep the noise down". I distract him by asking if he can look in the biscuit barrel to see if we have Kit Kats, and while he's not looking I put the recorder in a drawer.

8.27am. Joe pronounces the helmet passable, he wants the bike ride. To the swampy meadow. In the cold rain. 

Time to drop Infinite Tolerance Day surely...



  1. Thank you for sharing all these. I'm following it with real enthusiasm.
    We know that foster children often push for that no or instigate a row - all to create that familiar atmosphere of tension and anger. I can't wait to see how this tactic works out.
    My girls are older now, and I find ways to avoid saying no. "What do you think I'm going to say?" gives them a chance to say the “no” and then justify why it should be a yes. Maybe they’ll talk me round, but more likely they’ll talk themselves out of it.

  2. That's a great technique. I find looked-afters often preface a request with "I know you're going to say 'no'..." maybe when they do it's their way of avoiding hearing someone else say a nasty word?

  3. This is all very familiar... I'm glad we're not the only ones who've tried waiving the no tolerance. Traditional parenting doesn't work sometimes. We're saying 'See you later' to foster bairn #1 as he moves on to adoption in a few weeks. There's always more to learn every day.