Monday, July 17, 2017



                4.20pm It’s crunch time. We’re well over halfway through the Infinite Tolerance experiment. Little Joe has had a day without a single panic attack. This is down to us resolving not to thwart, disagree or disapprove of any of his many (mild) anti-behaviours that previously we’d tried to adjust.

Crunch time; he’s just asked to go on another bike ride. But I’ve just remembered his homework for tomorrow is to bring a model Egyptian mummy to school, one he’s made himself (or at least participated in). Oh blimey. Do I have any clay in the house? There’s some remnants of that self-drying stuff in the bottom drawer, but I’ve never found it much cop.

He needs a Mummy (I know, I always feel for children in care when they have to do the inevitable school project about the pharoes and have to bandy the world’s most potent word, it must jar them).

Brainwave. Make some bread dough. It goes hard overnight and is easy to mould. No need to make a walking mummy a la Curse of the Mummy (that’s not technically correct anyway), all we need to do is shape a crude sarcophagus. 

That was the easy bit. The hard bit is going to be pursuading him against a bike ride.

4.25pm Me and Joe are moulding dough. Blimey it couldn’t have been easier. I said;

“Ooo, let’s make your model for school tomorrow, it’ll be fun, a bit messy and won’t take long.”

and he went;


4.50pm. Bike ride. Well, I never thought I’d get away with avoiding it. Up and down the pavement. An elderly woman said something to him when I was too far away to hear. I asked him what she said, he replied;

“She said ‘Be careful.

He seemed fine, it was a minor telling-off by a person too old to understand that cycling on the pavement is fine these days. She’s the one who risked doing damage. I hate the refrain “Be careful!” to children. You hear it at the school railings every morning and afternoon. It’s so lazy. If an adult has a safety concern they should be specific and say;  “Stay back from the kerb” for example, or “Make sure you avoid running into one of the little ones”, that’s the ticket.

5.05pm. Joe shuts himself in the front room for another dose of cartoons, alone. Spongebob inevitably. I take him a lolly “To hold you, Sunday roast is in half an hour”.

I sling a rushed foster carer’s version of Sunday lunch into the oven: pre-cooked Aunt Bessie’s roast pots, frozen Yorkshire puds and five chicken breasts in foil. On the stove I’m boiling carrots, beans and brocolli. Gravy granules await the veg water. Total prep time 8-10 minutes. I don’t lay the table. On selected Sundays our roast is taken as a lap lunch by way of a treat. 'Selected' by me when I'm chasing my tail.  People eat where they are, usually watching cartoons. All I have to do is put out a pile of plates and a jumble of cutlery and it's help yourself.

I note that these little breaks from Joe are crucial for me. Spending extended periods of time concentrating of every tiny nuance of a specific parenting programme is gruelling.

5.30pm I peer into the living room and Joe has built a ramp-house out of sofa cushions. He wants a game of wrestling/chasing. I have to go after him, allowing him to dodge and escape up and down his little mountain. If I ‘catch’ him - my hands on his shoulders - I gently ease him over onto cushions and let him get up.

5.40pm The oven pings. Tea-time.

6.10pm We’ve both had another respite - being in care is as demanding for the child as it is sometimes for the carers. Joe is always calmer with a plate of food at his mercy. The family is dotted around the house scoffing. I’m sat with Joe watching…yep, Spongebob. 

6.15pm The washing up can wait until Joe’s in bed. He wants another game of wrestling/chase. I agree. It’s at this point he asks me something that will stay with me all my life, and hopefully beyond. He asks it in a way that makes me feel gloriously happy yet slightly  sad, because it speaks so profoundly of where he’s been in terms of humanity for his first five years of life. He says, in a whisper;

“Why are you being so kind to me?”

I can still picture his face. His expression was one of genuine curiosity, he wanted to know what was going on. The question came at me as such a blinding flash of light that I can’t remember exactly what I replied, and I didn't make a note of it, but I think I said something like;

“Because you deserve people being kind to you”. Or maybe; "I'm just doing what foster mums do."



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