Friday, July 14, 2017



             8.35am Sunday morning. Joe wants to go for a bike ride. He's not allowed to ride on the road and I'm uncomfortable about him riding on the pavement, but we have a meadow near us which is great for the bike, providing it's dry. Today is a cold wet morning, the meadow will be a quagmire. But today is Infinite Tolerance Day, the idea being to give Little Joe a day where he never has reason to panic. He is in total control.

To the garage to get the bike. We’ve got five kids bikes at the moment by the way, we don’t sell off outgrown ones, never know what size you’re going to need next.

The tyre is soft so we wheel it into the kitchen and search the drawers for the pump. The adapter doesn’t fit the tyre. I search for the right adaptor.

We go through all the kitchen drawers including the one full of gizmo gubbins; old cables, chargers, weird leads and unidentifiable jack plugs. When I say “we” I mean me, Joe stands watching everything, somehow comforted by my endeavours on his behalf.

9.00am. A parallel activity begins; Joe and I are examining all the bits from the gizmo drawer trying to work out which are worth keeping and which should be chucked out. He is happily distracted showing off what he knows about technology. Kids are born knowing more about tech than people my age.

9.20am. From nowhere Joe says; “Swordfight!”, a game we played yesterday. This entails finding an old newspaper and rolling a sheet into a thin rod with a bit of tape to hold it. Then with our harmless ‘swords’ we swish away until one or both weapons are bent out of use.

9.35am. Back to the bike ride. Joe changes his mind about the helmet, the one I’ve scrubbed free of childish cartoons. Half an hour ago he said it was okay. Now he hates it.

I say he will need a helmet, and perhaps we ought to get him one of his own. Halfords will be open shortly, 10 minutes in the car.

9.45am. DANGER: Joe gets a bit agitated. He’s anxious again about the expense. “It costs a fortune” he keeps repeating. A common theme in looked-after children who come from homes where money was tight is that they’d be at the back of the queue for anything, and ‘expense’ would be used to deny their needs and pleasures. Plus 'expense' would be used against them when they have been bought anything which the parents later regret buying. 

I see in my notes I suggest this syndrome, where parents abuse children for having bought them something should be labelled; "Buyers Remorse by Proxy" (today, reading my notes back to myself to write up "Infinite Tolerance Day" I make a mental note that all the child psychology training sessions I'd been attending had started to take their toll...)

9.47am. I explain to a wound-up Joe that a helmet is not a toy or a luxury, it’s a necessity. A safety matter. Joe takes that on board, calms down.

9.55am. On our way to Halfords, Joe sitting in his booster seat in the back. Driving, as long as it’s not too far, always seems to soothe.

10.10am. Halfords.  Joe agonises about which helmet. There are innumerable ones which are his size, but most of them are, says Joe; "too childish". Joe frequently exhibits a need to be perceived by strangers as an adult. Indeed, in Halfords he behaves very grown-up. He's never had a panic attack in public. He saves his episodes up and they usually happen ten minutes after we get through our own front door. 

He tries out some of the bikes on the shop floor, after quietly getting me to absolutely swear he won’t get into trouble with the staff. He’s proud to ride and dismount a proper BMX. 

Back to the helmet. It’s £29.99. He is adamant it’s too expensive. I repeat the argument that he's not being spoilt - he must have a helmet. 

He has a real fear of being bought something 'expensive', and I must relieve him of it.

(NB; One of the many fascinating things about fostering is building a picture of the world the children must have inhabited before they were taken into care. All the different types of pressure, fear and anxieties that were visited on them. You end up with an identikit picture of the child’s real parents).

10.40am. My logic wins. Logic usually never works when a child is truly wound up, but Joe has the mind of a lawyer in there alongside the mind of a damaged child and the fact that a cycle hemet is some kind of legal requirement gets through. We buy the helmet and drive home. 

10.55am. Our kitchen. My other half says he’s nipping to Homebase, I suspect the Day of Infinite Tolerance is getting to him.

11.05am. Joe and I agree that now he has an acceptable helmet and the bike's tyres are pumped up, he should have a practice ride on the side road next to our house, which is very quiet, almost deserted on a Sunday morning. 

But, as we are about to leave, Joe says to me; 

‘Don’t wear those shorts’. 




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