Monday, February 19, 2018


We understand adults who can't put themselves in someone else's shoes and consequently lack compassion.

For example, many able-bodied people don't try to understand disability. Minorities suffer when people who don't belong to their minority can't imagine what it's like being them.

You end up with discrimination.

Racial and sexual discrimination, where people are physically as well as emotionally damaged are two of the most serious examples where people don't or can't try to understand what it's like to be someone else.

Ageism is often seen as among the less serious discriminations in that the discomfort, though considerable, is almost always mostly emotional. That said it can cost people their jobs, sometimes their marriages. It frequently costs them their self-esteem and dignity.

It's not until people grow old that they understand. We understand that.

Here's what cannot be understood:


I used to be a child. You used to be a child. Every single human who has ever lived has only two excuses for having no understanding of children;

One: they themselves are currently children and their intellectual and emotional intelligence is only partially formed.

Two: They are no longer of this earth.

The inability to understand a person who you used to be is surely one of the biggest mysteries of human existence.

An adult who can't understand what it's like to be a child probably can't understand what it is to be an adult too.

It's an ageism that leads to people treating children wrongly. The wrongs go on until the child is damaged. If the damage is found by social services and they judge it best for the child, the child is taken into care.

Enter the foster parent.

We should all spend time in our own memory banks remembering how it was for us at the same age as the children in our home.

For example;

Every time one of your children does something on their own for the first time it's scary. No less scary if the child is your foster child.

First trip to the corner shop alone, first crossing of a main road by themselves, the list is literally endless.

Sadly, my own mum got it wrong with me on a couple of notable occasions and they stay high in my mind when I try to get it right for my children and foster children;

My first time buying something in a shop:

Standing outside a high street bakers shop Mum gave me threepence and told me to go in and ask for an iced bun, please. The shop was empty, there was no queue. The time was about four in the afternoon, so as was the case with bakers back then the shelves were almost bare and the two women behind the high counter were nattering with each other. I stood behind the counter with my threepence for half a minute when I heard my mum marching in behind me going loudly;
"Oh come out! Come out! They're obviously not paying any attention!"

Mum had been frightened that the experience would harm me somehow. As it was, being a child I was used to going unnoticed. Sometimes being invisible was even a Godsend.
I remember one of the women, who struck me at the time as being very nice calling; "Oooo sorry!" as I was hauled out by mum. The woman was apologising to me.

Still makes me nervous though, remembering.

My first time making a phone call;

The day after one of my birthdays mum decided  to get me to make my first phone call; to Auntie Katie to thank her. Mum pumped me up with preparation, things to say. Then, tension rising (I can still feel it), she dialled for me and gave me the receiver. Someone picked up the phone at the other end. I said, as rehearsed "Can I speak to Auntie Katie please?" The voice replied "Who?" I felt flustered. Mum couldn't hear but she could tell it was starting to go wrong. "Auntie.. Katie..?" I haltingly said; "Er, there's no Auntie Katie here. What number did you want?" I froze. I didn't know the number so didn't know what to say. I stood there silently, my mind galloping around but lost. Eventually mum said out loud "Oh God, it's the wrong number!" She grabbed the receiver off me and said something like "Wrong number. Sorry. Goodybe."

We didn't try again, she gave up.

Still makes me nervous remembering.

So. At the weekend eldest foster child wanted to go to the cinema for a late afternoon showing, with a friend. I agreed, but this was a first. I drove child down to town and, remembering my own experiences, I casually but clearly indicated where I would be waiting at 7.15pm to collect.

And I was there. A bit early. But at 7.16pm I could feel the tension in my neck.

7.19pm; No child. Hey, it's less than 5 minutes late, these things happen. I'll give it to 7.25pm then ring the mobile.

7.26pm. It's now officially more than 10 minutes late.

The mobile appears to be off. I try the 'Find a Friend' app that I have connected to the other mobile. It's off.

7.29pm I'm entitled to be worried, it would be a worry if I wasn't worried.

7.31pm I phone home. Ask if anyone's turned up. Mind, from the multi-screen to our house, Usain Bolt couldn't do it in 16 minutes. Answer 'No'.

7.34pm Figure appears, walking towards car. Sauntering actually. Stops and gets something out of pocket. Phone. Theatrically pushes buttons on phone, then looks up, sees me, gives weak wave and gets in.

Remembering everything from my own past I said, as nonchalantly  as I could;

"Good movie?"

"Er..yeah. Alright."

"Hey listen," I said as we drove off, "I'm not cross or anything, but you were a bit late. I got worried."

"Wot? It was only like 5 minutes?"

"I know," I said, with a couldn't-care-less voice, "But I was worried anyway. Couldn't get you on your phone."

"Battery's dead innit."

"Yeah," I said, cool as a cucumber;  "Mine's a bit low. No big deal."

Silence. Me;

"My fault. I'm a bit of a worry-bucket."

We drove home in silence and tea went upstairs on a tray.

My true feelings; frustration and fear and disappointment and resentment... I gradually digested, but not before I'd delivered an inappropriate rant to nobody about some TV show that happened to be on. ("Transferred anger" they call it)

About two hours later my phone went ping. Message from the movie-goer, it read;

"Hello! Sorry I was late. Didn't mean to make you worried."

My pretending I wasn't cross, but mentioning in passing I was worried (which is like saying I care, which is like saying I love..), worked.


Thanks to remembering what it was like for me when I was a child.


  1. Hello :-) . My fiance and I are getting married and hope in a few years to do some emergency or respite fostering, but would only be able to for part of the year. Can you do this kind of fostering for just part of the year, or do you have to be on call all the time?

    Thank you in advance

  2. In my experience it's yes, you can be part-time. And you will be very welcome.
    In fostering children come and go; the job is to help them get ready to go home, but the placement is open-ended and ongoing (unless the carer asks for a break).
    Respite and emergency are necessarily short-term placements (unless both parties decide they want to extend).
    Anyway, most foster-carers experience times when they have no child to look after.
    You will be able to work things out with whoever you are signed up with, either your chosen fostering agency or your local authority.
    I imagine if you can agree dates in advance of the periods when you can and can't take a placement. that'll be a big help.
    Have a chat with someone by email or on the phone, either your LA or a local agency.
    My lot, Blue Sky are fantastically friendly; 0845 450 3519 or email

  3. ps congratulations on your engagement.

  4. Hi again, could you do some posts about how you manage kids with cellphones and internet use? And what your family does in the first few days and weeks of a new placement? (Do you limit visitors to the house, limit outings, take time off work...)
    I agree with your worry post too. My own kids were very casual about being late, meanwhile I was having kittens waiting and worrying about all the worst case scenarios I could think of! Thanks, Ally.