Tuesday, July 24, 2018


We have a new arrival in our house, Ryder. She's settling in really well, a lovely young person. I'll tell you something that'll warm the cockles in a sec.

I often have to pull myself up and remind myself how hellishly stressful it must be for foster children, especially the first week.

Someone once researched  life's most stressful experiences, things like getting divorced or a death in the family. If I remember rightly the most stressful thing of all is moving home. Hard to believe, but then anxiety isn't going to be anything but unpredictable.

Someone else researched things that scare us. Public speaking ranked scarier than dying. So there are people who, if they went to a funeral would prefer to be in the coffin than delivering the eulogy!

Everyone who'd ever done it knows that moving house leaves you seriously frazzled so we tend to stay put. And most people dread speechifying to strangers so much they manage to avoid it most of their life

So that gives us a bit of insight into the shock of being taken into care and placed with a foster family, because it's those two things wrapped up in one. On day one in fostering the child is not only put in a new house, they are often alone and surrounded by strangers. Plus they don't have any control, and double plus...they are children.

Small - tiny sometimes - defenceless and innocent.

Re-housed (against their will - it doesn't seem to matter how grim their lives at home, it's home to them and we're all suckers for the comfort of the devil we know even if it's bad for us).  On their first day, and for the first few weeks, they have no option but to talk to the foster family. In time we will become (hopefully) a warm and familiar unit for them. But on day one, there's no getting away from it, the fostering family are strangers. Members of the public, and there you are at tea-time, speaking publicly. Answering questions, telling people who want to know - need to know - about yourself and your likes and dislikes. 

They move home and on the same day have to speak publicly to strangers...they have every right to be all over the place!

And yet.

Ryder was a bit of a pickle on days two and three of her arrival (the weekend).  She had two episodes, one on the Saturday when she just boiled over with it all (see above) and another smaller one on the Sunday to do with being asked to have a bath. In the end she didn't, and it's on my list to see if I can find out (without worrying or upsetting her) why bathtime is frightening.

Ryder went to school throughout her first week, then the school broke up for summer on the Thursday.  

Ryder had told me that she'd like to play tennis through the summer. Don't ask me why, I guessed she may have watched a bit of Wimbledon and something clicked.

So I booked a court for 3.00pm on the same afternoon her school broke up. They came out at 2.00pm and we went straight to the park. The shop sold me a junior racket and a tube of balls and, armed with an old racket from the garage we went out on court. I'd suggested we start on the junior courts but she'd have none of that.

I hadn't played for years, but used to play a lot when I was young, mainly during the summer holidays, so being out on a court t took me back.

Poor Ryder, it turned out she assumed that without a single practice shot she'd be able to hit like Serena Williams, creaming the ball to all corners, pounding first serves past a hapless me.

I think she thought a tennis racket was some kind of magic wand a la Harry Potter.

She imploded in frustration. Running back and forth sobbing and smashing balls everywhere but across the net. I was worried that passing strangers would think I was one of those tyrannical tennis parents you hear about. Ryder stuck it out for twenty rotten minutes in the hope it would turn out that tennis would be her saviour, something that would lift her out of her life and into a safe happy place of fun and achievement.

I patted her tears, she turned down a lolly on the way home, and disappeared up to her room when we got back.

I made a cup of tea before my next job which was to pick up with the rest of the brood who were due home from their various clubs (one of which appears to be an informal association whose main activity seems to be hanging around outside the One Stop, don't worry I'm watching that one).

Then Ryder appeared. She'd forgotten about one bit of her tennis experience and wanted to draw a line under the whole episode by chucking it into the mix.

She came towards me, I was sat at the table, and offered her hand for me to shake!

Then.. and this is the really fantastic bit...

She put her other arm over my shoulder and pulled herself towards me in that little embrace that women players do over the net when the game is over.

A hug. Not by any means a bear hug, but a hug all the same.

A rare reward in fostering, and a big moment.


  1. I often look at our foster child and wonder in amazement at his resilience. His mental health has suffered not from his abuse but from being in care and so many moves to new homes. We had a similar incident to your tennis one, that he could pick up a musical instrument and be able to produce fantastic music without any lessons or practice - what a meltdown because of it! Keep up the great nurturing with Ryder :-)

  2. Thanks Lily, I wish you the same for your wonderful caring. Overly high expectations aren't exclusive to looked-after children.
    When I was about 5 I watched a kids TV puppet show in which two characters (Bill and Ben the Flowerpot men if anyone else is as old as I) picked a couple of big dock leaves each and flapped them hard enough to fly over the garden fence. I went down our garden, picked two, climbed a tree and felt cheated when I came to earth with a bump.
    Seriously, it's useful to unearth as many of our own childhood experiences as we can and apply the knowledge.