Wednesday, March 13, 2019


Fostering folk get reminded about Mindfulness from time to time, either by the media or sometimes by our Social Worker. Quite right.

If you're not careful you spend all day thinking about problems and jobs and don't spend a moment peacefully reflecting on all the good stuff.

Take tonight, it's a Friday evening and the home has filled up. There are three friends of one of our foster kids plus our other foster children, and my own brood. It's like a youth club in here. I could easily fill my head with all the responsibilities and clearing up I'll have to do.

I'm sat at the kitchen table where I have a view through to the TV room. My other half is also hovering invisibly.

There's pizza, potato wedges and diet coke for all and they're laughing away at Homer Simpson being stupid. Laughing and chatting. I'm not eavesdropping but I can hear snatches of them talking amongst themselves, for example; someone at the school several of them go to, someone called Lauren, is keen on someone called Ollie. Mrs Hampson, the maths teacher is not that bad, and then on The Lego Movie 2, the discussion is whether it's a bit nerdy for people aged 14.

Sounds like harmless banter, but it's much more than that. The sheer normality of it is magical.

Non-fostering folk wonder what fostering is all about. If fostering is about any one thing it's about maintaining some kind of a 'normal' household despite the unusual dimension of a young person from outside the family who is in the house all the time.

What is a 'normal' household? How long have we got...?

Surely no-one knows what a 'normal' household is. We tend to think it's a house without a ripple. In that case my house is not and has never been normal much of the time because there's usually something going on. Most of my friends in fostering tell each other most of the time that their place is also marginally off the scale of normalcy. We all have children living with us we've never met before who we are trying to prepare to go home to a family that has previously gone pear-shaped. That's pretty unusual in itself, but on top of that the specifics of each individual foster child make the house even more unique. Don't get me wrong; if you want to know about the joys of fostering dip into just about any previous blog post of mine. I'm not talking about unhappiness or difficulty, I'm talking about uniqueness. Each foster child is unique, and working out their individuality then working with those characteristics is key.

But when I sit down with non-fostering friends, guess what? Their homes are also unique in different ways. Here are some examples of fine friends of mine and their family's uniqueness;

Sister One has a daughter who has been trying for a baby for long enough and is going to give up trying as she's becoming depressed. Her grief over the loss of someone who has never been alive is so painful the family are consumed with sadness and confusion trying to help.  

Sister Two - a working mum - has an adult brother who is bullying her and the other sister into being the ones to care for their elderly parents who are showing signs of needing help. The brother thinks caring is woman's work, and that the man's job is to take command and tell the women what to do. He believes that his contribution; controlling his parents care without actually lifting a finger will entitle him to his third of the estate, which will be all the larger if the parents are cared for in their home - by the daughters - rather than in a Care Home.

Sister Three is struggling with a pair of daughters who've both had kids by men who are no longer on the scene. 'Nuff said.

Sister Four has job worries; she's a laugh but a bit of a tinker and has been caught claiming work expenses for things she shouldn't. She had to go to Edinburgh on an overnight trip and claimed a bag for her pyjamas. A £450 Dolce and Gabbana bag. And the accountants have picked it up...along with some other discrepancies. 

And so on. It seems that very few of us have much peace around us, and in fostering unusual activities go with the territory. You have to make sure you find your peace along the way.

So tonight's houseful of various youngsters easily became a delight. We had a throng of children of all backgrounds - some okay, some damaged - getting on like a  house on fire. Laughing in unison at the TV, listening when a younger one would ask about a joke they hadn't quite understood then the young one listening while one of the older ones would explain. Bonding almost like families down the centuries; young and old, brothers and sisters, talking and listening to each other round the campfire (er...48" TV). Yep, if you get your mind working for you, life is good.

It's been a good week.

On Wednesday I had a text chat with one of our foster children, I signed off with a mum's  "X" and got one back. Progress.

The same evening eldest foster child (who some nights gets to eat tea in the bedroom for reasons I won't go into) brought the tray down - unusual - with the entire corn-on-the-cob eaten, all but one of the skinless sausages eaten, and all but two of the baby potatoes eaten. Huge.

And the previous Sunday Ryder said that she'd like to call me "Mum" instead of by my first name (which is where I always start with new children in care).

Y'know what? Every other day in fostering I say to myself; "Enjoy this moment girl. This is as good as it gets".

Then tomorrow shows up.

And trumps it.


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