Monday, April 22, 2019

BACK TO SCHOOL

Here's a tricky question which I get asked often;

"What's the best thing about fostering?"

The best thing changes day by day, sometimes by the hour, sometimes minute by minute.

Sometimes you get fantastic little moments that knock your socks off. They come and go, like the one that's just happened today.

But it's the big 'best things' that endure, such as the simple fact you're doing something that's just plain good. There aren't many walks of life where you get uncompromising respect. The Foster Carer can look in the mirror and give yourself a quick pat on the back. It's not WHY I do it, or any Foster Carer does it, but it's gratifying nevertheless.

The other deepest things are the times when you can be confident you've made a difference for a child. Actually that one takes the beating. Then there are the visits from your Blue Sky Social Worker which help you focus on the positives.

Those three strong emotional pleasures are shored up by practical plusses; fostering is a respected profession so we are supplied an allowance which more than covers the costs of looking after someone else's child. It can't be called a salary (for accounting reasons - after all we're fostering 24/7 so counting the hours we are asleep but on call you could argue it's a 168 hour week. If we were paid the minimum hourly wage we'd be on £71,722.56). The actual allowance is substantial and covers more than our costs, but it's not quite up there.

Then there's the endless parade of great moments like this;

Our middle foster child came downstairs with a few days of the school holiday left and said;

"When are you going to tidy my room?"

Don't you just love loaded questions? I watched a YouTube about it. Manipulators call it a 'presumptive call to action'. The question is not asking whether you're going to comply, but when.

I should have replied something like;

"Here's a bin bag, if you can fill it with rubbish from your room and whizz it down in less than 5 minutes you can have a ...."

"A what?"

"A surprise. Of your choice."

I've worked this bit of counter-spin before but on this occasion was taken unawares and replied badly;

"Er well I was going to wait until you were back at school before..."

Which wasn't clever. It raised the spectre of going back to school, and that's sure to lower the mood and sure enough foster child went into a shell. Nothing big, just a sulk. A sulk I know well, blimey I pull one myself (privately) from time to time, not that they ever do me any practical good. They klind of feel nice though, some sort of self-righteous indignation.

School holidays are as big a challenge in fostering as they are in any parenting. My strategy is to let them get bored for a few days, then start organising a few low-key things while talking up the one BIG thing that is scheduled for the final days before back to school. If I was rich it would be a huge party or taking a bunch over to see Panic! At the Disco. 

I usually settle for a sleepover. They go back on a Tuesday or sometimes a Wednesday, so a Saturday night sleepover means time to recover. Sleep-overs are actually "Stay-awake-overs". They try to be up and doing crisps and diet coke into the small hours. Who wouldn't?

So I lifted the mood by saying;

"Got the final guest list for the sleepover?"

And got the reply;

"Robin says he has to come."

So I said;

"Problem?"

"Robin's a pain."

"Oh surely not, Robin's alright."

"You would say that wouldn't you."

"Eh?"

"He Instagrammed that everyone says you're the best mum out of everyone's."

OK. Blimey. Foster child pulled a face which meant something like "So maybe you aren't so bad after all". And I said something like;

"Well being a mum is hard and I'm sure all your friend's mums are great."

But as I went about my jobs I reflected on another 'best thing about fostering' moment. I'm obviously not the best mum out of all of the mums, but; my foster child was proud I was his 'mum'.

And that's one heck of a best thing.

So back to school with all's well!


















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